As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Orion, 27 August 2015. ISBN:
It must be a mark of quality writing when there’s a character in a book
who annoys me so much that I want to slap him – so Diana Bretherick has clearly
brought oddball anthropologist Cesare Lombroso to vivid and infuriating life in
The Devil’s Daughters.
Her portrayal is based on the
writings of the real-life Lombroso, who is widely acclaimed as the father of
modern forensic science. In many ways perhaps he was, but according to
Bretherick’s afterword, he also had a lot of rather eccentric ideas, especially
Fortunately several other
characters in this well-researched historical are a good deal more congenial.
Young Scottish doctor James Murray and his sister Lucy are Lombroso’s guests at
his Turin home, and become embroiled in the disappearance of a growing number
of young girls in the city. Both James and Lucy set out to investigate in their
own ways, and a dark picture emerges, involving prostitutes, a journalist with
an eye to the main chance and finally a bizarre scheme which results in
abduction, murder and mummification.
Bretherick’s great strength
is atmosphere. Turin emerges as a city of contrasts: danger lurks in dark,
malodorous alleys and damp ruined abbeys, while the spring sun shines on
elegant piazzas and gardens. There’s romance mixed with the mystery, though it
doesn’t always work out as you might hope.
James and Lucy are not the
only engaging characters. The villains are nicely sinister, though perhaps a
little too well signalled, and the two opposing policemen offer yet more
constrast. I especially enjoyed Anna Tarnovsky, the scientist who gives the lie
to all Lombroso’s misguided views on women, and Miss Trott, Lucy’s chaperone,
who is clearly not quite as dowdy and tedious she appears, and eventually
proves to have hidden depths.
The plot grows more and more
convoluted as James Murray is drawn deeper into a mire of corruption and depravity.
As it all races towards a climax, Bretherick ramps up the tension with the use
of short scenes and rapid shifts from one viewpoint to another, without ever
descending into confusion. All is resolved in a satisfying manner – but not
without a hint of a thread left hanging to enable a follow-up.
The Devil’s Daughters brings James Murray to 19th century Turin
for a second time, following the author’s first novel, City of Devils.
I’ll be interested to see where she takes him next.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Diana Bretherickis an ex-criminal barrister and now a lecturer
in criminology and criminal law at Portsmouth University. She won the Good
Housekeeping new novel competition in 2012.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen,
and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but
never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher
for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now
burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with
books, about half of them crime fiction.