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** my thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book **

Description:

How do you find a killer when you’re surrounded by madness?

1935. As Europe prepares itself for a calamitous war, six homicidal lunatics – the so-called ‘Devil’s Six’ – are confined in a remote castle asylum in rural Czechoslovakia. Each patient has their own dark story to tell and Dr Viktor Kosárek, a young psychiatrist using revolutionary techniques, is tasked with unlocking their murderous secrets.

At the same time, a terrifying killer known as ‘Leather Apron’ is butchering victims across Prague. Successfully eluding capture, it would seem his depraved crimes are committed by the Devil himself.
Maybe they are… and what links him with the insane inmates of the Castle of the Eagles?

Only the Devil knows. And it is up to Viktor to find out.


My Thoughts:

One read of that description was enough to hook my intrigue, historical fiction set in one of the periods I find most interesting, crime thriller, and exploration of the dark recesses of the human mind – what more could I want?!

If you want a read brimming with superb characterisation, gothic darkness and excellent writing, then this is the book for you. Craig Russell has crafted a fantastic character in Viktor Kosárek, and with narration from this perspective, readers get a glimpse into the mind of a young doctor trying to push the boundaries of treatment within the field of psychiatry.

Craig Russell sets the scene of 1930s Czechoslovakia and Prague perfectly, he captures the unrest prevalent in that time and uses this well to add to the tension rife in the plot. The chilling atmospheric details are superb, they enable the reader to see the settings, to feel the hypnotic unease that leeches from the mists that swirl through the streets and villages.
The streets of Prague are unsafe, a crazed killer roams, picking off unsuspecting victims and leaving the police clueless about his identity. Dubbed ‘Leather Apron’, he savagely murders his female victims, leaving little evidence behind and it’s the job of Kapitan Lukas Smolak to piece together the little information they have in an effort to catch him.
This arc of the plot runs alongside that of psychiatrist Viktor Kosárek as he takes up a post at Hrad Orlu Asylum. The asylum houses six of the most notorious serial killers in Europe, aptly named the ‘Devil’s Six’. The nearby villagers are less than happy about the asylum, folklore tells of dark and dangerous happenings in the castle that houses the asylum, and despite assurances that the security measures in place render the castle impenetrable, they are not convinced.

Russell weaves a tale so vivid and complex, pulling together strands of folklore, mythology, psychology and sociology to create a fascinating and enthralling read. The whole time I was reading this, I could almost feel the unease, the dread that characters were experiencing. I desperately wanted to piece together the scant clues that Kapitan Lukas Smolak had, but no matter how hard I tried, I was entirely in the dark. Intelligent writing, that renders the reader equal parts terrified and fascinated.


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