Tuesday, October 20, 2015

City of Devils - Diana Bretherick

City of Devils: A NovelThis book won an award and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why.  City of Devils is a historical mystery placed in Turin.  Murray (whose first name I cannot remember--James?) shows up to apprentice himself to Professor Lombroso, who is the pretty much the authority on criminology.  Coinciding with his arrival is a string of murders, with the victims all having an association with Lombroso and found holding notes that say "A Tribute to Lombroso."  Lombroso himself doesn't want to investigate; one faction of the police wants to pin the murders on him, the other feels he's innocent.  To figure out what's what, Murray and his fellow apprentice Ottolenghi decide to join the investigation of Tullio, the man who believes Lombroso is innocent or at least wants to investigate the matter scientifically.
As a murder mystery, I found this one juvenile.  It didn't engage my interest at all, it wasn't particularly twisty or turny, and while the murderer isn't entirely obvious, neither is it entirely surprising.  The writing was entirely bland.  None of the characters are really fleshed out.  I feel the most realistic one was Sophia, who at least had an interesting character background, but who seems to have been included solely because Bretherick wanted a sexy love interest for Murray.  She brings nothing by mysterious babble to the story itself.  If you're going to have a sexy love interest in a mystery, at least give her something useful to do other than play damsel in distress.  Even Dan Brown's Heroine-Of-The-Book usually has something to do with the mystery other than look sexy and hint at things that she knows but doesn't care to reveal.
The investigators themselves, Murray included, were a bunch of bumbling idiots.  Lombroso's brand of criminology is one that is laughable nowadays, which makes him hard to empathize with because it's clear that he's just making stuff up, and that Ottolenghi, Murray, and company buy into it makes it hard to take them seriously.  They stagger about, every now and then asking someone a few questions, but ultimately never figure anything out.  Nothing would have ever been figured out if the killer hadn't chosen to reveal himself.  Indeed, the story would probably have ended very much the same whether Murray was involved or not.
Bretherick is clearly setting this up as the first in a series of books, but I have absolutely no interest in reading the rest of them.  This one was barely tolerable, and I'm astounded it's gotten the acclaim that it has.

1.5 stars out of 5.

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