"A blood-pumping, nerve-shredding thrillerelegant, edgy, ingenious. Craig Russell conjures not one but two unforgettable settings: Prague between the wars, pulsing with menace, and a Gothic mental asylum, as exciting a house of horrors as I've ever visited. You'll enter both with dread. You'll dwell in them with relish."
A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
Prague, 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 killersknown to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demonand 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 earlierLondon'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.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.70(d)|
About the Author
CRAIG RUSSELL is an award-winning Scottish author whose books have been translated into twenty-five languages. His previous works include the Fabel Series of thrillers and the Lennox Series of noir mysteries. He is the winner of the 2015 McIlvanney Prize, as well as the 2008 Crime Writers' Association Dagger in the Library prize. A former police officer, he lives in Perthshire, Scotland, with his wife.
Read an Excerpt
In the late autumn of 1935, Dr. Viktor Kosárek was a tall, lean man in his twenty-ninth year. He was handsome, not the unexceptional handsomeness of most of the Bohemian race, but with a hint of ancient nobility about his long slender nose, high-angled cheekbones and hard, blue-green eyes beneath dark-arched eyebrows and raven-black hair. At an age where many men still looked boyish, Viktor Kosárek’s rather severe features made him look older than he actually was: a guised maturity and accidental authority that aided him in his work. As a psychiatrist, it was Viktor’s professional duty to unfold inner secrets, to shine a light into the most shadowed, most protected corners of his patients’ minds, and those patients would not release their closest-held secrets, deliver their darkest despairs and desires, into the hands of a mere boy.
It was night and it was raining—a chill rain that spoke of the seasons turning—when Viktor left his rented apartment for the last time. Because he had so much luggage and his provincial train was leaving from Masaryk Station on Hybernská Street rather than Prague main station, he had taken a taxi. Also because he had so much luggage—a large trunk and two heavy suitcases—and because he knew how difficult it could be to secure a porter, he had timed his arrival at the station with three-quarters of an hour to spare. It was just as well because, once paid, the dour taxi driver simply deposited the luggage on the pavement outside the station’s main entrance and drove off.
Viktor had hoped his friend Filip Starosta would have been there to see him off and to help with the luggage, but the increasingly unreliable Filip had called off at the last minute. It meant Viktor had no option but to leave his baggage where it was and go off in search of a porter, which took him a good ten minutes. He guessed that the absence of porting staff had something to do with the commotion inside the station—the urgent shouts and cries that Viktor could now hear but that were out of his sight. Eventually he secured a young station attendant of about sixteen in an oversized red kepi who, despite his slight build, swung the trunk and cases onto his porter’s trolley with ease.
They were heading into the station when a Praga Alfa in police colors pulled up into the rank that Viktor’s taxi had just vacated. Two uniformed officers leaped from the car and ran across their path and into the station.
“What’s going on?” Viktor asked the boy porter, whose shoulders shrugged somewhere in his loosely fitted uniform jacket.
“I heard a lot of shouting,” the boy said. “Just before you called me over. Didn’t see what was going on, though.”
Following the boy and his luggage into the station, Viktor could see right away that some significant drama was unfolding. Over in a far corner of the concourse, a large crowd was clustering like iron filings drawn to a magnet, leaving the main hall almost empty. Viktor noticed that the two newly arrived policemen had joined a number of other officers trying to disperse the crowd.
Someone concealed by the cluster of people was shouting: a male voice. A woman, also hidden by the throng, screamed in terror.
“She’s a demon!” yelled the man, hidden by the curtain of onlookers. “She’s a demon sent by the Devil. By Satan!” There was a pause, then, in an urgent tone of frightened warning, “He is here now—Satan is here! Satan is come among us!”
“Stay here . . . ,” Viktor ordered the porter. He walked briskly across the station hall and shouldered his way through to the front of the crowd, which had formed in a police-restrained semicircle. As he pushed through, he heard a woman whisper in dark excitement to her friend: “Do you think it’s really him? Do you think he’s Leather Apron?”
