* SELECTED AS ONE OF PUBLISHERS WEEKLY'S BEST BOOKS OF 2023 IN THE MYSTERY/THRILLER CATEGORY*
'Superb! The Devil's Playground is imagination on steroids... breathtaking!' Jeffery Deaver
'A terrifying tale of the true power in Hollywood... (Russell's) precise, gorgeous prose shines' New York Times
'Addictive. . . the most sheerly entertaining novel I've raced through in at least a year. . . fresh, forceful, elegant but wild' A.J. Finn
'The Devil's Playground is definitely on the shortlist for best mystery of the year' Bookpage.com
'When it comes to Gothic crime, Craig Russell is peerless. Absolutely stunning' M W Craven
FROM CWA DAGGER AND DOUBLE McILVANNEY AWARD WINNER CRAIG RUSSELL COMES ANOTHER DARK, GRIPPING MASTERPIECE . . .
A dark, riveting thriller set in 1920s Hollywood about "the greatest horror movie ever made", the curse said to surround it, and a deadly search, decades later, for the single copy rumoured still to exist.
1927: Hollywood studio fixer Mary Rourke is called to the palatial home of "the most desirable woman in the world", silent movie actress Norma Carlton, star of The Devil's Playground. When Rourke finds Carlton dead, she wonders if the dark rumours she's heard are true: that The Devil's Playground really is a cursed production. But nothing in Hollywood is ever what it seems, and cynical fixer Rourke, more used to covering up the truth for studio bosses, finds herself seeking it out.
1967: Paul Conway, film historian and fervid silent movie aficionado, is on the trail of a tantalizing rumour: that a single copy of The Devil's Playground-a Holy Grail for film buffs that was supposedly cursed and lost to time-may exist. His search takes him deep into the Mojave Desert, to an isolated hotel that hasn't changed in forty years but harbours only one occupant-and a shocking secret.
Separated by decades, both Rourke and Conway begin to suspect that the real Devil's Playground is in fact Hollywood itself.
Russell (Hyde) brilliantly braids together clues and scares for a superior standalone about the production of a legendary horror film. In 1967, film historian Paul Conway is on a quest for a surviving print of The Devil's Playground, once considered "the greatest horror movie, sound or silent, of all time." According to popular wisdom, all copies of the film were torched during a fire at Carbine International Studio, but Paul follows up on a rumor that a single print survived, which takes him to the desert home of a reclusive actress who was connected to the production. Everyone else involved with the movie has died or disappeared, victims of a supposed Exorcist-style curse caused by the resurrection of a demon during filming. In a parallel 1927 timeline, Carbine Studio fixer Mary Rourke is called to the Hollywood home of Norma Carlton, star of The Devil's Playground, who's died by apparent overdose. The studio's cover-up goes into overdrive when an autopsy reveals Norma was murdered, and Mary learns through the course of her investigation that most of Tinseltown's horrors aren't of the supernatural variety. Russell's painstakingly researched Old Hollywood sections carry the vivid grit and texture many historical mysteries lack, and he's exceptionally good at maintaining a creepy atmosphere. This intelligent page-turner belongs on the shelf next to Riley Sager's film-steeped thrillers. Esmond Harmsworth, Aevitas Creative Management.