Mystery

The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell

the devil aspectEverything about The Devil Aspect spoke to me: it is set in Czechoslovakia in 1935 (I grew up in the Czech Republic), has a psychological aspect, is Gothic and full of Eastern European folklore. I was sold before I even started reading it. 🙂

Let’s take a look at Goodreads’ summary first, shall we?

A terrifying novel set in Czechoslovakia in 1935, in which a brilliant young psychiatrist takes his new post at an asylum for the criminally insane that houses only six inmates–the country’s most depraved murderers–while, in Prague, a detective struggles to understand a brutal serial killer who has spread fear through the city, and who may have ties to the asylum. 

In 1935, Viktor Kosarek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country’s six most treacherous killers–known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon–and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth. 

Meanwhile, in Prague, fear grips the city as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier–London’s Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum.

Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this stylishly written, tightly coiled, richly imagined novel is propulsively entertaining, and impossible to put down.


What did I think?

Let me put it this way: I have a feeling, this book will haunt my dreams for a while. 🙂 Its Gothic setting, enriched with folk legends, created a creepy sense of something gloomy and evil lurking in dark sections of Prague‘s cobbled streets. And I loved it.

I will not lie to you – there is a lot of gore involved. I grew up reading Stephen King and certain aspects of this book brought me back my teenage obsession with horror. If that is something that can bother you, you may want to proceed with care.

There are two story lines that intertwine:

The first one is told by Viktor – an ambitious psychologist that is working with six serial killers trying to uncover their ‘Devil Aspect‘. Viktor‘s work is based on collective unconscious – a theory introduced by Carl Jung to represent a form of the mind that contains memories and impulses of which the person is not aware of.

The second narrative is told by Lukas – a detective trying to capture a murderer called Leather Apron, who is replicating crimes of Jack the Ripper.

The plot is working out if the Devil Aspect exists as well as finding out who the murderer is.

Russell skilfully leaves a trail of breadcrumbs, which we can follow if we pay close attention to it. The answers to the mystery are all there, but we must carefully look for them. That is what I really appreciated. The ending wasn’t a giant twist for me but the process of finding out the answers was a lot of fun and left me with a smug sense of self-satisfaction in the end.

smug


The Devil Aspect is set in Czechoslovakia in 1935. Czechs call this period ‘First Republic‘ – Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918, after the World War I ended, and its First Republic stage lasted till Munich agreement in 1938. I thought Russell splendidly captured the Czech nature. I loved how he got certain behavioural nuances, sometimes only locals are aware of. It felt authentic and I honestly am impressed by that.

I also appreciated the local folklore. I remember it, as if it was yesterday, my grandma symbolically spitting three times over her left shoulder to ward off any evil powers as the devil is known to be sitting on people’s left shoulders. This superstition is mentioned in the book amongst many others and brought me back a lot of nostalgia.


Overall, it is a relatively fast paced and highly atmospheric read.

I had a lot of fun guessing the mystery part of this book and recommend The Devil Aspect to those, who enjoy dark Gothic / horror stories.

I would like to thank both the author and the publisher, Little Brown Book Group for an advanced readers copy of this book in an exchange for an honest review. 


Over to you my friends. 

Do you enjoy these types of books?

If you do, fancy recommending me similar books please? I crave more…. thanks! 🙂

Mystery

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

tangerine

Just over 6 years ago, I went with three of my girlfriends to Marrakesh and the Atlas Mountains.

Morocco with its vibrant colours, air full of spices and snow-covered mountains is deeply ingrained in my memory.

We met local women that produced tapestries of striking colours, speckles of brightness in their modest living conditions.

Here’s my attempt at making a tapestry. I was hopeless, but it was a lot of fun! 😊

I loved wondering around the markets whilst smelling cinnamon, cardamom and other spices.

Morocco viciously attacked my senses of smell and vision and Tangerine brought some of those memories back.

Before we start, here’s what GoodReads say about this book:

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country. 

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.


Tangerine is set in the 50’s predominantly in Moroccan Tangier and is narrated from two perspectives:

  • Alice – a fragile protagonist, who is full of anxiety and is slowly losing her mind.
  • Lucy – a manipulative character skilled at playing shrewd mind games.

Those voices are different: Alice’s is frail; Lucy’s is angry and calculating.

“She was put together nicely, with the intention of others not noticing. There was nothing about her that clamored for attention, nothing that demanded to be seen, and yet, everything was done exactly in anticipation of such notice.” 

Mangan‘s writing is impressive. It can be slow at times but I didn’t mind. Via her words, I was transported back to Morocco, saw all those dazzling colours again and even smelled some of those spices (nothing to do with my obsession with cinnamon tea, promise!). 🙂

Tangerine is a psychological thriller and I had to pause sometimes to fully digest what I just read. The relationship between Alice and Lucy is highly toxic and reading about it was unsettling. There are many mind games involved and I was engaged till the end.

