Interviews with Writers

Q&A | Diana Bretherick | The Devil’s Daughter

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Diana Bretherick joins Jera’s Jamboree today as part of the blog tour for her second novel in the City of Devils series, The Devil’s Daughter (publishing today by Orion Crime).

Happy Publication Day from Jera's Jamboree


Why didn’t people sit near Diana Bretherick at lunch?  Whose skeleton did she stand next to?  All is revealed in my interview …

The Devil’s Daughter is a tale of murder and intrigue, perfect for fans of CJ Sansom, Antonia Hodgson and Elizabeth Fremantle.

Diana Bretherick was a criminal barrister for ten years and has worked with offenders at Brixton prison. Diana Bretherick Her experiences in working in criminal justice have given her insight into the workings of the criminal mind. She has honed this in her criminological studies, attaining an M.A in Criminology in 1999 and a PhD in 2006. She has now turned her attention to crime fiction, producing her first novel, City of Devils, in 2013, the result of her MA in Creative Writing.

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.

She is currently working on her second PhD in Creative Writing.

Diana also runs crime writing workshops and regularly performs readings of her work including short stories with a supernatural element.

Connect with Diana Bretherick

Website  |  Twitter @DianaBretherick    Facebook Page DianaBretherickUK



Hi Diana,

Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.

Please summarise ‘The Devil’s Daughters’ in 20 words or less.

The world’s first criminologist Cesare Lombroso and his Scottish assistant James Murray hunt for a killer in 19th century Turin.


Who are the characters in your novel?

My main characters are a mix of the real and the fictional. Cesare Lombroso was a real person – the world’s first criminologist. He believed that some people were born to be criminals and that you could tell who they were from their physical characteristics. A thief, for example, would have small wandering eyes and thick eyebrows and habitual murderers had strong jaws and hawk like noses. Lombroso was also the first to consider female offenders separately to their male counterparts. Viewing them as mostly inferior ‘big children’ who were far more ruthless than their male counterparts when committing violent crimes. As you might guess his detective skills are not always effective. Fortunately he is assisted by young Scottish doctor James Murray who is fictional, but loosely based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Like Doyle, Murray studied with Professor Joseph Bell, the man on whom Sherlock Holmes was based so he is much better at solving crimes.


… and who would you cast in their roles if The Devil’s Daughter were optioned for a movie?

 Sir Kenneth Branagh would be a great Lombroso and James McAvoy has always been my ideal James Murray.


Did you do any research for your book Diana?  What resources did you use? 

I lecture in criminology at the University of Portsmouth so it was to some extent ‘writing what you know’. But I needed to get to know Lombroso as a man in much more depth so I read his writing. This gave me a good insight into his character and helped me with his voice. It was also important to get the forensics right so that it fitted into the historical period. I consulted colleagues both before writing and after and they gave me some very useful advice about procedure at 19th century autopsies. I remember having a particularly grisly conversation over lunch about bodies being drained of blood. No wonder people didn’t sit near us!


Did you travel to any places?  Have any new experiences?

I went to Turin several times to get the setting right. I spent a lot of time walking round the city looking for good places to kill people and dump their bodies. Part of Turin’s unique atmosphere is its supernatural reputation. It is said that the gates of Hell are located there as well as a number of haunted houses. Lombroso, a keen ghost hunter in real life, investigates a haunted abbey in the book so a ghost walk was a must.

I visited Lombroso’s crime museum, which has some fascinating exhibits – death masks, skulls, prisoner’s art as well as a copy of his study. I was even able to stand next to his skeleton, which was an interesting experience.

As well as location scouting I also sampled a lot of local cuisine and wine – an important part of getting a good sense of place. It’s a hard job etc etc…


Panster or a plotter?

I’m somewhere in the middle. I spend a lot of time on characters, creating detailed biographies and journal entries for each one so, to some extent, they will dictate what happens in my plot. I do though have a rough idea of a beginning, middle and end and create a plotting wall using post it notes with ideas for scenes.


Which authors have influenced your writing?

The wonderful thing about crime fiction is that there are so many variations you can never get bored. Among my favourites are Val McDermid, Andrew Taylor, Denise Mina, Stuart McBride, PD James, Ruth Rendell and CJ Sansom.


Finally Diana, The Devil’s Daughter is part of a series, can you tell us what is in the future?

Having written two books set in Turin, I am planning to vary the location by setting the next one in 1890s New York where Lombroso and Murray encounter an old enemy with a terrifying new murder method. Watch this space!

Wishing you success with all your writing projects Diana.

Thank you for joining us today.


Diana Bretherick

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.


I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 8+ years. My love of reading, crocheting and being out in nature are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school. I'm passionate about early help and sharing strategies with families to empower and help build resilience. I'm a member of of my Local Authority's Early Help Operational Board, working alongside other professionals to instigate change and growth.

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