The Devil You Know
Dr Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne
Standalone or series
Standalone (non-fiction, although case studies are composites)
First time reading this author?
Why I picked this
I’m interested in the why of people who commit crimes, accessible books which don’t glorify or vilify individuals are few and far between.
Review copy or purchase
Thank you to the author, publishers Faber & Faber and online book club Pigeonhole for access to read this book for free. This is an honest and voluntary review.
What it’s about
Forensic psychiatriast Dr Gwen Adshead has worked with Eileen Horne to compile these portraits of people who she has met through her work in secure hospitals, prisons and in the community to explain the whole life experience which forms the background of people who commit some of the most horrendous crimes.
Part of my fascination with crime fiction is the ability to see things from the perspective of the perpetrator, even in an imaginary way. To have the opportunity to try and understand why someone is behaving the way they have, and what drives people to do horrible things to other human beings. The question of why is often satisfyingly wrapped up within a TV drama or book in a way which it never truly is in real life.
This book offers an opportunity to look at people who have committed acts or behaved in ways that typically we might find difficult to understand. Each of the individual stories included within this volume are made up of the experiences and behaviours of a number of different patients which Dr Gwen Adshead has worked with over the years in secure hospitals, prisons and in the community, but the stories are told as part of a cohesive narrative which makes it easier to follow and understand. This is thanks to co-author Eileen Horne, who has taken the professional experiences of Dr Adshead and translated this into a book form which is more accessible for non-professionals.
Many of the stories are hard to read, dealing as they do with highly emotive topics of trauma, abuse, and violence. Despite the title referring to ‘devil’, this is not a book about good and evil. Even the most gut wrenchingly horrendous offences committed by one of the individuals is presented in a way which doesn’t try to excuse their behaviour, but does open up the shades of grey around their intention and their understanding of the impact their actions had on the victims.
It’s not a quick or light hearted read, but it is a fascinating one, and if you’re interested in understand the why, and are willing to accept that there are no easy answers, this is a compelling insight into the experiences of someone working with people who in many cases it would be simple to dismiss as ‘evil’.