There were a few plot holes that Norrie @ Reading Under the Blankie pointed out in her blog here. They are craftily hidden and I did not see them before I read Tangerine, only afterwards. I do agree with all of them. The last one irritated me probably the most.

Side note: I don’t know how to hide spoilers yet and Norrie’s review inspired me to pick this book so there you go. 🙂

Despite of that, I recommend this book. It is beautifully written, atmospheric and can be disturbing at times.

Have you read this book or planning on reading it? Let me know in the comments below. 😊🙏

Many thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple  (4/5)

Monthly Wrap Up

March Wrap Up

I’m still processing the fact that we are in April. How did that happen? 😀

March went by so quickly. I worked longer hours, went outside with my dog more often and didn’t feel like reading a lot.

I also went to the Czech Republic to see my family and then escaped it all whilst visiting a mountain cottage with my boyfriend in Snowdonia, Wales.

This was our morning view:

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No internet, no central heating, nothing luxurious… just a simple retreat in nature that recharged me after long working weeks. I learned that I love the board game Scrabble. And that Google is overrated… 😉

My critical self wanted to immediately start apologising that I ‘only’ read four books in March and that I haven’t been writing that much or commenting on other blogs recently.

Then I reminded myself why I started this blog and why I want to write this blog.

You see, one of my core values is Creativity.

It’s this wonderfully playful need to make something that keeps me content and brings me a lot of joy.

All those creative souls out there know that creativity is a process and sometimes, doesn’t happen on a whim.

On certain days, I can stare at my blank screen screaming as words just don’t want to come out. Then there are days when I could write for hours.

March was the month of the ‘I don’t feel it’ and ‘even if I feel like it, I can’t write about it’ themes. And that’s OK. 😊

I reflected a lot, connected with a lot of people face to face, day dreamed for hours as I didn’t want to read.. I’m sure you are getting the picture… 😉

I am desperately itching to write and read again. And I am so happy you are here with me. 😊

After a lengthy intro, let’s have a look at March reads, shall we:

  • The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, 3 stars

Slightly disturbing crime debut set in Irish Galway. I read it during St. Patrick’s day and it was a fairly fast paced and enjoyable read.

My full review can be found here.

  • Sticks and Stones by Jo Jakeman, 4 stars

Another crime read. This one was about head games, revenge and explored how we can forgive.

My review can be found here.

  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, 4 stars

March was the month when I discovered Liane Moriarty. 🙂 I thoroughly enjoyed the concept of amnesia / time travel whilst reading What Alice Forgot. Thanks Norrie for introducing me to this wonderful writer! 🙂

My review can be also found here.

  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, 5 stars

Yep, definitely the book of March. Wholly cow, I loved this book. I am still organising my scattered thoughts but its full review will be coming up shortly.

It’s a book about friendship but is also very heavy on shame. My favourite psychological topic. Please stay tuned for this one. 🙂


So that’s March in a nutshell.

Now over to you my friends.

What was your favourite March book?

Mystery

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

ruin

Let’s get the summary of the book from GoodReads first:

It’s been twenty years since Cormac Reilly discovered the body of Hilaria Blake in her crumbling Georgian home. But he’s never forgotten the two children she left behind…

When Aisling Conroy’s boyfriend Jack is found in the freezing black waters of the river Corrib, the police tell her it was suicide. A surgical resident, she throws herself into study and work, trying to forget – until Jack’s sister Maude shows up. Maude suspects foul play, and she is determined to prove it.

DI Cormac Reilly is the detective assigned with the re-investigation of an ‘accidental’ overdose twenty years ago – of Jack and Maude’s drug- and alcohol-addled mother. Cormac is under increasing pressure to charge Maude for murder when his colleague Danny uncovers a piece of evidence that will change everything…

This unsettling crime debut draws us deep into the dark heart of Ireland and asks who will protect you when the authorities can’t – or won’t. Perfect for fans of Tana French and Jane Casey.

For starters I honestly think McTiernan did a fabulous job given that The Ruin was first novel. It is a well written story that makes you experience rainy Irish Galway. I timed reading the book in line with St. Patrick’s day and I must admit it was a pretty atmospheric read. 🙂

The story is predominantly told from three perspectives:

Cormac Reilly, a maverick detective struggling to settle in his new role after his transfer from Dublin to Galway.

Aisling Conroy, a hard-working medical professional, whose life turned into a nightmare just after St Patrick’s day

Maude Blake, a long-lost sister who is back in Ireland and who also wants some answers.

I am a little tired of stories of corrupted police and maverick detectives having to trust no one a few chosen ones to find truth. The fact that the story centred a lot around police’s politics was not my thing but some may enjoy that. I personally would prefer more of the crime / character development.

Unfortunately I could not connect or relate to those characters. It could have been me. I personally wanted to engage more with the characters and know more of them. There were many hints on things in the past that slightly frustrated me and again, I felt I wanted to have slightly clearer picture rather than second guessing.

