Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Review: Death in the City of Light by David King

Here is the description from the back of the book:
Dr. Marcel Petiot was, by day, a handsome and charming physician with remarkable charisma.  By night, he preyed upon the most vulnerable people of society with unspeakable deviousness.  It was in the basement of his townhouse that the French police discovered a macabre spectacle of skulls, bones, and dismembered body parts.  The doctor took flight and thus began an eight-month manhunt into a twilight world of Gestapo, gangsters, Resistance fighters, pimps, prostitutes, traitors, and other shadowy figures of the Parisian underworld.  Dr. Petiot was eventually captured and charged with twenty-seven murders, but in the sensational trial that followed, his brilliance would threaten to win the day. 
Drawing on many new sources, including the massive classified French police file, Death in the City of Light is an unforgettable evocation of Nazi-occupied Paris and a harrowing exploration of murder, betrayal, and evil of staggering proportions.

Yet another fantastic recommendation from my coworker!  She lent this to me and I couldn't wait to get started.  I mean, Nazi-occupied Paris and a serial killer??

One aspect I really liked was that as the mystery and the murders were unfolded, the book also had a lot of information about other things going on in Paris during the occupation.  Like what the art and literary circles were up to at the time.  It made me want to read more about this time in Paris's past. 

I also thought King did a great job of laying out the murders.  He starts with how the bodies were first discovered in the basement of one of Petiot's properties, and then it follows the investigation, so the reader finds things out as the police do.

Because Petiot never really discussed how he killed his victims (he lied a lot about his role as well), we're left to wonder exactly what happened and how many people he really killed.  I think that lends itself to the creepy vibe you get when you read this.  It's also sad to know that he killed so many people, and was pretty much unnoticed for years because of the occupation and the constant disappearances happening during that time period.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in true crime.  I loved reading about how the Paris police had to investigate while tiptoing around the Nazis.  Also, if you read and loved Eric Larson's Devil in the White City, then you'll probably like this book too. 

Title: Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris
Author: David King
Date of Publication: 2011
Number of Pages: 416
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Borrowed from a coworker

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