Viktor could now see the source of the cries: a man and a woman. Both looked terrified: the woman because she was being held from behind by the man, who had a large kitchen knife to her throat; the man terrified for reasons known only to himself.
“She’s a demon!” the man yelled again. “A demon sent from Hell! See how she burns!”
Viktor could see that the woman was well dressed and prosperous looking, while her captor wore a workingman’s garb of battered cap, collarless shirt, coarse serge jacket and bagged corduroy trousers. At first glance it was obvious they were not a couple and he suspected the woman had been seized at random. The wild, darting, wide-eyed gaze of the young man indicated to Viktor the existential terror of some schizophrenic episode.
A single police officer stood closer than his colleagues to the couple, his hand resting on his undrawn pistol. Keep it holstered, thought Viktor; don’t add to his sense of threat. He pushed through the front rank of onlookers and was immediately restrained by two policemen, who seized him roughly.
“Get back!” a Slovak accent commanded. “Why can’t you ghouls—”
“I’m Dr. Viktor Kosárek, of the Bohnice Asylum,” protested Viktor, wriggling to wrest his arms free from the policemen’s restraint. “I’m a clinical psychiatrist. I think I can be of help here.”
“Oh . . .” The Slovak nodded to the other officer and they both released their grip on Viktor. “Is he one of yours? An escapee?”
“Not that I know of. Definitely not one of my patients. But wherever he’s from, he’s clearly in the midst of a psychotic episode. Paranoiac delusions. Schizophrenia.”
“Pavel!” the Slovak called over to the policeman who stood with his hand still resting on his gun holster. “There’s a head-case doctor here . . .”
“Send him over,” said the officer without taking his eyes from captor and captive.
“I need you to disperse this crowd,” Viktor said quietly to the Slovak policeman as he stepped from the throng. “They’re hemming him in. The more anxious he gets, the more threatened he feels, the greater danger the young lady is in.”
The Slovak nodded, and with renewed urgency and determination, he and his fellow officers pushed and cajoled the crowd into a retreat from the drama.
Viktor went over to the policeman the Slovak had addressed as Pavel.
“You the headshrinker?” asked the officer, without taking his eyes from the knifeman.
“Dr. Viktor Kosárek. I’m an intern at the Bohnice Asylum . . . well, I was an intern at the Bohnice Asylum,” he corrected himself. “I’m actually traveling to the Hrad Orlů Asylum for the Criminally Insane to take up a new post.”
“Thanks for the curriculum vitae, Doctor—but we do have a bit of an urgent situation on our hands here.” The sarcasm dropped from his tone. “Wait a minute—Hrad Orlů? Isn’t that where they’ve got the Devil’s Six locked up? In that case, this should be right up your street. Can you help?”
“I’ll do my best,” Viktor replied, “but if he’s seriously delusional, I don’t know if I’ll get through to him.”
“If you don’t get through to him, then I’m afraid I’ll have to.” The policeman gave his leather holster a tap.
Kosárek nodded and placed himself squarely in front of the woman and her captor. He looked directly into the woman’s eyes first.
“Try not to be afraid.” He spoke to her quietly and evenly. “I know this is very difficult, but, whatever you do, don’t struggle or scream. I don’t want him more emotionally aroused than he is at the moment. I need you to be brave for me. Do you understand?”
The woman, her eyes wide with terror, gave a small nod.
“Good,” said Viktor. He noted that the sharp edge of the knife creased the skin of her neck right above the jugular. It wouldn’t take much—the smallest of movements—for her deranged captor to sever the vein. And if he did, within seconds she would be so far from the shore of life that there would be nothing anyone could do to save her.
He turned to her captor, looking over the woman’s shoulder and again directly into his eyes. He was a young man, perhaps even a couple of years younger than Viktor. His eyes were no less wide and no less afraid than those of his captive, his gaze scanning the space around them, not focusing on, not even seeming to see, the police and agitated crowd that had now moved farther back. Instead he seemed to be watching horrors unfold that were invisible to everyone else. It was something Viktor Kosárek had already seen many times in his brief career: the mad inhabiting a different dimension mentally, while remaining in this one physically.
