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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive achievement
You might expect the winner of a debut novel competition sponsored by a prominent women's magazine to focus on some significant women's issue: family relationships, perhaps, gender conflict or romance, or simply growing up female. Diana Bretherick's winning novel avoids all that. There's scarcely a woman in it. So in this context it is quite unexpected. As a former...
Published 15 months ago by Kindler12

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Devil To Finish.
City Of Devils is a historical crime novel based on the events that unfold when Edinburgh born Dr James Murray travels to Turin in 1887, hoping to study under renowned criminologist, Professor Cesare Lombroso.
James is barely in Turin a day when a series of grisly and gruesome murders begin to take place, calling on him and Cesare Lombroso (aided by a few other...
Published 16 months ago by Belfast Dave


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive achievement, 5 Sep 2013
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This review is from: City of Devils (Kindle Edition)
You might expect the winner of a debut novel competition sponsored by a prominent women's magazine to focus on some significant women's issue: family relationships, perhaps, gender conflict or romance, or simply growing up female. Diana Bretherick's winning novel avoids all that. There's scarcely a woman in it. So in this context it is quite unexpected. As a former barrister and now an academic criminologist she is well placed to write a crime novel. However, she sets herself an even more demanding challenge. This is no simple whodunnit, or terse police procedural. It takes us to a different time and place, late 19th century Turin, when criminology was undergoing some radical rethinking. Her central character is based on a real individual, an Italian medical professor who occupied a pivotal role in this process, someone I would guess less well known in Britain than the Edinburgh-based Dr. Bell, who taught Conan-Doyle and inspired Sherlock Holmes, a man called Cesare Lombroso. But Bretherick's Lombroso is no Sherlock Holmes. He is as complex, colourful, domineering, stubborn, and cannot abide the theories of others that contradict his own, but he is baffled by a series of of grisly murders in the city, a place with a reputation as being a gateway to Hell, that seem to implicate him. His thinking is often wrong-headed, but for all his flaws he has a profound core of humanity. The story is narrated by another of Dr. Bell's alumni, a young Scots doctor called James Murray, thankfully not a caricature, who has some demons of his own to allay. The novel starts with one murder, but takes a while to build up to the next. From then on, however, the story gathers momentum. There are conflicts aplenty. Lombroso has enemies, not least the police officer who has no respect for evidence and is desperate to arraign him as a suspect on the strength of a perceived connection to the victims. There's a love element, assignations in underworld taverns, a chase through subterranean tunnels and a thriller denouement. It's a first novel, it's long, it has flaws, its technique needs tightening, but it's an impressive achievement and an excellent read. It informs as well as entertains and it leaves the way open for a promised sequel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars City of Devils, 2 Sep 2013
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Champollion (Shropshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City of Devils (Paperback)
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Diana Bretherick's, debut novel, "City of Devils," set in 19th century Turin, is built around a major figure in the history of criminology, Cesare Lombroso.

Constructing a story around a real person, presents the author with as many opportunities as there are pitfalls, but Bretherick succeeds in creating a
fascinating and thrilling plot-line in which a murderer is stalking the city and leaving the victims with taunting messages to Lombroso.

Accompanied by a young Scot, James Murray, who arrives in Turin to study with him and is escaping from his own experiences of crime and madness, they embark on
their investigations to stop the killings. There are entertaining strands flowing from the main tale in which Lombroso endures the petty politics of academia and Murray grapples to control his growing passion for the desirable Sofia Esposito.

It has all the elements of a good historical novel, with strong characters, the intriguing atmosphere background of Turin, and an unmasking of the killer at the end.

It is a novel which requires patience and thought but which is ultimately satisfying.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Devil To Finish., 9 Aug 2013
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Belfast Dave (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City of Devils (Paperback)
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City Of Devils is a historical crime novel based on the events that unfold when Edinburgh born Dr James Murray travels to Turin in 1887, hoping to study under renowned criminologist, Professor Cesare Lombroso.
James is barely in Turin a day when a series of grisly and gruesome murders begin to take place, calling on him and Cesare Lombroso (aided by a few other characters), to put their combined criminal knowledge to the test.
So far, so good. I was quickly drawn into the atmospheric and mysterious city of Turin in the late 19th century, a major credit to this very talented author. Sadly that was about all that I engaged with in this lengthy book.
None of the central (and even less of the supporting) characters endear themselves to the reader, going so far to say that even the main protagonist is a rather one dimensional odd individual, and Professor Cesare Lombroso positively loathsome!
I wouldn't say that this is a bad read, as I say the author can weave a tale, it just seemed to me a rather laborious and detached book, that when finished felt like the end of a long chore.
Maybe a few less characters and a few less pages would have drawn this book tighter together, bringing the reader and what is an excellent setting for a mystery novel, a lot closer. Not the best of this genre I have read, but by no means the worst.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea, 29 Sep 2013
By 
Mrs. K. A. P. Wright - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City of Devils (Paperback)
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This the first fiction book Diana Bretherton, a former barrister has written and it is a fictionalised account of a real person, the nineteenth century criminologist, Cesare Lombroso. Lombroso, obviously a hero of hers, is no doubt a fascinating character. In this book, as it says in the blurb, she has cast him as Sherlock Holmes. Her Doctor Watson is James Murray, a young doctor from Edinburgh with a guilty secret. Together with the help of various other characters they try to track down the perpetrator of a number of ghastly murders.

