The Devil Aspect
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 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.
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Mystery/ Thriller/ Horror
Author: Craig Russel
Hardcover, 432 pages
Expected publication: March 5th, 2019
Publishing House: Doubleday Books
Prague, image from Wikipedia
Shrouded in mystery, the eye of evil takes hold of the darkest minds in the faces of the most notorious killers of all times. Secluded, up in the mountains near Prague, in an old stone castle that was built upon the devil’s nether “Mouth of Hell”, the devil still controls his hold.
“It was that - that extinguishing of their very last hope – that I savored more than anything, more even than the extinguishing of their lives…It was then they realized that the Devil is just God in his night attire.”
- “Mr. Hobbs”
(Recorded at Hrad Orlů Asylum for the Criminally Insane)
German Perechten Mask of the devil
It is 1935 and Dr. Viktor Kosárek, a handsome man at the age of 29 is transferring from Bohnice Asylum to the Hrad Orlů Asylum for the Criminally Insane in Prague, where the infamous "Devil’s Six" are locked up. He is hoping to use some of his new treatment methods to enter the tortured minds of the insane, bringing them to the edges of their being to a point he calls “The Devil Aspect”.
Kapitán Lukáš Smolák of the Prague Police knows the asylum and the animosity towards it by the locals very well. Currently, he is investigating a chain of terrible murders happening around Prague that seem to copy the infamous “Jack the Ripper” murders of women. The tabloids call this new killer “Leather Apron” per witness descriptions. An apron, such as a butcher would wear, only that this killer is dismembering his human victims and is removing their organs.
Viktor Kosárek believes innately that everyone is infected with the potential for madness and evil, but only some develop a disease. He is beginning his casework on the six notorious killers, nicknamed The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon .
Through hypnosis and drugs, Kosárek is entering the minds of these men one by one, while they are restraint. He makes them tell their version of the murders. A most disturbing truth and evil come forth in these patients that will put him and others in major harm. What each of them possesses is the devil “Mr. Hobbs”, and he has only just begun to unleash his power. Like a virus through space and time, he is the elusive evil spreading minds. Unstoppable!
This novel is absolutely stellar. Amazing!
I am stunned in the best of ways by this historical fiction/mystery/ thriller. The setting was amazing, the twists and elusive plot were completely engrossing and the suspense held me captively surrendered to the pages.
There was so much thought put into this masterfully crafted novel, it left no stone unturned to be included to deliver a detailed, atmospheric plot. Some of these I did not mention in the review above and they include:
*Time and place in this novel reflect the young Republic of Czechoslovakia, where most people identified themselves as Czech, Moravian, Silesian, Slovak, German, Polish, Ruthenian, Hungarian and Jews, “The principal ingredients of a richly seasoned stew.” Targeted victims were women of German heritage the killer beheld as “Fotze”…a very dirty word. Other references and subgroups in this novel that add to the general ambiance and tension are the German-Czechs, the High-Germans, Nazis, and Gypsies.
*There were three main characters aside from the insane. For each of them a backstory and past is presented for the reader to keep up with. In part diversion, in part enrichment. It may or may not play an important role in figuring out this mystery. Some of them are misleading, but all are detailed to bring the characters to life vividly in the readers' mind. It creates the perfect blend of a character-driven novel and the mystery itself.
*“The Devils Six” encounters and recollections were suspenseful and horrible in the cerebral sense. References to myths and legends, intellect and dark brooding places gave the novel a dark, imaginative, mystical feel. Absolutely stunning.
*The murder cases and their elusive details were told from the side of the victims and the murderers, as the plot wove in waves back and forth through time, place and recollections. Simply mesmerizingly fabricated, it created a perfect maze of intricate details in the big puzzle.
*There was a hint of romance blooming and referenced to by some characters, in all of this. For one, I thought perhaps I had figured out who the “Leather Apron” was. A case of obsessive love or something I had missed somewhere. But to no avail, I was unable to crack the mystery.
My suspicions to solve this case began perhaps 2/3'rds into the novel, but the twists kept on coming. At that point I was somewhat mad with myself, thinking that perhaps I had missed some detail somewhere. Therefore it is definitely worth a reread on my part. Plus it's so engrossingly entertaining!
Summing up, this novel was par excellence. Simply superb. If you enjoyed Dracul by J.D. Barker and Dacre Stoker, you will love this book. I implore you to read it, it’s superb.
I received a digital copy of this novel from Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.
All opinions are my own. Thank you.
PS. This is also the book that inspired my latest Music Monday blog post choice of Smetana’s poetic symphony of The Moldau (river in Prague) . A classical piece I have loved since childhood. To this day it gives me chills for it’s stunning beauty.