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February 12, 2024
I found this book in our shop while I was looking for a book to send to one of our monthly book subscription customers. After reading the back of the book I was hooked:
Prague, 1935: Viktor Kosárek, 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.
It checks a lot of boxes for me: historical fiction, horror, psychological thriller and it's full of Eastern European folklore - something I love to learn about. Russell's writing is far better than most who write fast-paced thrillers. He included historical details that added to the story and characters rather than just filling space on the page. I took a chance on listening to this book on Audible and I'm so glad that I did. The reader's ability to subtly change his voice for each character was impressive. I also think it's hard to hide subpar writing when you listen. So extra points there too!
The New York Times Book Review claims that this book is "a murder mystery locked inside the Great American Novel - charming, smart, heart-blistering..." and I couldn't agree more. It's rare that I enjoy literary fiction as much I enjoyed reading this book. I tend to get bored easily and need a fast-paced plot to keep me engaged. McBride's no-nonsense yet beautiful writing style has me hooked. His storytelling style moves at a pace that keeps my attention. His characters are love-able and hate-able all at once.
Set against the backdrop of a real town in the 1930s - Pottstown, PA - just a few miles from where I live, McBride shows us how the Black community, immigrant Jews, and white Christians of Chicken Hill work, live, and survive alongside each other.
Little to nothing happens in this book - in terms of plot - and it is still SO GOOD. Highly recommend.
This historical fantasy is set in a world where books are dangerous. They contain people's painful memories which are put there by a select few who have the ability to bind memories to books. The main character, Emmett Farmer, was born to be a Binder. Against his will he begins his apprenticeship to learn this sacred craft. Along the way he falls in love and comes to understand his past in a new way. I didn't see the romance coming in this book - I usually don't like romance novels - but it was a pleasant surprise this time.
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