The Devil's Playground: A Novel (Hardcover)

The Devil's Playground: A Novel By Craig Russell Cover Image
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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.

About the Author

CRAIG RUSSELL is an award-winning Scottish author whose books have been translated into twenty-five languages. His previous works include The Devil Aspect, the Fabel series of thrillers and the Lennox series of noir mysteries. He is the only two-time winner of the McIlvanney Prize (2015 and 2021) as well as the winner of the 2008 Crime Writers' Association Dagger in the Library prize. He lives in Perthshire, Scotland, with his wife.

Praise For…

"[An] excellent, engrossing historical horror novel, one that explores the symbiosis of power and evil in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Russell, the author of the brilliant The Devil Aspect, is a steady guide, ferrying readers between Hollywood’s promises and its terrible reality. His precise, gorgeous prose shines."
New York Times Book Review

"Superb! The Devil’s Playground is imagination on steroids! This breathtaking tale--set against America’s favorite backdrop, Hollywood--seamlessly blends noir, gothic, and mystery in a way that's unique to crime fiction. Populated with a truly memorable cast, Playground is a guaranteed one-sitting read…and how can you resist a novel about the scariest movie of all time? Bravo!"
—Jeffery Deaver, author of The Bone Collector and Hunting Time

"Craig Russell walks a razor's edge between gothic suspense and horror. The Devil's Playground conjures rich and riveting elements – 1920's Hollywood, a terrifying silent film, an elusive and inscrutable killer, and an eerie sequence set in the Louisiana bayou – all of which come together to create a masterful thriller."
—Lincoln Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"A blend of murder, noir, and horror set against a fascinating time-trip through Hollywood. The Devil’s Playground is totally engaging."
Kathy Reichs, author of the Temperance Brennan series

"I’ll read anything Craig Russell writes. Indeed I’ve read everything he’s written. His are secret-ingredient thrillers: robustly mainstream novels – readers of Preston & Child, Dean Koontz, and Steve Berry, form an orderly line – charged with a special dark energy, like some elusive taste in a spiked cocktail. It’s addictive. The Devil’s Playground, set partly in a richly evoked 1920s Hollywood, plays like Chinatown meets The Ring, and it’s the most sheerly entertaining novel I’ve raced through in at least a year. In an age when far too many same-old-same-old books are clogging the charts, The Devil’s Playground – fresh, forceful, elegant but wild – deserves to crash the bestseller party."
—A.J. Finn, author of The Woman in the Window

"Russell brilliantly braids together clues and scares for a superior standalone about the production of a legendary horror film. . . 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."
—Publisher's Weekly (starred)

"One of the most creative twist endings I have experienced in ages... The Devil's Playground might just be the best mystery of the year."

"An engrossing thriller likely to satisfy even the most demanding hardboiled fans as well as movie buffs… a gallery of sharply-drawn characters … twists lurking around every Californian corner and a pace that never tires… wonderfully drawn and unique protagonists … a memorable piece of work that I just lapped up with relish."
—Maxim Jakubowski

"Craig Russell is a master of his craft... The Devil’s Playground may represent his pinnacle... Russell’s storytelling is seamless... Russell’s taut dialogue and visual storytelling feel like watching a movie... A tightly plotted, propulsive story filled with multilayered characters. Your only complaint may be that the book has to end. But, oh, what a perfect gothic ending it is."
—Washington Independent Review of Books

"Craig Russell's The Devil's Playground is a lavish production of the golden age of Hollywood... Deliciously, the cool, hard-bitten tone of Mary's chapters is in lockstep with that of a classic noir."
—Shelf Awareness

"The mystery of the lost film is merely the tip of the iceberg. This book offers so much more and had a bit of everything I love, including a good old-fashioned murder mystery, a fascinating historical setting, just a light dab of the paranormal, and gothic vibes that are practically oozing off the page."

"The three narratives are expertly intertwined in this richly textured and erudite Hollywood gothic... Russell brings the decadent L.A. scene alive."
—Air Mail

“This is a tremendous work of historical noir... The mastery of silent film history was also exceptional... Expertly written and plotted, this excellent novel is a deeply satisfying amalgam of mystery and horror.”
—Criminal Element

"A masterwork. . . This is a terrific blend of historical fiction, with its depiction of classic Hollywood, and chilling supernatural elements. We go along for the ride."

“Extensively researched… A large cast of characters and extensive use of red herrings make this a complex and atmospheric novel, perfect for fans of Silvia Moreno-Garcia.”
Library Journal

"There’s witchcraft and Voodoo, gunplay, arson, and premature burial...nothing is what it seems to be amid the artifice of Hollywood.... Intriguing and entertaining." 
Kirkus Reviews

Product Details
ISBN: 9780385549011
ISBN-10: 0385549016
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: June 20th, 2023
Pages: 368
Language: English