Historical Fiction Horror Mystery Thriller

The Devil Aspect – Craig Russell

on
April 8, 2019
The Devil Aspect Book Cover The Devil Aspect
Craig Russell
Fiction
Doubleday
March 5, 2019
Hardback
496

A terrifying novel set in Czechoslovakia in 1935, in which a brilliant young psychiatrist takes his new post at an asylum for the criminally insane that houses only six inmates--the country's most depraved murderers--while, in Prague, a detective struggles to understand a brutal serial killer who has spread fear through the city, and who may have ties to the asylum In 1935, Viktor Kosárek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country's six most treacherous killers--known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon--and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth. Meanwhile, in Prague, fear grips the city as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier--London's Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum. Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this stylishly written, tightly coiled, richly imagined novel is propulsively entertaining, and impossible to put down.

Malignant

The Devil Aspect is absorbing, mystifying and deliciously sinister. Craig Russell is a talented writer that has superbly blended a compelling nefarious plot, with inexplicably damaged characters, myths and legends, and a setting that is dark and chilling. I just love it. 🙂

Dr Viktor Kosárek is a young enthusiastic psychiatrist who was a student of Carl Jung and he joins the staff at the Hrad OrlĹŻ Asylum, not far from Prague.  The asylum is one of the most advanced high-tech facilities in the world but it is housed in Hrad OrlĹŻ Castle, which carries an ancient history steeped in folklore and locally known as the Mouth of Hell. The myths and legends, surrounding the Castle are woven perfectly into the story and the narrative seamlessly ties the past to the present. Has the past returned or has it never left?

The renowned Professor OndĹ™ej Románek runs the asylum and in recent times it is infamous for securing the Devil’s Six – six psychopathic inmates responsible for the most horrific murders, involving extreme torture, rape and cannibalism. Románek’s theory is that perhaps evil is like a virus that can infect the susceptible mind. Viktor’s hypothesis is that we all contain the potential of evil and madness, and that a trigger can release this omnipresent Devil Aspect. Victor has been given the opportunity to examine each of the Devil’s Six to assess and validate these theories and understand their alarming commonality. OR. Is it a demonic possession from The Devil himself to use these human vessels to conduct the purest of evil deeds?

Here am I and here I stay,
for this is where Evil resides.
Here am I and here I stay,
for this is where the Devil hides.

The physical interaction between Kosárek and the patients is wonderfully portrayed by creating a sense of menace and at times precarious interaction, where one miscalculation could have lethal consequences. The psychological interplay is full of suspense knowing that the psychiatrist’s actions could ignite or transfer an evil stimulant. As Kosárek digs deeper into the patients’ minds the horror and source of their evil become evident.

Meanwhile, Prague is being terrified by the Leather Apron Serial Killer who is modelling himself on Jack the Ripper and brutally mutilating the bodies of his victims. Kapitan Lukás Smolák is investigating the deaths and recognises they fall within the pattern associated with the Devil’s Six. The 2 threads will eventually converge with surprising outcomes. 

The setting and period in Czechoslovakia in 1935 were masterfully developed, firstly the remote region of the Castle constantly had a threatening atmosphere and the forests harboured dark shadows where evil plays. Secondly, the novel illustrated the evil growing at a systemic level in Nazi Germany and spreading across national boundaries, especially into regions where German influence and culture played a significant impact. 

This book is truly amazing and just delivered everything I love in a story – crime, mystery, suspense, police investigation, something sinister, history, myths, legends and exceptional writing. If I could give this 6 stars I would. I would highly highly recommend this book and I would like to thank Little Brown Book Group for providing me with an ARC version in return for an honest review.

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Peter Donnelly
Ireland

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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