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‘Every violent crime is a tragedy, for the victims and their families as well as for the perpetrators. Over the years, I’ve come to think of my patients as survivors of a disaster where they are the disaster and my colleagues and I are first responders. I meet them at a turning point in their lives and help them to come to terms with a new identity, which may feel indelible; as one of my patients memorably put it, ‘You can be an ex-bus driver but not an ex-murderer.’

How can we understand evil? Dr Gwen Adshead has spent thirty years providing therapy inside secure hospitals and prisons. Whatever her patient’s crime, from serial homicide to stalking, arson to child abuse, her aim is to help them to better know – and to change – their minds.

Case by case, she takes us into the room with people we would normally flinch from as ‘monsters’. Through recounting the therapeutic process and the life stories of her patients, Adshead sheds light on the possibility of recovery. She questions our notions of evil and passionately argues for the prioritisation of mental health services. The Devil You Know is about thinking the unthinkable and about putting words to the unspeakable. Above all, it is a vital and compassionate book about our shared humanity.

‘A mythbuster of a book – crammed with compelling, constructive, candid and compassionate insights into the criminal mind.’ VAL McDERMID

‘Shocking, sad and absolutely fascinating.’ SEBASTIAN FAULKS

‘Fascinating, erudite and beautifully written… Adshead makes the case for radical empathy and reminds us that all human beings are capable of darkness, and of light.’ CHRISTIE WATSON

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Eileen Horne

From a pioneering psychiatrist and psychotherapist comes The Devil You Know, a perspective-shattering work into the minds of violent criminals which reveals profound consequences for human nature and society at large.