Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 20, 2011
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
"One of history's most macabre bouts of serial killing . . . David King, the author of Vienna 1814, has more than just fresh eyes and imaginative speculation to power his revisiting of this long-forgotten true crime."
—New York Times
"If you like true crime, put this book at the top of your reading list. . . . An exceptional piece of crime reporting backed by a gut-wrenching narrative that is masterful, haunting, and an incredible literary achievement."
—King Features Syndicate
"Unprecedented detail . . . The detail with which King explores the story is aided by the fact that not only did he have access to trial materials, including a stenographic record no one thought existed, but also the complete police dossier, which had been classified since the investigation began."
"A page-turning, detective/manhunt/courtroom drama . . . King tells it with the skill of the best police and courtroom beat reporters, mixed with the sweeping eye of a social historian."
“A new masterpiece of true crime writing . . . the most startling impression left by Death in the City of Light is of Paris itself, confronting the bestiality lurking behind its supremely civilized facade, and of the handful of Parisiennes who tried to serve justice in spite of it.”
—New York Post
“This nonfiction account tracks the extensive manhunt and sensationalized trial of Dr. Marcel Petiot, who lured his victims by promising them safe passage out of Nazi-occupied Paris. King gained access to classified French police files in order to re-create this story of terror against the chaotic backdrop of war.”
—Goodreads September 2011 Movers & Shakers list
“Erik Larson's tour de force of narrative nonfiction hasn't been matched—until now…While this work is painstaking in its research, it still has the immediacy and gasp power of a top-notch thriller. True-crime at its best.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“A gripping story…this fascinating, often painful account combines a police procedural with a vivid historical portrait of culture and law enforcement in Nazi-occupied France.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Gripping….expertly written and completely absorbing”
–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“David King's anticipated crime history.”
Praise for VIENNA, 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace by David King
“Reads like a novel. A fast-paced page-turner, it has everything: sex, wit, humor, and adventures. But it is an impressively-researched and important story.”
—David Fromkin, author of Europe’s Last Summer
“Superb…a worthy contribution to the study of a critical historical event long neglected by historians. It should be in every European history collection.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“A great story….richly narrated.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Deftly paced and engagingly written.”
“A teeming…personality-rich panorama of the first truly international peace conference.”
“An outstanding addition to European history collections.”
About the Author
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.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
In a time such as WWII, murder shouldn't count for much. The police have other things on their hands. Except even in wartime, this murder stands out owing to the quantity and condition of decapitated heads and dismembered body parts found on the premises of a house owned by one Marcel Petiot.
The second half of the book about the Petiot's trial had its moments, but this reader found it hard going and eventually scanned rather than read the last pages. The author wrote an epilog giving his opinion of what happened. He has done an impressive amount of research and this shows.
The actual timeline of the crimes are a jumbled mess in this book. For a while, they unfold before the reader, but then it jumps forward, backwards and sideways, skipping over months/years with a throwaway line as to what transpired.... ??? Massu, who tirelessly hunted down his man with painstaking research and attention to detail, suddenly disappears in one of those leaps ahead. With the throwaway line of his entire career ending in disgrace over a corruption scandal, which is barely delved into, and he is almost totally absent from the court proceedings and the rest of the book. Which, fine, if he was forced out and that's how it was, but in the book he is suddenly MIA and it's as if he never existed. ?????
The French court system sounds like an absolute disaster/free for all, and the sloppy rendering of the court scenes in this book only serve to make it worse. I honestly felt that the author was just tired of it and paraphrased transcripts to get it over with. The author does take the trouble to himself point out all the flaws and conflicts/inaccuracies in the testimonies and evidence.. but it feels very haphazard and refers to the witnesses by their first or last names at various times without any uniformity, making it even more confusing. I had mostly given up on it, but near the end when he suddenly details the part about Petiot mysteriously hiding things in the coffins [which had happened waaaaay before and was relative to the events described] I was really irritated. Why are you hiding things from the reader, for a big reveal? This book is an analysis of the crime, not a mystery, it completely fell flat and seemed stapled on and sloppy.
Petiot is constantly described as "brilliant" and "witty" in both reviews and the book itself... which I found him to be neither at any time, ever. He seemed to be an emotionally unstable sociopath who should have been caught ages before he was. Granted, the Nazi occupation really confused everything and made the perfect cover for a smooth-talking murderer, but he could not have been more obvious/clumsy and left a trail of clues everywhere he went. Beyond amateur hour. Even before the Nazi occupation, his crimes were obvious and he only escaped imprisonment/conviction through moving away and incompetence of local officials. There seemed to be lots of incompetence all around-- the police, prosecution and defense. Just a huge mess. How brilliant was he? After an expert had testified that yes, the handwriting on postcards received appeared to have been written by the victim after their supposed disappearance, casting doubt on whether Petiot had murdered them after all, he couldn't help himself and announces in open court that he had forged some of the postcards.. apparently with proud glee that he had done such a great job that he'd fooled an expert. In open court. In the middle of his trial. After an expert decided in his favor and they'd moved on to something else. That's how 'brilliant' he was. Somehow, he is found guilty on nearly all counts, which was almost a surprise considering what a disaster the court case was, a melee of supposition and angry retorts. Although nearly all of the evidence is circumstantial and some of the eyewitness testimony is pretty iffy... it is overwhelming and he is so obviously guilty and insane. Culpable, but insane. A true sociopath, justifying everything he did while conflicting himself constantly, often with lies that made no sense or were easily disproved. Brilliant, no. Lucky, yes.
It is an interesting story I hadn't heard before, and I imagine wading through French transcripts was kind of an endless nightmare, but this book needs a serious re-edit and polish.
There's much that I have to read, so when I read for pleasure, I like for it to be enjoyable; this book was in no way a pleasure to read.
Some reviewers have expressed disappointment that the killer's identity is revealed in the first couple of pages. I didn't find that to be a problem--after all, this is a true story torn from the headlines of Occupied Paris. Instead, the elements of suspense are reserved for other aspects of the story, such as what happened to the loot that Petiot stole, what precise method did he use to snuff the life out of his victims (we are led to believe for much of the narrative that they were injected with some kind of poison), and what was the purpose of the sinister-looking lens in the basement.
But as much as I enjoyed the book, I have to subtract two whole stars for King's inexplicable failure to finish out the story of Raphael K., who, remarkably, managed to escape from Petiot's chamber of horrors and went on to write a letter about his experience dated 1944. HOW on earth did he escape when Petiot had him, literally, chained to the wall? Why did he not go to the police? I can't for the life of me understand why an editor did not point out this glaringly obvious omission and ask the author to complete Raphael's story. Do we know if others manage to escape? What a shame that this fascinating chink in Petiot's armor is not explored at all.