“My name is Dr. Kosárek.” Viktor’s voice was again calm, even. “I’m here to help you. I know you’re afraid, but I’m going to do everything I can to help you. What is your name?”
“She is a demon!” cried the man.
“What is your name?” Viktor repeated.
“A fire demon. Can’t you see? They are all around us. They feed off us. She’s been sent here to feed off me. She’s been sent by the Devil—”
The young man broke off and looked as if he had suddenly heard a sound or smelled a strange odor. “He is here,” he said in a forced, urgent whisper. “The Devil is here, now, in this place. I sense him—”
“Your name,” said Kosárek quietly, kindly. “Please tell me your name.”
The man with the knife looked confused, as if he couldn’t understand why he was being distracted with such trifles. “Šimon,” he said eventually. “My name is Šimon.”
“Šimon, I need you to keep calm. Very calm.”
“Calm?” asked Šimon incredulously. “You ask me to be calm? The Devil is among us. His demons are here. She is a demon. Don’t you see them?”
“No, I’m afraid I don’t. Where are they?”
Šimon cast his gaze like a searchlight over the marble floor of the railway station. “Don’t you see? Are you blind? They’re everywhere.” He suddenly looked more afraid, more agitated, again seeing something that only he was witness to. “The ground—the floor—it’s sweating them. They ooze up out of the stone. Lava from the bowels of the Earth. Then they bubble and froth upward until they take form. Like this one.” He tightened his grip on his captive, the hand with the knife twitching.
“Šimon,” said Viktor, “don’t you see you’ve got it all wrong? This woman is nothing but a woman. She’s not a demon.”
“Are you mad? Can’t you see? Don’t you see the fire horns curling out from her head? The lava of her eyes? Her white-hot iron hooves? She is an elemental demon. A fire demon. I am so terribly burned from just touching her. I have to stop her. I have to stop them all. They are here to feed off us, to burn us all, to take us into the lake of fire where there will be no end to our torment.” He thought about his own words, then spoke with a sudden but quiet and considered resolve. “I’ve got it: I have to cut her head off . . . That’s it, I have to cut her head clean off. It’s the only way to kill a demon. The only way.”
The woman, who had been doing her best to follow Viktor’s command and remain quiet, let out a desperate cry. Kosárek held up a calming hand to both captive and captor. He realized he was dealing with a delusional schizophrenic paranoia of massive dimension; that there might be no way of reaching Šimon’s tortured mind before he killed his captive.
He cast a meaningful look in the direction of the police officer, who gave a small nod and quietly unbuttoned the flap on his leather holster.
“I assure you, Šimon, this woman is no demon,” said Viktor. “You are unwell. You’re unwell in a way that makes your senses deceive you. Close your eyes and take a breath.”
“It’s the Devil who deceives. The Great Deceiver has blinded everyone but me. I am God’s instrument. If I close my eyes, the Devil will sneak up on me and drag me to Hell.” He lowered his voice; sounded pained, afraid. “I have seen the Great Deceiver. I have seen the Devil and looked into his face.” He gave a cry of terrible despair. “He burned me with his eyes!”
“Šimon, please listen to me. Please try to understand. There is no Devil. All there is, all you’re experiencing, is your mind. Your mind—everybody’s mind—is like a great sea, a deep ocean. We all live our lives, every day, every one of us, sailing on the surface of that ocean. Do you understand me, Šimon?”
The madman nodded, but his eyes remained manic, terrified.
“But beneath each of us,” continued Viktor, “are the great dark fathoms of our personal oceans. Sometimes frightening monsters live in those depths—great fears and terrible desires that can seem to take real form. I know these things because I work with them as a doctor all the time. What is happening to you, Šimon, is that there is a great storm in your ocean; everything has been stirred up and swirled around. All of those dark monsters from the deeps of your mind have been awoken and have burst through the surface. I want you to think about it. I want you to understand that everything that is frightening you at this moment, everything you think you see, is being created by your mind.”
