“1888. When young Scottish scientist James Murray receives a letter from Sofia Esposito, a woman he once loved and lost, he cannot refuse her cry for help. Sofia’s fifteen-year-old cousin has vanished but, because of her lower-class status, the police are unwilling to investigate.
Accompanied by his younger sister Lucy, Murray returns to the city of Turin where he was once apprenticed to the world-famous criminologist, Cesare Lombroso. As he embarks on his search for the missing girl, Murray uncovers a series of mysterious disappearances of young women and rumours of a haunted abbey on the outskirts of the city.
When the body of one of the girls turns up bearing evidence of a satanic ritual, Murray begins to slot together the pieces of the puzzle. But as two more bodies are discovered, fear grips the city and a desperate hunt begins to find a truly terrifying killer before he claims his next victim.”
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to my stop on The Devil’s Daughters blog tour. The Devil’s Daughters is the second book featuring Cesare Lombroso and his trainee criminal anthropologist, James Murray. Those criminologists among you may recognise Lombroso’s name (well, you should do, anyway!) as Lombroso (1835-1909) was one of the founding fathers in the study of criminology.
Today I am delighted to share a guest post with you, written by the very talented author of The Devil’s Daughters, Diana Bretherick. And to round things off, I have my review of this wonderful book. So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Diana…
Writing Crime Fiction.
Let me begin by telling you about my own ‘criminal past’. It began when I was about 11 and ‘stole’ my mother’s library books. Technically I suppose I borrowed them but as she didn’t know what I was doing and probably would have stopped me if she had, I was forced to go under cover – literally – with a torch under my bed sheets which made it all the more thrilling. She was an avid fan of crime writing, both fiction and true crime and I was immediately drawn into a dark world of murder, complicated puzzles and deception –a world that I have never really left.
I was particularly fascinated by old mysteries firmly rooted in a dark past where there was a doubt over the guilt of the accused, usually a woman – Florence Maybrick who was almost certainly wrongly convicted of poisoning her husband with arsenic and served many years in prison before her release, Edith Thompson hanged for the murder of her husband even though it was her young lover who wielded the knife, Alma Rattenbury who was acquitted of a similar spousal murder but committed suicide anyway – distraught at her lover being sentenced to death. Injustice, passion and misogyny lay at the heart of all of these cases and fired up my adolescent self, making me want to stand up for those falsely accused. Eventually I became a criminal barrister but reality never quite measured up to the drama of the past and the motivation behind a crime often took a back seat.
I wanted to know more. I took a sabbatical and trained as a counsellor, working with serious sexual offenders at Brixton prison as a volunteer. That was a fascinating though occasionally disturbing experience. It did answer some of my questions but not all, so I studied criminology. Here I found a whole host of theories none of which were completely satisfactory. As with all theories about anything they were always flawed in one way or another. I began to look at how crime was represented through media of various kinds. This led me to wonder if I could write my own crime fiction. I decided to study for a Masters in creative writing.
Thinking back to those stories from the past I focused on historical crime fiction. How did our ideas about criminals and their motivation begin? It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that crime was studied at all as a separate phenomenon. Then an Italian doctor called Cesare Lombroso discovered an anomaly in the skull of a criminal. Could it be, he wondered, that all offenders had similar characteristics? Lombroso was the world’s first criminologist and he suggested that some criminals were born with a propensity to offend, that they were throwbacks from a more primitive past and their physical characteristics would help us to identify them. He had his critics but many supported his ideas. He was the first to write about female criminals as a separate entity, something that didn’t happen again until the mid twentieth century.
I decided to make Lombroso my detective drawing on my fascination with both criminology and crime fiction. So far I have written two novels about him, giving him fictitious cases to solve assisted by a fictitious young Scottish doctor James Murray.
I am not sure that I have ever really found an answer to my question of what motivates someone to commit a violent crime. It is true that recent developments in the field of neuro-criminology suggest that some may have a propensity to violence identifiable from their genes although their criminality is almost certainly triggered by environmental factors.
Why then do people commit crimes, particularly of a violent kind? I doubt that we will ever find a conclusive answer. The thing about all of us, including criminals, is that we are all different as are the situations we find ourselves in. That is why both the study of crime and its fictional counterpart are so endlessly fascinating and why my ‘life of crime’ goes on.
Who doesn’t love a bit of historical crime every now and then! And if you don’t, can I suggest that you read this book? It will totally change your mind!
James Murray receives a letter from his Italian love, asking for help but saying little else. He’s a dashing and chivalrous kind of chap so he runs to her aide with his teenage sister, Lucy, in tow. Upon arrival in Turin he discovers that Sofia is not keen to rekindle their love affair as hoped; all she wants is James’ help in finding her missing cousin, Chiara. Broken-hearted, James sets out on the hunt for Chiara, only to discover the disfigured body of a girl. Before long he and his mentor Lombroso, are on the hunt for a savage killer. It doesn’t help that someone is out to discredit James and have him returned to Scotland. It also doesn’t help that someone has their eye on his sister…
This is a fantastic book which I thoroughly enjoyed. I try and avoid reading historical crime on a regular basis as it’s a special treat to myself, and this book goes to prove my theory about it being a treat. What a treat The Devil’s Daughters is! I loved the plot of this enchanting novel (enchanting makes it sound all light and fluffy – it’s not, it’s got just the right amount of blood, guts and a little bit of gore!). I was drawn in from very early on and completely mesmerised by some wonderful characters who felt very real to me (yes, I know Lombroso was a real person!). I adored James, what a kind hearted and chivalrous young man. He, to me, felt like the main protagonist with Lombroso taking a back seat. Lucy’s desire to become an accomplished writer of detective novels was so very charming, along with her desire to do what the blinking heck she wants to do, gender aside! I even liked Miss Trott (what am I saying, I loved Miss Trott!).
Although I found the reveal of the murderer a little obvious, there were plenty of other surprises along the way to keep my interest. Red herrings galore to keep you guessing, just the way I like my crime novels. It’s a brilliant book and, I’ll say it again, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m off to add the first book, City of Devils, to my wishlist!
Would I recommend this book? I would. It’s a wonderfully written historical crime novel, with an endearing cast of believable characters. I hope there is more to come from James Murray and Lombroso, but we’ll have to see.
Four out of five stars.
Many thanks to Emma Dowson, Orion Books and Diana Bretherick for providing me with a copy of The Devil’s Daughters in exchange for an honest review.
The Devil’s Daughters by Diana Bretherick will be published in the UK by Orion Books on 25th August 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orion Crime |
Diana Bretherick was a criminal barrister for ten years and is a former lecturer in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Portsmouth.
Her first novel, City of Devils (Orion, 2013) was selected for the 2013 Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club. Her latest novel The Devil’s Daughters is recently published by Orion in paperback. Connect with Diana via Twitter @DianaBretherick or Orion Crime @orion_crime.