Book Review: City of Devils

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) City of Devils – Diana Bretherick 

The most interesting thing about this 19th century murder mystery, is that one of the primary characters/investigators, was a real person/scientist trying to theorize and research about the criminal mind/person. A young Scottish doctor comes to study under the famous Dr. Lombroso in Turin and while he is there a series of gruesome murders take place and Dr. Lombroso is implicated in notes left at the crime scenes. 

While the mystery itself was not particularly well done and the characters were not developed as well as they could have been, the role of ‘science’ in this book is fascinating as it demonstrates how the scientific method was a ‘work in progress’ at this time and what passed as scientific observation/conclusions would never hold up to scrutiny now. The ‘science’ of criminology at this time is on par with phrenology (study of the skull) and Dr. Lombroso utilizes theories concerning what criminals look like, physical features such as ears that stick out and a long narrow nose, to determine who perpetrated the crimes. Of course, most of his theories are completely outrageous and the murderer has none of the ‘known attributes’ of a criminal. 

As a history lover, I thoroughly enjoyed the examination of the use of science and what passed for science in this novel. It was a nice reminder that science is an ever-evolving mode of knowledge and while it certainly can be an invaluable tool for investigation, it does not always hold the answers to our questions.

I doubt I will pick up any of the other books in this series as there are many better mystery series/books out there, but at the same time, I do not regret taking the time to read this murder mystery. 

Read on my friends!

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