“I am being deceived?” Šimon’s voice became that of a frightened, lonely child.
“You’re being deceived,” repeated Viktor. “The woman you hold is an ordinary woman. The demon you think you hold is a demon of your imagination. The Devil you fear is nothing but a hidden aspect of your own mind. Please, Šimon, close your eyes—”
“I am being deceived—”
“Close them, Šimon. Close them and imagine the storm passing, the waters calming.”
“Deceived . . .” He closed his eyes.
“Let the lady go, Šimon. Please.”
“Deceived . . .” He let his arm fall from around the woman’s shoulders. The hand that held the knife eased away from her throat.
“Move!” The policeman hissed the urgent command at the woman. “To me, now!”
“Deceived . . .”
The woman ran, sobbing, across to the policeman, who ushered her beyond the police line; a woman from the crowd folded comforting arms around her.
“Please, Šimon,” Viktor Kosárek said to the young man, who now stood alone with his eyes still closed, “put the knife down.”
Šimon opened his eyes. He looked at the knife in his hand and again repeated: “Deceived.” He looked up, his eyes plaintive; his hands, the knife still in one, held out beseechingly.
“It’s all right,” said Viktor, taking a step toward him. “I’ll help you now.”
“I was deceived,” said Šimon, suddenly angry. “The Great Deceiver, the Guiser, the Dark One—he deceived me.” He looked directly at Viktor and gave a small laugh. “I didn’t recognize you. Why didn’t I recognize you? But I know who you are now.” Šimon’s eyes became suddenly hard and full of hate. “Now I know! Now I know who you are!”
It happened too fast for Viktor to react. Šimon launched himself at the young psychiatrist, the knife raised high and ready to strike.
Viktor froze and two sounds filled the space around him, reverberating in the cavern of the station concourse: the deafening sound of the policeman’s gunshot, and Šimon’s screaming, as he lunged at the young doctor, of a single word.
Reading Group Guide
1. How did The Devil Aspect use the themes of good vs. evil?
2. Why do you think the author chose to set the book in Czechoslovakia before WWII?
3. What role did the setting (for example, the medieval castle and the forests) play in the novel?
4. While reading, who were your top suspects for “Leather Apron”?
5. What clues were missed along the way to the true identity of “the Leather Apron,” including by Viktor himself?
6. How did themes of “madness” play into the novel?
7. What do you think most drew Judita and Viktor together?
8. What similarities, if any, could you draw between each of the Devil’s Six?
9. What effect do you think the multiple narrations, primarily Viktor’s and Police investigator Smolák’s, had in the telling of the story?
10. In the end, do you believe Viktor’s theory about “The Devil Aspect” was proven to be true or false?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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 joins the staff at the Hrad Orlů 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 Orlů 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 Ondřej 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.
Viktor, psychiatrist, is convinced that criminals are possessed with the devil, what he calls the Devil Aspect, when they commit the most horrendous crimes. He transfers to a castle where several of the most hardened criminals are locked away from society, and takes on the task of questioning them to prove his theory. The locals are understandably anxious about the inhabitants of the castle which overlooks their neighbourhood, and are even somewhat hostile towards those who work there. Viktor settles in to his new workplace, studies the records of his new patients, and lays down strict rules about his sessions with these criminals. Contrary to sensible safety advice, he refuses to have any of the other employees sitting in on his sessions. These sessions are utterly chilling. At the same time a vicious serial killer is on the loose. Viktor puts forward his theory that this killer is also driven by the devil. I was completely drawn in to this story. The psychiatry was fascinating in itself. This was a real page-turner, a brilliant story which I can thoroughly recommend.
