cover image The Devil You Know: Stories of Human Cruelty and Compassion

The Devil You Know: Stories of Human Cruelty and Compassion

Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne. Scribner, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-9821-3479-2

This heartfelt and nuanced memoir by Adshead, a forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist, charts her decades-long career in Britain’s National Health Service treating violent offenders. With the assistance of dramatist Horne, Adshead recounts 11 cases, each a composite to protect patient privacy. She treated her first serial killer, Tony, at England’s high-security Broadmoor Hospital for criminals. Having confessed to three murders, he remembered a fourth victim during talk therapy treatment. Success often meant treating suicidal convicts so they could be returned to prison to serve out their sentences or helping ex-cons return to the outside world. Some cases are tragic, some sad, and some unredeemable, such as that of Ian, who sexually abused his two sons and later committed suicide, and of Lydia, who wound up back in a mental hospital after being released from prison and attacking her therapist’s staff members in his office, but the author manages to humanize her subjects and make a case for devoting more resources to the treatment of all mentally ill in prisons. In addition, Adshead explains the British health-care system and offers a brief history of psychotherapy of inmates. For those interested in the inner workings of the criminal mind, this is must reading. Agent: Anna Stein, ICM Partners. (July)