The Devil You Know by Dr Gwen Adshead – Book Review

Title: The Devil You Know

Author: Dr Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne

Genre: Nonfiction

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Publication Date: 3rd June 2021

Rating: 5/5



Dr Gwen Adshead is one of Britain’s leading forensic psychiatrists. She treats serial killers, arsonists, stalkers, gang members and other individuals who are usually labelled ‘monsters’. Whatever their crime, she listens to their stories and helps them to better understand their terrible acts of violence. Here Adshead invites the reader to step with her into the room to meet twelve patients and discover how minds can change. These men and women are revealed in all their complexity and shared humanity. Their stories make a powerful case for rehabilitation over revenge, compassion over condemnation. The Devil You Know will challenge everything you thought you knew about human nature.


I read true crime quite often and I have to say The Devil You Know has to be one of the most revelatory and fascinating books on the subject. I would actually hesitate to even call it true crime as it’s really more of an often harrowing yet determinedly compassionate journey into the psychology behind violence and the far reaching consequences of trauma and psychosis. Each chapter focuses on a different patient of Dr Adshead and they vary massively in terms of personality and criminality but every single one is so incredibly illuminating. This is not an easy read at times – some the people in this book have done horrific and difficult to read about things but, if you can, I seriously recommend persevering because I genuinely think it will be well worth your time. Adshead is direct yet full of empathy and understanding. She in no way makes excuses for the crimes committed or negates the importance of the victim experience but the book is really about trying to understand the why instead of the how of violence and crime. Nothing in life is ever truly totally black and white. There is almost always nuance to be found, even in the darkest of minds and The Devil You Know is an utterly compelling journey into psychology that leaves the reader with a great deal to think upon. Highly recommended.


I kindly received an e-copy of the book via Netgalley. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.

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