SUMMARY – The 10-second review
A very humane look at criminal psychology. Challenges your prejudices. Very well written.
The Devil You Know Stories of Human Cruelty and Compassion is a profoundly moving book. It’s gripping to read and eye-opening, challenging preconceptions about criminal minds.
There’s no doubt a certain ghoulish voyeurism that attracts people to books about true crime and criminal psychology. This is not catering to that audience.
Hey, I’m not knocking ghoulish voyeurism per se! I have an eclectic taste in books and have no doubt been guilty of said ghoulish voyeurism myself, so I’m not judging.
At the same time, I’m not the most empathic or compassionate person you’ll ever come across, and I may well harbor more than my fair share of anger at people who hurt others. I therefore opened this book with both curiosity and strong misgivings, quite ready to be filled with disgust and indignation at what promised to be stories of people who have done truly terrible things. So yes, perhaps a dose of ghoulish voyeurism prompted me to read this.
Instead, the more I read the more I felt compassion for the people Dr Adshead described. (She does say early on that these portraits are composites of different clients and situations. One would expect no less, for the sake of patient confidentiality and clarity of narrative, so I read each story as if it were an actual account of a real person’s life.)
The Devil You Know presents a series of case histories, viewed through the lens of consultation sessions, mostly one-to-one, but a few in group therapy settings. The individuals are gradually revealed, in their own words and through Dr Adshead’s observations. We learn about their childhood and background and see how they found themselves committing crimes.
Insights into psychology theories, notably attachment theory, are threaded into the narrative. It’s a fascinating (albeit incomplete; it’s not trying to be a textbook) introduction to attachment theory.
The Devil You Know is written for the general public and is very accessible. It’s also beautifully written, by Eileen Horne.
My thanks to Netgalley for giving me a free copy of this book. All my reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, regardless of how I acquire the book.
The Devil You Know is available from all major booksellers.