Anchor, 432 pages, $16.95 (pb ed. 2020)
The horror! The horror! What grisly thing DOESN’T happen in this book? In 1935, there are six serial killers immured in a special medical facility/prison in a rural wooded area of Czechoslovakia. Hrad Orlü is located in a converted medieval castle. There is only the most modern of medical gear and only the most ancient of folktales about how the castle is the gateway to hell. Meanwhile in Prague, there is a serial killer on the loose. He butchers women, and so he is nicknamed “Leather Apron” for the butcher’s apron he wears while eviscerating his victims. Can you hear the squelching yet?
Dr. Viktor Kosárek is trying to find the “devil aspect,” or underlying pseudo-Jungian evil archetype, active in the Hrad Orlü prisoners. Detective Lukáš Smolák is trying to find Leather Apron. As each man learns more about his target, the weirder the situation becomes. Ancient script newly carved on a wooden post, a woman Smolák had just met becoming a victim, people declaring there are demons peeping out of the shadows … whoa!
If horror is your jam, then here’s a doozy. But of course, the challenge for the reader is to determine whether there actually is something supernatural going on or if it is just clever criminals hornswoggling the puzzled “experts.” Plus, there are Nazis. But you knew that would get tossed in, given the time period.