6 June 2013

Review: THE DEVIL'S SANCTUARY, Marie Hermanson

  • first published in Swedish in Sweden in 2011
  • translated into English by Neil Smith 2013
  • ISBN 978-1-84744-576-6
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Hachette Australia)

A breathless, heart-stopping psychological thriller from one of Sweden's best selling authors. Fear lies around every corner. . .

Estranged identical twins Daniel and Max have a complex relationship, so when Daniel goes to visit his bi-polar brother in a remote and expensive Swiss 'recovery' clinic, he has no idea what really lies in wait for him. Lulled by the routine and peacefulness of the clinic, Daniel finds himself unquestioningly accepting Max's plea for help in taking care of some business, and the brothers swap places for a few days.

But soon Daniel realises Max isn't coming back, and that the clinic is far from a place of recovery. Struggling to get anyone to believe who he really is, Daniel finds himself trapped in a cruel and highly secretive prison: this is no sanctuary, it's a living nightmare.

My Take

Daniel really should have known better than to trust his twin brother Max when he invited Daniel to visit him at the Swiss clinic in Himelstat. And then his proposal that they swap places for a few days was quite ludicrous, but then Daniel was always the more compliant. Only too late does Daniel realise that Max will not be coming back any time soon, and that Himelstat is not a place you can just walk out of.

Once Daniel decides to reveal to management that he and his brother have swapped and that Max has escaped, he realises that no-one is going to release him, particularly after the doctor in charge of him starts talking about multiple personalities in the one body. Attempts to escape show him that he doesn't know who he can trust, particularly when it appears that most of the other residents are psychopaths.

The plotlines verge on science fiction and fantasy and give the author some chances to explore possible treatments of psychiatric disorders.

For some reason the story kept reminding me of the 1960s British TV series The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan. Mind you I don't remember the story all that well, just that nothing was ever what it seemed.

To be quite honest, this is a most peculiar novel but it wasn't just the idea that my face to face reading group want to discuss it in a couple of weeks' time that kept me reading. I'm curious now to read another by this author, although THE DEVIL'S SANCTUARY appears to be the first of her novels translated into English..

My rating: 4.3

About the Author
An author and journalist, Marie Hermanson published her first book in 1986. Her novels are huge bestsellers in Scandinavia, and Musselstranden (Clam Beach) is considered a modern classic, with over 250,000 copies sold. Mannen under trappan (The Man Under the Stairs) was adapted into a TV drama in 2009. She lives in Gothenberg, Sweden.


Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - This does sound like an unusual kind of novel. It seems to combine the psychological thriller plot with threads of sci-fi and you don't see that very often. Hmmm...

Sarah said...

Nice review. the book's on my shelf to read. I keep thinking Count of Monte Christo when I look at the blurb.

Bernadette said...

I picked up a copy from the library yesterday and have struggled to page 85...am bored to tears though and can't really see myself finishing it...doing the dishes has won out over reading which is a rare thing indeed :)


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