A novel that is guaranteed to grab hold of the reader immediately and not let go until the finale. It should be termed dark, but not gothic, although the concept of malevolent spirits permeates its pages. Viktor Kosarek is a young recently graduated psychiatrist who had studied under Carl Jung, one of the fathers of modern psychiatry. It is 1935 and set in a Czechoslovakia with the advent of Nazism on the horizon as Viktor seeks his first job. He holds the theory that evil in a person is due mainly to an evil spirit existing within the makeup of people. That the reason for murder taking place is the pressure brought by this force beyond the ability of the person to control.
Viktor’s theories catch the attention of the manager of a famous insane asylum known as the Hrad Orlu asylum for the criminally insane. At the time the asylum houses only six patients who are among the most horrific killers in Europe . He is invited to work at the asylum attempting to treat the six and prove his theory. Upon arrival Viktor begins sessions with the six; One woman and five men. He is aided with a young lady, Judita, handling the written transcription for the interviews with the patients. She is Jewish and is attempting to flee Europe ahead of the Nazi terror she realizes is coming. A love affair does develop between her and Viktor which plays out in the background.
A second scenario is developed dealing with a serial killer known only as Leather Apron who is terrorizing Prague. His methods of slaughter are reminiscent of England’s Jack the Ripper murderer. Russell follows the chase led by a policeman and also ties in ancient legends about evil entities that have permeated Czechoslovakia’s past.
The reader will be led into reading about murder at its most horrible with descriptions of mutilated bodies that can definitely be very difficult to bear. These are tied into Viktor’s findings in a logical way that helps lead to a finale that is logical and ends the novel in a manner very suited to the story being told. An excellent piece of dark literature that will keep readers glued to the pages attempting to discern an ending that is certainly not telegraphed but is quite satisfying.
3/19 Paul Lane
THE DEVIL ASPECT by Craig Russell. Doubleday (March 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0385544368. 432p.