There is the basis of a good plot here, so what has gone wrong?

Firstly, it is far too wordy. Every location and every character is given a detailed description that is both unnecessary and slows the action down. Secondly, the dialogue is unconvincing. If the speaker isn't identified, it is sometimes quite difficult to tell who is speaking even though she has established, in her descriptions, the widely differing personalities of her characters. This is another problem. The characters do not, on the whole, let their personalities reveal themselves by their actions. We are told what they do and why they do it. Immediately this puts a barrier between them and us and makes it harder to engage with them.

So, for me it doesn't work, but it won the 2012 Good Housekeeping New Novel competition, so other people have obviously enjoyed it. My advice would be to wait until it goes to Kindle, then download a sample. The style is established early on so you will soon find out if it is for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not very enjoyable, 3 Dec 2013
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I found it a bit boring and not as good as I was led to believe. I don't think I would recommend it to anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Crime club choice, 30 Nov 2013
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It was an unusual book and quite interesting but I'm not sure that I particularly enjoyed it. I've read more pleasing books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 17 Nov 2013
This review is from: City of Devils (Paperback)
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I sort of liked this. The author can write and certainly has conjured up a potentially interesting and atmospheric. I thought that the author showed a lot of potential but this was just a bit too long and rambling for me. If it had been tightened up a bit I might have given it four stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars City of Devils, 24 Sep 2013
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City of Devils (Paperback)
Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) was an Italian criminologist and physician, and founder of the Italian School of Positivist Criminology. Lombroso's main theory was that criminals were `born' and that they could be identified by certain physical characteristics and behaviours. His theories were controversial, to say the least, and never unconditionally accepted.

In this novel which features Lombroso, young Dr James Murray has travelled in 1887 to Turin to work with Lombroso and learn from him. On his arrival, he finds that Lombroso is accused of being involved in a bizarre murder, of a criminal in the city. Murray, Lombroso's other assistant Ottolenghi and a local investigator Tullio want to help Lombroso stay out of trouble, and they, with Lombroso's housekeeper Sofia try to find out what is happening in the city. Along the way, they find themselves in more trouble than they could ever have dreamed.

This book, the first by an author who is an ex-criminal barrister and a specialist in criminology and criminal law is a great study of humanity and human-ness. The story takes a while to really get going; even though a murder is the first scene in the book, the laying of the groundwork with quite a few characters and locales in Turin with the newcomer Murray means that the reader must patiently follow along with Murray while he finds his bearings and the action ramps up. Once the story picks up, the action rattles along at a great pace, and the murder mystery, along with Murray's personal life is interwoven skilfully and most interestingly with Lombroso's criminal theories, and those of his peers and protagonists.

This was a really enjoyable story, and a great book. I hope the author writes more; it would be nice to read more of James Murray's adventures, if there are more to come.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a rattling good read!, 15 Sep 2013
By 
J. Turner (Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City of Devils (Paperback)
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Make no mistake, Diana Bretherick can really write. This, her first novel, tells the story of one James Murray, who travels from Edinburgh to Edwardian Italy in order to study with Cesare Lombroso. He was a real historical scientist who believed that it was possible to catch criminals by facial analysis, or physiognomy. Shortly after Murray's arrival, a series of gruesome murders take place, possibly aimed at discrediting Lombroso's work. Murray finds himself on the case, which is complicated by his original suspicion that Lombroso himself might be the killer. Matters become further entangled when he begins a relationship with the lovely Sophia, a servant in Lombroso's household. Murray is a young man of some standing, and she has a dark past, and moreover, is a mere servant, which means their relationship would be frowned on by James' family and genteel Edinburgh society as a whole. The murders are further complicated by a bungling police official intent on bringing Lombroso down. So, all in all, the book is a heady and satisfying mix of horrible murder, romance and intrigue. The plot arc builds to a page turning conclusion, the characters were very well developed and the history of the period is brought vividly to life. I enjoyed this book very much. If I have one tiny complaint, it's that the pace could have been a little tighter - there was a lot of emphasis on suspense, but I think the book could have survived a small trim. However, this is a mere observation and I look forward to reading the next novel by Ms. Bretherick.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just A Little Sulphur, 13 Sep 2013
By 
M. J. Saxton (Dewsbury, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City of Devils (Paperback)
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In some ways this is a good, old-fashioned murder mystery with echoes of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and a touch of Wilkie Collins. The twist comes in its inclusion of a real historical figure, Cesare Lombroso, one of the founders of scientific policing.

Turin is covered in swirling mists, suspects disappear in the darkened streets and the victims are suitably mutilated as a serial killer stalks the city. It has bags of atmosphere.

The central protagonist, James Murray, has enough of the student about him to provide a suitable foil for Lambroso while also carrying enough emotional baggage to add piquancy to the narrative. There is also a touch of scandal in his relationship with ex-prostitute, Sofia.

The story develops amid a symposium of crime experts where the murders threaten to derail not only the conference, but the actual study of criminology itself. In a country where the Church is authoritative, rationality is considered a sin. There is also a bluff policeman with "instincts" to throw a cat among the pigeons.

This is a very satisfying novel for those who like their crime fiction in the traditional mould.
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City of Devils
City of Devils by Diana Bretherick
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