Fans of Caleb Carr and Thomas Harris take note: Scottish author Craig Russell’s latest novel, The Devil Aspect, is set to make its US debut this week
Set in Czechoslovakia in 1935, the novel tells the story of Dr. Viktor Kosarek, a young psychiatrist who has just earned his dream post in the prison-like Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane which holds the country’s most feared and dangerous, depraved killers.
Their crimes were so abominable that the world at large has removed their names. They are the Woodcutter, the Sciomancer, the Clown, the Glass Collector, the Vegetarian, and the Demon, and collectively, they are called the Devil’s Six.
For Kosarek, who studied under Carl Jung, this is the chance of a lifetime to prove that the theory he has been developing and that his proposed treatment will work.
Meanwhile, in Prague, Detective Lukas Smolak is on the trail of a new killer who is making a name for himself, and the so-called “Leather Apron” may be worse than the Devil’s Six combined.
Russell sets the novel in a bleak moment in Czechoslovakian history. Germany’s Nazi party is gaining influence in the country, and even Prague, once the cultural center of Europe, is feeling pressure from Nazi sympathizers fallen under the spell of Hitler’s propaganda machine.
This increases as Leather Apron’s kills seem to underline and reflect the racial and political tensions that surround him, and Russell’s prose never flinches from a single, gory detail as he describes each brutal murder scene.
The author is a born storyteller, and the atrocities committed by his characters seem all the more real because of his setting and his attention to detail.
You can almost feel the chill in the air as Viktor navigates the stone halls of Hrad Orlu, and you can certainly imagine the crimes of his victim’s down to the most minute detail.
The real masterwork comes in the author’s pacing, however. With each new twist and turn, The Devil Aspect pulls the reader, almost against their will, to new revelations, new suspicions, and new theories as Kosarek’s work seems more and more tied to the killings in Prague.
Will Kosarek and Smolak be able to stop Leather Apron? Will Kosarek’s treatment prove successful? Is there a Devil inside each of us that lusts for blood, murder, and depravity?
Russell explores each of these mysteries in turn, but fair warning to readers, the answers are just as brutal as the Devil’s Six.
The Devil Aspect hits bookshelves this week, March 5, 2019 in the U.S., and Columbia Pictures has already optioned the film rights.
Hopefully we will see this masterpiece with the precision of Silence of the Lambs and the historical edge of The Alienist brought to the screen soon. Until then, read this book! You won’t be disappointed.