Death in the City of Light by David King

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Synopsis

Death in the City of Light is the gripping, true story of a brutal serial killer who unleashed his own reign of terror in Nazi-Occupied Paris. As decapitated heads and dismembered body parts surfaced in the Seine, Commissaire Georges-Victor Massu, head of the Brigade Criminelle, was tasked with tracking down the elusive murderer in a twilight world of Gestapo, gangsters, resistance fighters, pimps, prostitutes, spies, and other shadowy figures of the Parisian underworld.  

The main suspect was Dr. Marcel Petiot, a handsome, charming physician with remarkable charisma.  He was the “People’s Doctor,” known for his many acts of kindness and generosity, not least in providing free medical care for the poor.  Petiot, however, would soon be charged with twenty-seven murders, though authorities suspected the total was considerably higher, perhaps even as many as 150.

Who was being slaughtered, and why?  Was Petiot a sexual sadist, as the press suggested, killing for thrills?  Was he allied with the Gestapo, or, on the contrary, the French Resistance?  Or did he work for no one other than himself?  Trying to solve the many mysteries of the case, Massu would unravel a plot of unspeakable deviousness. 
When Petiot was finally arrested, the French police hoped for answers. 

But the trial soon became a circus.  Attempting to try all twenty-seven cases at once, the prosecution stumbled in its marathon cross-examinations, and Petiot, enjoying the spotlight, responded with astonishing ease.  His attorney, René Floriot, a rising star in the world of criminal defense, also effectively, if aggressively, countered the charges.  Soon, despite a team of prosecuting attorneys, dozens of witnesses, and over one ton of evidence, Petiot’s brilliance and wit threatened to win the day.

Drawing extensively on many new sources, including the massive, classified French police file on Dr. Petiot, Death in the City of Light is a brilliant evocation of Nazi-Occupied Paris and a harrowing exploration of murder, betrayal, and evil of staggering proportions.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About David King

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DAVID KING is the author of the acclaimed Vienna, 1814 and Finding Atlantis. A Fulbright Scholar with a master's degree from Cambridge University, he taught European history at the University of Kentucky for several years. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky with his wife and children.
 
Published September 20, 2011 by Broadway Books. 434 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, War, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Death in the City of Light

Kirkus Reviews

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People were desensitized to the details of Petiot’s crimes because of the abhorrent details that had reached them of the Nazi treatment of Jews.

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The New York Times

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(He was eventually exonerated and ­reinstated.) Meanwhile, Petiot, whom the Gestapo had jailed and tortured as an alleged Resistance member in 1943, evaded arrest by the French police for seven months.

Oct 07 2011 | Read Full Review of Death in the City of Light

BC Books

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In contrast, Petoit claimed that as member of the resistance he headed up a cell of what he called the Fly-Tox network.

Sep 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Death in the City of Light

BC Books

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With the investigation as a framework, King explores Petoit's background, including him becoming a physician after getting a 100 percent mental disability rating following his service in World War I and potential murders prior to the war, as well as life in Nazi-occupied France, Petoit's scheme a...

Sep 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Death in the City of Light

Kirkus Reviews

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Forward mail to 18, rue des Lombards, Auxerre.” Worried about a chimney fire blazing in an empty house, Jacques returned home and called the police.

Sep 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Death in the City of Light

New York Journal of Books

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“Using the long classified files of the Parisian police, Mr. King pulls from these sources and puts together a story that brings to life an unfathomable Paris coupled with crimes that—even in our time—are all too easy to imagine.”In Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied P...

Sep 20 2011 | Read Full Review of Death in the City of Light

Book Reporter

Historian David King’s latest work, DEATH IN THE CITY OF LIGHT, is set in Nazi-occupied Paris and explores the tensions of the city both during the war and immediately afterward.

Oct 27 2011 | Read Full Review of Death in the City of Light

AV Club

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Many books have been written about the serial-killing spree of Marcel Petiot, a French doctor convicted in 1946 of killing 26 people, but whose actual body count could be in the hundreds.

Oct 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Death in the City of Light

The Daily Beast

They flee to the New World, where she is dazzled by New York: “I almost laugh at the memory of Dublin, with its low houses, their roofs tipped like deferential hats to the imperious rain.” More than 60 years later, having learned that the sins of the Old World are not so easily left behind, Lilly...

Oct 03 2011 | Read Full Review of Death in the City of Light

Deseret News

A review of "Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris."

Oct 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Death in the City of Light

Macleans

(In the confused days after the August liberation of the city, Petiot managed to join the police under an alias and spent some time investigating his own crimes.) Meanwhile, French police authorities assumed they had stumbled into a Gestapo torture chamber.

Sep 30 2011 | Read Full Review of Death in the City of Light

Bookshelf Bombshells

Due to the fact that there was a really significant amount of new information available about this string of murders, I think that King was trying as hard as he could to utilise every single tiny little piece of information he possibly could.

Oct 19 2011 | Read Full Review of Death in the City of Light

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Michael Manley 18 Aug 2013

Rated the book as 3.5 out of 5

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