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The Devil You Know

Stories of Human Cruelty and Compassion

Based on thirty years of experience working in prisons and secure psychiatric hospitals with people convicted of serious violent offences, internationally renowned forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gwen Adshead presents an account of mental illness and the nature of evil in this compelling series of stories.

What drives someone to commit an act of terrible violence? One of Britain’s leading forensic psychiatrists explores this question and offers valuable and fresh insights by sharing details from her thirty years working with people who have committed violent crimes. Through a collaboration with coauthor Eileen Horne, Dr. Adshead brings her work to life in twelve fascinating, unflinching portraits of individuals we call “evil.” Together with doctor and patient, we discover the meanings of violence and how minds can change when people are able to tell and own their life stories.

With outcomes ranging from hope to despair, from denial to recovery, these men and women are revealed in all their complexities and their shared humanity. In this era of mass incarceration, deep cuts in mental health care and extreme social schisms, this book is a timely and persuasive argument for compassion over condemnation.

Moving, thought-provoking, and brilliantly told, The Devil You Know is a rare book with the power to change minds about ideas of evil and violence, and the remarkable human capacity for radical empathy, change, and redemption.

Dr. Gwen Adshead is one of the UK’s leading forensic psychiatrists and psychotherapists. She has spent thirty years working in Broadmoor, England’s largest secure psychiatric hospital, with groups and individual patients convicted of serious violent offences, as well as with people in prisons and in the community. Gwen has a Masters Degree in Medical Law and Ethics and has published several academic books and over one hundred papers and commissioned articles on forensic psychotherapy, moral reasoning and ethics, and attachment theory. She is a founder member of the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy and has been a visiting professor at Yale University and Gresham College in the UK.

Eileen Horne is an American author and dramatist currently based in California, with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of London. Following a long career in the UK as an independent TV drama producer, over the last decade, she has written an eclectic mix of historical nonfiction, journalism, Italian translation, as well as several original dramas and literary adaptations—including contributing to a BBC radio drama series about an entirely fictional female forensic psychiatrist.