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The Devil's Sanctuary    by Marie Hermanson order for
Devil's Sanctuary
by Marie Hermanson
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's something dark and different from Swedish author Marie Hermanson - The Devil's Sanctuary (translated by Neil Smith) is a disturbing psychological chiller, which reminded me most of the old TV series, The Prisoner.

Twin brothers Daniel and Max were raised separately by mother and father - and turned out very different in career and personality. Max has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which help to explain 'his daring business ventures, his self-destructive behavior, and his inability to maintain long-term relationships with women.'

Now Max is in a luxury Swiss psychiatric facility in Himmelstal and has asked Daniel to visit him there, paying his way to do so. It's a beautiful spot, though isolated, and the security an the entrance seems extreme. But the brothers spend time together, fishing and exploring the scenic surroundings.

Then Max begs Daniel to take his place for a few days so that he can attend to unfinished business. And, though Daniel does not exactly agree, he finds himself left in his brother's place. Which is when the sinister aspects of Himmelstal are gradually revealed ... and Daniel discovers that there's no way to leave.

Daniel forms a relationship with another inmate, Corinne, and learns a little from a psychiatrist, Gisela Obermann, who has her own concerns about the facility. But just as he (and the reader) seem to be coming to grips with what this onion of a story is about, another layer is unpeeled, and more revealed.

Though I have to admit this book was not exactly to my taste, it is very cleverly conceived and executed, and kept me turning pages, wondering if it could possibly end well for poor, bewildered Daniel. If you enjoy psychological mystery laced with horror, then you will revel in The Devil's Sanctuary.

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