The novels are set in the northern Italian city of Turin in the late 1880s and feature the world’s first criminologist, Cesare Lombroso and his assistant James Murray, a young Scottish doctor. Lombroso was a real person who was known as the ‘father of modern criminology’. His theory of the born criminal dominated thinking about criminal behaviour in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Essentially he believed that criminality was inherited and that criminals could be identified by physical defects that confirmed them as being atavistic or savage throwbacks to early man.
Lombroso was an enthusiast and a collector of criminal curiosities that he housed in a museum at the University of Turin. The exhibits included skulls, skeletons and pickled body parts of various criminals collected over the years as well as art created by prisoners and some even more bizarre items such as carnivorous plants and a mummy. The museum is open to the public these days. I have visited it, of course, and found it fascinating and recommend it should you be in Turin. Needless to say it features in both ‘City of Devils’ and ‘The Devil’s Daughters’.
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 young cousin has vanished but 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 a 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.
1887 James Murray, a young Scottish doctor, has travelled to Turin to study with Professor Lombroso, a world-renowned criminologist who believes criminals can be identified by their physical attributes. But, just hours after Murray's arrival, Lombroso is sought out by the police. A horrifically mutilated body has been found - and the professor himself is implicated. James must put his knowledge to the test if he wants to stop the rapidly escalating bloodbath and catch one of the most brutal and cunning killers the city has ever known.