The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell Wow, what a wicked good ride!! I have to agree with another reviewer though, this one is not for the faint of heart. But if you are looking for a great, thought provoking murder mystery with several surprises, and a lot of interesting legends, then this book is for you. I normally don’t read this type of story, but the description intrigued me, the first chapter lured me in, and I had a hard time putting it down. This is one you savor, the twists and turns will keep you wondering and the storyline could not have been done any better. The writing is excellent, up to par with some of the best authors I’ve read. The story describes some rather gruesome, horrendous crimes done by the Devils Six, six of the most dangerous, pathological serial killers. Under induced medication, the six tell their stories to Viktor, while they are incarcerated in an old castle located in a remote area. The castle itself holds its own secrets and eerie beginnings. This is a dark, deep thinking, surprisingly entertaining read. I would highly recommend. I was given an advanced copy from Doubleday Books through Net Galley for my honest review, this one is a high 5****’s. Excellent read, highly recommend.
In 2012 I first discovered Russell’s writing with his Jan Fabel series. I loved it – and though his books are a little harder to find in the US, I always keep my eye out for them – so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read this historical mystery of his set in 1935 Prague and the Czechoslovakian countryside. This is a fascinating standalone thriller that is split between two narrators for the majority of the book – Viktor, a young psychiatrist taking on his first position in a notorious castle-cum-mental institution and Lukas, a murder detective in Prague hunting a killer reminiscent of Jack the Ripper, dubbed “Leather Apron”. With short chapters, engaging characters and descriptions of horrible crimes, this book is genuinely hard to put down. I loved the backdrop of a country on the verge of historic violence – it really adds to the overall ambiance of the story. And this is actually, genuinely frightening in places – which totally took me by surprise. It’s downright chilling! Not to mention the fact that the plot had me literally gasping aloud in surprise in places! I really liked it – though I do wish that the epilogue (so haunting!) had been a little bit more extensive, as there were other characters that I wish it had included. I am really excited to see what Russell will write next!
A creepy tale of a Castle in the former Czechslovakia.. Where do I start? I LOVED this novel and feared it at the same time. The setting is just perfect for this type of gothic tale and when I’d finished it and read the author’s inspiration, I was even more impressed with how he’d come about the story and enhanced it. From the gothic castle, to the asylum, to the very idea that a Jack the Ripper character could be killing in Prague, this had every kind of delicious gothic ingredient that I just love. IT was perfect mix where setting is a character but where it also enhances the themes in the novel. The book looks at the ethnic and cultural diversity of the time, the work of an eminent psychologist and the splits in personality which so fascinated him. All woven together in a dark and delightful gothic tapestry. I was immersed inside the heads and minds of the characters from the first page. This is gripping stuff and despite the chill in the air which came from the pages, I just had to read on. There’s something wonderful about being taken to the spookiest castles in the world and then being told that now this is an asylum for six of the most violent murderers in Europe. A young psychotherapist is looking at them to prove his theory of The Devil Aspect of personality.Meanwhile there is a series of brutal murders that more than resemble those of Jack the Ripper …the scope for gothic glory, murders, gruesome killings, dark castles on a hill..this is just a feast for the senses. (Best not to eat during reading though) Ooh I did enjoy reading this and being transported into such a deliciously dark world.
An interesting and dark read. I had expected it to be a little more thrilling, but still, it is full of mystery and poilitical intrigue.
