The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell has something for everyone. It is a kaleidoscopic mélange of myth, history, politics, bigotry, psychology, romance, crime, mystery, and sublime horror with each aspect taking turns directing the action, fighting for attention, toying with readers as they struggle to anticipate the shattering denouement. However, none can say that the author plays foul; all the clues are there to be discovered, but only by the most perceptive readers.
The tale takes place in Czechoslovakia at a time of political unrest. The evil Nazi movement is slithering into existence and marginalized societies sense a chill creeping over them. The extraordinarily handsome clinical psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Kosárek travels to his new place of employment, the Hrad Orlů, an asylum for the criminally insane, home to the Devil’s Six—six of the most dangerous serial killers in history. There Kosárek plans to prove his theory of the Devil Aspect which he believes causes severe mental illness. At the same time, police officer Kapitán Lukáš Smolák, a man of facts and logic, must investigate a series of horrific murders perpetrated by a criminal referred to as Leather Apron. Soon, Kosárek and Smolák cross paths as they struggle to reach their antithetical goals.
The main characters are deeply complete. Each is unique, fully formed, and enhanced by detailed backstories. They are real, and readers will connect with them and care about them. In addition, the characters fears and superstations offer readers insight of the zeitgeist of the era.
The literary quality is sublime and is tailored to mirror the time and place. The language might remind readers of Kostova’s The Historian in its respect for and faithfulness to a region. The prose is smooth, attractive, and easy to read and will immerse readers in period and place.
The setting is central Europe in 1935. Czechoslovakia is a trembling region populated by fascinating ethnic groups. Myth and superstition dominate minds and bleed into the plot, connecting Dr. Kosárek’s theory to local reality.
The plotting of The Devil Aspect is brilliant, flawless. Although random elements may seem initially inconsequential, every single one serves to propel the trajectory forward to a stunning conclusion. Every event has a purpose and is an integral element in the trail of bread crumbs that leads to discovery. Numerous red herrings will challenge the most discerning reader’s intellectual acuity. Given the highly complex nature of the story, it is amazing that it all comes together with such exquisite precision.
The Devil Aspect will enthrall a wide array of readers and comes highly recommended, especially for lovers of mystery, suspense, and the supernatural who at the end will no doubt cite evidence to support rousing discussions over what is real and what is not.
Read it before it hits the big screen.