With that said, it was still an alright story to read and I finished the book. There was a lot going on, the pace was fairly fast, the language was ‘to the point’, several cases got intertwined and a few twists took place.

Potential triggers: domestic abuse, child abuse

** I received an ARC from Little, Brown Book Group in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity **

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple 3/5

Monthly Wrap Up

February Wrap Up

MonthlyWrapUp @ UnfilteredTales

Hello fellow readers,

Can you believe it?

We are in March already!

I know, I know… how very observant of me…. 😉

Still, how is it possible that this year is literally flying by. 🙂

Hope you all had two wonderful winter months and that, like me, you are ready for the Spring. 🙂

“Dear Spring, whenever you are ready, I will really appreciate your warmth and sunshine!! Sun With Face on Samsung Experience 9.0

For those interested, here is what I read in February:

 

YA / Fantasy:

Crime / Thriller:

Non Fiction:

February was a busy reading month.

What definitely stood out for me was both Heartless and The Smoke Thieves.

Both very different yet utterly indulgent reads I did not want to put away.

Unfortunately Wintersong was a bit of a let down despite its gorgeous writing.

What stood out for you in February? And did something disappoint you?

Here’s to another great month of reading!Books on Apple iOS 11.2

 

Mystery

The Lying Kind by Alison James

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Side note: I have a writing ‘pet project’ that is kind of centered around mystery / crime. That’s why I’m dipping into this genre a bit this year and I must say, I am thoroughly enjoying it so far! 😊

The Lying Kind tells an engaging and mysterious story of a missing girl. It is a crime investigation set in London and its surrounding areas told from Detective Rachel Prince’s perspective as she leads the investigation.

The crime aspect of this story held my curiosity till the end. I think it was obvious who did it from quite early on but what really kept me interested was the why and how. I also appreciated that the story centred around the police aspect of such investigations. It wasn’t just about the thrills and chases but also the long desk-based hours that go into these cases.

Having lived near Bermondsey myself, a London area where Detective Rachel Prince’s flat is, I could identify many places. I also happened to suffer from knee (ACL) problems and that made me relate to the main character on different level as well.

Okay, let’s move on to the Detective Rachel Prince’s character, shall we?

Oh man… where do I begin? 😊 I didn’t like her, yet I felt empathy towards her. I found here character quite flawed yet fascinating… a piece of work but quite an interesting one. 😊

Clearly, her character has some serious unresolved issues, which we get glimpses of throughout the book. It seems that her escaping reality via being a workaholic and channelling her problems via hostility towards certain women is her way of coping.

She flirts with any ‘attractive’ man out there, yet she judges any woman out there who puts some effort into her appearance. It seems she believes that ‘looks’ are fake and overrated yet she falls for exactly such thing in men. I wonder if she addresses some of her issues in the next instalment of this series as it would be quite interesting to follow her growth and to learn more about her.

On a side note, I thought there was a bit of chemistry between her and her work partner, who happened to be ‘not attractive enough’ to be her type, eye roll, which they may be unaware of it or are just denying it.

Overall, a very interesting detective story with a not so likeable main character, who I found interesting and wanted to know more of. I am honestly looking forward to reading book 2 when it’s out.

*** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher/author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ***

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple   (4/5)

Mystery

Kin by Snorri Kristjansson

kin

*** ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***

A book is either meant for you or not. After diving into Snorri Kristjansson’s Kin, it became apparent that Kristjansson’s must have written Kin for me … obviously! 😊

It had everything I look for in a book. Flawed characters, dysfunctional family dynamics, a delightful mysterious story, a few twists and it was narrated in a language that resonated with me. I normally binge on books, but I slowed this one down as I did not want it to end.

Kin is set around 970 in Norway. Expect no epic Viking battles or raids. The story is centred around Viking warlord Unnthor Reginsson after he retires from the longboats and settles down with Hildigunnur in a remote valley. It’s a tale about their five children. Helga, their adopted daughter, her three brothers Karl, Bjorn and Aslak and her sister Jorunn. It is mainly narrated from Helga’s perspective but sometimes the narrative switches to her other siblings, their spouses and children.

The flow of the story is gentle at first. We are introduced to Unnthor’s family via their large gathering. We see how dysfunctional they are as a unit, get to know the characters and catch a glimpse of how hard life must have been around that time.

And then somebody gets murdered. From that moment onward, the pace picks up and the fun begins. Pretty much everybody has a potential to be the killer. And I had so much fun guessing who it could be!

Helga is strong main character that guides us throughout the story:

“If no one will fight for his life . . . Her jaw tensed. I’m going to have to do it myself.”

Hildigunnur raised her to be observant and crafty. And she truly lives up to her mother’s expectations. Her thoughts give us useful insights until the mystery is finally resolved.

Kin ends in a way that you want its sequel immediately. I NEED Kin’s sequel NOW!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries / crime stories with a sprinkle of Norse mythology and who enjoys reading stories full of flawed characters.

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple   (5/5)