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PhD student turns to crime – and wins a national writing competition

Published: 10 July 2013
Diana Bretherick

University of Southampton postgraduate research student Diana Bretherick, who is working on her PhD in Creative Writing, has already become an award-winning author.

She has won the £25,000 first prize in the 2012 Good Housekeeping novel competition for her first book, The City of Devils, which will be published by Orion Books in August 2013. It is the story of Cesare Lombroso, a real historical figure credited as the father of criminology, who becomes the ‘Holmes’ to her fictional character Dr James Murray’s ‘Watson’ in the search for a 19th century criminal mastermind and serial killer in Turin.

Writing is Diana’s third career. She practised law as a criminal barrister for ten years in London and currently lectures in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Portsmouth as well as writing about crime.

“I was inspired to embark on this book after a student asked me if Lombroso investigated crimes,” she explains. “Although I thought it unlikely, the question did prompt me to think about this more deeply, visit Turin for myself and write the mystery.”

Diana, a self-confessed crime fiction addict, started to write in earnest after enrolling on a MA in Creative Writing at Portsmouth, then the PhD at Southampton: “I would recommend anyone interested in writing to study the subject or at least join a group of aspiring novelists. It can be a lonely occupation and it’s good to get advice and feedback from fellow writers,” she says.

“Diana Bretherick is a very exciting discovery for Orion and Good Housekeeping,” adds Orion Books Fiction Publishing Director Kate Mills. “This is a terrific debut novel, spiriting the reader back in time to the birth of forensic science in Turin at the end of the nineteenth century. Diana explores this fascinating period with a thoroughly modern narrative, a suspenseful whodunit, and an excellent cast of characters and red herrings. It was an outstanding entry in the competition and a very worthy winner.”

At Southampton, Diana is supervised by Professor Peter Middleton and Professor David Glover, with Rebecca Smith as an advisor.

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