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, Petiots 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.
March 11, 1944
A thick black smoke streamed into Jacques and Andrée Marçais's
fifth-floor apartment at 22 rue Le Sueur in the heart of
Paris's fashionable 16th arrondissement. The smoke had begun
five days before, but now, in the unusually warm weather, it was getting
worse, seeping through closed windows and soiling the furniture. In the
air was a nauseating smell described variously as burnt caramel, burnt
rubber, or a burnt roast of poor quality. The source of the disturbance, it
seemed, was a building across the street. "Do something," Andrée Marçais
told her husband when he returned home just before six o'clock that evening, and she sent him over to investigate.
Neither Jacques nor his wife knew who, if anyone, lived in the neighboring two-and-a-half-story town house at 21 rue Le Sueur. A man was sometimes seen riding there on a green bicycle, towing a cart whose contents were concealed under a heavy canvas. On rare occasions, he ...
David King's engrossing and atmospheric examination of French mass murderer and physician Marcel Petiot's life is true-crime noir at its best. Always a cruel and crooked opportunist, Petiot develops into a rapacious executioner in the dark, desperate, and violent world of Nazi-occupied France. King deftly establishes this world with many fascinating digressions, including a brief look at the development of existentialism, and implies that the Paris of No Exit was the perfect killing ground for the bold, amoral, brilliant, selfish (and possibly insane) Marcel Petiot.
(Reviewed by Jo Perry).
Full Review (1055 words).
In 1963, New Zealand forensic psychiatrist John Marshall Macdonald published a paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry called "The Threat to Kill." This paper described three behaviors - bedwetting past age 5, cruelty to animals, and the setting of fires - as "red flag" indicators of sociopathy and future episodic, aggressive behaviors. In combination, these childhood activities have become known as the "Macdonald Triad" and have often been associated with serial killers and other violent criminals. (Petiot, like Jeffrey Dahmer, was viciously cruel to animals). While not all convicted serial killers demonstrate these behaviors, the Triad seems to predict anti-social tendencies. But what causes the Triad? Do we choose to be evil, do ...
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