The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell

Posted On 21 January 2019

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DevilAspect1.jpgThe Devil Aspect is an intriguing concept and a thought provoking story that involves a gothic setting, a serial killer murdering women in a style reminiscent of Jack the Ripper and a period where Nazi politics were on the rise creating an additional level of tension.  The story takes place in Czechoslovakia during 1935, a period when superstition and ancient folklore still played a prominent part.

The story kicks off in Prague as a young psychiatrist, Victor Kosarek, sets off on a journey that marks a new beginning.  Victor is about to start a position in a progressive asylum that treats the criminally insane.  Well, it treats the six most dangerous minds of the country – no other inmates reside at Hrad Orlu Asylum.  Victor has impressed the asylum with his work on a new technique he’s named the ‘Devil Aspect’ and using his new method he hopes to reveal that these inmates share a common type of evil.   This involves interviewing each of them individually using a form of drug induced hypnosis.  It’s during these interviews that the reader learns of the crimes committed by the six and they’re pretty horrific to say the least.  These sessions however begin to reveal an unexpected aspect to the six that brings with it something quite sinister.

Alongside Victor we also follow the police investigator, Lukas Smolak, who is looking into the brutal deaths of a number of women.  The City is gripped with fear and seems to hold its collective breath waiting to see where ‘Leather Apron’, as the killer has been dubbed, will strike next.  In desperation Lukas seeks the help of the doctors at the Asylum hoping that they can help to shed some light on a case that otherwise has few leads.

I must say that I enjoyed this, it’s not exactly what I’d envisioned to be honest but regardless it was a compelling read that drew me in and kept the pages turning.  I think I’d expected more horror and chills when in actual fact this feels, how to put this, less sensational, more stealthy and, well, clever I suppose.  It definitely had aspects that gave me the shivers, and some of the crimes committed were undoubtedly hideous but this isn’t blood and guts and grisly death, although there is death within the pages, and whilst those deaths are unpleasant, the deaths aren’t gratuitous and the way they’re reported is more in an interview or report style.  This is more the sum of all it’s parts.  We have the asylum, a very old castle that in the past has been the home of some terrible deeds that has left the local villagers in terror of the place.  There’s the growing Nazi movement, there’s the police investigation into the serial killer and then there’s Victor’s work with the inmates.

I thought the writing was really good, we have two points of view in Victor and Lukas and the switches in perspective worked very well and helped in creating a trail of red herrings.  I thought the dialogue was realistic and flowed naturally, in fact the only thing I struggled with a little, initially, was the naming of people and places and their correct pronunciation but I soon came to terms with that or, more to the point, found my own way of saying the words in my head that felt okay – even if I was probably getting things wrong.

The characters are an interesting bunch, I can’t say I absolutely loved them but now that I come to write this review I think that’s probably the author’s intention in that he throws suspicion on more than one person as the story progresses.  Victor is a very brooding character and Lukas has the feeling of an overworked, seen too many horrors, beleaguered detective – they’re not unlikable thankfully but they’re both quite stern or serious – not surprising really given everything. Then of course there are the six inmates of the asylum who relate their dreadful deeds with an indifference that makes them that much more chilling – not a cuddly bunch at all.

In terms of criticisms.  I think this is an ambitious novel. There are quite a few things going on here and at times I think it’s trying to achieve too much.  I think the inclusion of the Nazi elements for example, whilst understandable given the timeframe involved, felt like they should be more of a backdrop.  As it was it felt like those elements were trying hard to insert themselves more firmly in the story and, for me, they became something of a tangent or distraction.  That being said, I think the author was probably aiming for that very distraction, and in fact this is the type of book that you do conclude and feel that you should read again – just to see if you can spot the trail of breadcrumbs.  Not really a criticism – but – I wouldn’t say that I found this particularly scary – but that could just be me.  I found it more a gripping than a chilling read, again, that might have been the distractions leading me astray.

Overall though this was an intriguing read and one that I would really like to read again, if time ever permits.  I didn’t see the ending coming, until almost the reveal jumped out and I’d love to go back and see what I overlooked.  Also, I think this would make a terrific movie!

I received a copy, courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley – for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


18 Responses to “The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell”

  1. sjhigbee

    Thank you for an interesting, detailed review of a clearly interesting book, Lynn. I am glad you enjoyed it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It made for compelling reading. Not quite as scary or gothic as I hoped but still gripping.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Hm. Not as gothic or scary as you’d hoped?? Could I cope with this one?

  2. waytoofantasy

    Great review, Lynn! Happy Monday!

  3. Paul's Picks

    Great review! I like the sound of this one.

  4. Melissa (My words and pages)

    Oh. This has my attention. It sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing about it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s certainly an intriguing book. It’s slightly different that I expected but it still hooked me.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    This sounds really good, I’m hoping it will be released in audio. It just seems like a good book for that format, especially the chilling/mysterious bits!

    • @lynnsbooks

      You know, I think this probably would make a good audio book – especially in terms of the right pronunciation of the place and people names.
      Lynn 😀

  6. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Nothing creates horror as the darkest side of the human mind… This sounds like a very intriguing read, and I like the idea of being surprised at the end because the author managed to blindfold me until then. Thanks for sharing!!! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, this wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it was a compelling read although the same. I was expecting more gothic horror I think.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Great review. It is funny how sometimes the inclusion of something can serve more as a distraction rather than a real benefit to the story. Sounds like a great read though

  8. My favourite reads so far this year | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell […]

  9. Best of the Best list : 2019 | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell […]

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