A riveting 1920s Hollywood thriller about the making of the most terrifying silent film ever made, and a deadly search for the single copy rumored still to exist, from the internationally acclaimed author of The Devil Aspect.
"An excellent, engrossing historical horror novel."—New York Times Book Review
"Rich and riveting...a masterful thriller." —Lincoln Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Addictive." —A.J. Finn, author of The Woman in the Window
"Totally engaging." —Kathy Reichs, author of the Temperance Brennan series
1927: Mary Rourke—a Hollywood studio fixer—is called urgently to the palatial home of Norma Carlton, one of the most recognizable stars in American silent film. Norma has been working on the secret film everyone is openly talking about... a terrifying horror picture called The Devil’s Playground that is rumored to have unleashed a curse on everyone involved in the production. Mary finds Norma’s cold, dead body, and she wonders for just a moment if these dark rumors could be true.
1967: Paul Conway, a journalist and self-professed film aficionado, is on the trail of a tantalizing rumor. He has heard that a single copy of The Devil’s Playground—a Holy Grail for film buffs—may exist. He knows his Hollywood history and he knows the film endured myriad tragedies and ended up lost to time.
The Devil's Playground is Craig Russell’s tour de force, a richly researched and constructed thriller that weaves through the Golden Age of Hollywood and reveals a blossoming industry built on secrets, invented identities, and a desperate pursuit of image. As Mary Rourke charges headlong through the egos, distractions, and traps that threaten to take her down with the doomed production, she discovers a truth far more sinister than she—or we—could have imagined.
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.