The brief synopsis of this book grabbed my attention because its story mentions castles and is located in Prague (a hopelessly romantic, yet hypnotically scary, historic and beautiful city). These two bullets alone grabbed my interest, and I felt the plot would be somewhat boilerplate. Wrong. So very dangerously wrong. Craig Russell has a grand imagination, and he’s cranked out a believable historical fiction here with the hopelessly handsome yet single young psychiatrist, Viktor Kosarek, trained by the famous Dr. Jung. We’re reminded on numerous occasions that he resembles a vampire and his persona is well-suited for the cold and drafty Hrad Orlu Asylum, located in the mountain cliffs outside Prague, where he has taken a new position in order to study the six criminally insane patients locked up within the castle walls. And in the air and the minds of other employees of the asylum is the enchanting prose of the new leader in Germany, whose words are enthralling many to ostracize those of the Jewish faith. Thus we have an ominous cloud inside and outside the cold clammy walls of this foreboding castle. Viktor has coined the phrase “the devil aspect” to describe what he believes is a common archetype of evil found in most criminals of brutal and senseless crimes. He conducts sessions where he injects high levels of serum to the point of death in order to bring forth the true evil within each patent’s soul. Intertwined with this absurd and oh-so-not-normal doctorly deed is the local folklore and legends preached by the townspeople who detest the asylum and its tenants. This is a well-researched novel with a very realistic foundation. I was caught up in the therapy sessions, the local crimes and the history and beauty of the country as I rushed to find out who did what to whom. I must say, I didn’t see it coming. (I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to Doubleday Books for making it available.)
“‘Maybe it would be best,’ she said at last, ‘if you left the Devil alone in his hiding place.’” This book had so much to love - a serial killer on the loose, a medieval castle with a dark history that’s now an asylum and a psychiatrist delving into the minds of the most notorious murderers in Europe, all steeped in folklore and mythology and set in the lead up to WWII. I adored the settings, from the creepy castle to the shadowy forests and the bone church. The writing flowed well and it felt like the author had done a lot of research, particularly around Central European myths and legends, which I need to learn more about now that I’ve had a taste. I really enjoyed the blend of psychology and mythology. “Here am I and I here stay, for this is where Evil resides. Here am I and I here stay, for this is where the Devil hides.” The idea of having a front row seat (nestled behind the safety of the pages) when infamous criminally insane people told their stories was a big draw card for me. While I was interested in the backgrounds of each of the Devil’s Six, none of them gave me the chills I experienced when I first met Hannibal Lector so many years ago. I found myself just getting into one of the Six’s stories and then it would be over; I’d want more but the story moved on. Each of the six could have had an entire book devoted to their story so sitting in on one session with their psychiatrist was never going to be enough for me. I was disappointed when I found some of their stories fairly predictable, especially the Vegetarian’s. I am notoriously terrible at figuring out who did it and why, yet there’s been a disturbing recent development; I’ve been working out who did it early on and then spending the rest of the book hoping for a blindside that never arrives. It happened again here and I don’t know if it’s because I’ve magically levelled up in my ability to sniff out the clues from the red herrings or if it really was that obvious. Thank you to NetGalley and Constable, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group UK, for the opportunity to read this book. I’m rounding up from 3.5 stars. Content warnings are included in my Goodreads review.
With insane killers imprisoned in a castle fortress rumored to house the Devil himself and a brutal serial killer terrorizing nearby Prague, the Devil Aspect has plenty of plot and a whole lot of creepy, gothic atmosphere. It is 1935 in a rural village outside Prague. A new psychotherapist arrives at a mysterious castle, an insane asylum that houses the six most dangerous killers in Czechoslovakia. The therapist, Victor, has a theory that all evil comes from the Devil Aspect in each of us. Once under control, the desire to kill will be conquered. However, when talking to the inmates each states that someone who looked like the Devil did their crimes. Victor believes that their subconscious is attempting to deal with their guilt by disassociating themselves from their crimes. In a parallel story set in Prague, a serial killer is menacing the populace. Kapitan Lukas thinks he has found the killer through forensic evidence but his suspect insists that another person, who looks just like the Devil, committed the murders. The book has several sub-plots. Nazis are beginning to make themselves felt in newly formed Czechoslovakia. Victor’s love interest, Judita, a Jew who is deeply worried about the mood in her adopted country. The villagers are convinced that the castle covers a warren of tunnels that lead to the gates of Hell. There is a lot going on in the Devil Aspect. Despite that, it is a compelling and quick moving read. It is highly recommended to horror fans looking for a more psychological slant. 4 stars! Thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.