Death in the City of Light

Death in the City of Light

The Serial Killer of Nazi-occupied Paris

Book - 2011 | 1st ed.
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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.
Publisher: New York : Crown, c2011.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780307452894
Branch Call Number: 364.1523 KING
Characteristics: 416 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm.


From Library Staff

A sobering, absorbing police procedural about respected doctor, local politician, opportunistic drug-dealer, and sadistic serial killer Dr. Marcel Petiot, who operated in France during the Nazi occupation. This is the gruesome tale of his staggering crimes and the incredible media circus they ins... Read More »

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Sep 23, 2019

Incredibly boring. I gave up after just 34 pages. Could have been great but the story begins by telling us what happened, who did it, and then goes on to give far more useless detail than anyone wants or needs.

Jul 07, 2015

A Law and Order narrative about a serial killer in Occupied Paris, with gangs, Gestapo and bad girls. I liked this book because you don't get sucked into the killer's view of things, but obviously, not everyone agrees.

anniemurray Dec 04, 2014

Fine detail but dry as a bone. As another reviewer says, none of the characters come to life. Offers very little insight into what made this man a killer. Disappointing.

elbrozzie Aug 03, 2012

There's an unnamed murderer in this true crime--it's the author, David King, who has managed to bury a chilling tale under a mountain of repetitive, boring detail. With the exception of Commissaire Massu, none of the characters come to life. This flaw is especially grievous because, even at the end of this interminable book, we have no insight into what made the killer, Dr. Petiot, tick.

May 27, 2012

gripping amorality, the exhumation of a particularly vile character, Dr. Marcel Petiot, a monster, representative of an inherent aspect of woman, man, our Latent if not Original Sin, when accorded tacit permission to destroy, horrify, a naturally unfolding consequence ever of revolution and war

May 17, 2012

The premise of this true story is quite intriguing but the book is boring beyond belief. The author includes every known item about the case and some that aren't about the case. The story drags until the predictable end. There are no surprises. The bad guy does the dead, finally gets caught and is executed. The end.

carolynv Apr 07, 2012

A very interesting story (well-respected doctor who turns out to be a serial killer) set in a fascinating time period (Nazi-occupied Paris). I especially enjoyed how the author would give you glimpses into the people (e.g. Sartre, Camus), events (resistance movement) and mood of the city. The trial is fascinating but exasperating at times also! A great read!

Feb 01, 2012

This is a very good true crime story along the lines of Erik Larson's "Devil in the White City". I found the first part of the book especially interesting as it describes the plight of the detectives trying to identify victims and carry out a serial killer investigation in a city where there was huge disregard for human life, an atmosphere permeated with fear and where people were constantly disappearing (33,000 Jews alone disappeared in a period of one week). Due to their own particular agenda, the German Occupation authorities were constantly interfering in the investigation.
There is lots of fascinating trivia about Parisian life and people during the period. Some of the more famous people living in the city at the time included Camus, Sartre and Picasso. It seems that almost everyone involved in this story had at least one alias, and I found that as the book progressed, all the names became confusing and it was hard to keep everyone straight. A minor complaint.
Well researched and written.

Nov 04, 2011

Well researched and an interesting view of the times, particularly of the style of law in French courts.

debwalker Oct 20, 2011

Murder in Nazi-occupied Paris - fascinating.


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