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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book Review - The Devil's Daughters by Diana Bretherick

About Diana Bretherick

 Diana Bretherick was a criminal barrister for ten years and has worked with offenders at Brixton prison. Currently she lectures in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Portsmouth. Her first novel, City of Devils (published by Orion in 2013) won the Good Housekeeping New Novel Competition in 2012 and was selected for the 2013 Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club.

A darkly atmospheric thriller set in 19th century Scotland and Turin from the winner of the Good Housekeeping New Novel Competition.

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.

Guest Post

Researching on the Dark Side in Turin, the Devil’s City.

Many novelists say that researching a novel is the fun bit and for most writers that’s true. But my research, into crime and the occult in 19th century Turin, requires me to look at darker subjects so I think I would describe it as an intriguing experience more than a fun one.

My novels feature a real person, Cesare Lombroso, the world’s first criminologist who lived and worked in 1880’s Turin. He not only researched and wrote about what made people become criminals but also was something of an amateur ghost hunter. This is not as surprising as you might think, given Turin’s somewhat dark history as a centre for satanic worship and black magic as well as the scene of many hauntings. The gates to Hell are said to be located in the city, as well as a seventeenth century doorway allegedly created overnight by Satan himself. This may sound terrifying but I have visited both during my trips there and I was distinctly underwhelmed by the experience. The doorway is admittedly quite creepy with its demonic carvings but the gateway to Hell is essentially a manhole cover. You’d think the Devil would choose something more elaborate. Perhaps he just wanted to be discreet – who knows?

I set some of the scenes in ‘The Devil’s Daughters’ in a haunted Abbey based on a real building some way outside Turin called Lucedio Abbey. There are all sorts of rumours about it, dating back for centuries including the summoning of Lucifer, demonic possession, satanic rituals, ghostly phenomena, torture and murder. A circle of mummified dead clergy was found there allegedly guarding a demon they had conjured up during a ritual. I decided not to make the trip out there. As it is a rice farm these days, it seemed to me that this was one case where drawing on my imagination might be more productive than research or at least that’s what I told myself.

Somewhere I did visit however was Lombroso’s crime museum, which is a fascinating place. Here are exhibited death masks, skulls and skeletons belonging to nineteenth century criminals studied by Lombroso to prove his theory that you could tell a criminal by what he or she looked like. His own skeleton is one of the exhibits so you could say I came face to face with my protagonist. Now that’s what I call close research!

Turin is a fascinating place to set a novel. Every time I visit I find something new to think about. Researching the dark side can be unnerving on occasion but it’s never boring.
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Review by Suze
It's 1888 and James Murray returns to Italy together with his sister Lucy. James has assisted a well known criminologist in Turin before, which is where he met Sophia. There's nothing he wouldn't do for her and when she asks him to help her find her cousin James immediately offers his expertise. The police won't look into the matter because she's a lower-class girl. They assume she's run away. More girls are missing though and James suspects something big and sinister is going on. Someone wants him to leave the matter alone and will stop at nothing to achieve that...
The Devil's Daughters is a gripping story with an amazing unexpected ending. I loved the setting, Turin in the 19th century is an impressive place to read about. Diana Bretherick's descriptions are vivid and beautiful. She has a compelling writing style and I immediately fell in love with her story. Every chapter begins with a quote about female criminals. They're fabulous and I often laughed out loud when I read the theories of the authors. They gave the story a lovely hint of irony. I liked her version of the men versus women debate. It's an interesting idea for a story and Diana Bretherick has clearly researched her topic very well, which makes it even more fascinating.
James is a gentleman who follows his heart and intuition. He's an intriguing main character and I loved reading about his relationship with Sofia. They know much about one another and James doesn't care that there's a class difference, I really liked that about him. His sister Lucy isn't used to seeing so little of her brother and she spends most of her time with people she didn't know before she arrived in Italy. That gives the reader the opportunity to get to know them as well, which is a smart way to write the second story of a series so that could also be read as a standalone. The main characters are all remarkable and I was curious to find out more about their lives.
Diana Bretherick has a captivating way of describing things and the mystery aspect of her story is quite creepy. She kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading. I was hooked from the start and loved the original crime scenes, the strange disappearances and the abundance of brilliant secrets. There's something dark and eerie going on and I couldn't wait to find out who and what was behind it. There are plenty of surprising twists and turns and I loved the creativity behind them. The Devil's Daughters is a fantastic story with a terrific evil plot.


  1. This sounds like a fantastic creepy story. I'd love to read it. Awesome review!

  2. Sounds like a fantastic thriller!

  3. I'd heard of Lombroso's theory before & would love to visit the Museum. I'm sure it's quite eerie!

  4. This looks to be quite the absorbing and chilling read. And that blood-red cover! Absolutely fantastic. I tip my hat to the author for bringing this story to life in what appears to be a truly masterful way.

  5. Off to add to my wishlist. Love finding a new mystery writer to add to my reading list