Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris

Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris

by David King

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Overview

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. But while trying to solve the many mysteries of the case, Massu would unravel a plot of unspeakable deviousness.
 
The main suspect, Dr. Marcel Petiot, was 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.

Petiot's trial quickly 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. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307452900
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 06/05/2012
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 196,947
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.84(h) x 0.96(d)

About the Author

David King is the New York Times best-selling author of Death in the City of Light and Vienna 1814. A Fulbright Scholar with a master’s degree from Cambridge University, King taught European history at the University of Kentucky. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

Table of Contents

Preface 1

1 German Night 9

2 The People's Doctor 18

3 Preliminary Findings 29

4 Two Witnesses 39

5 "100,000 Autopsies" 49

6 The Woman with the Yellow Suitcase 60

7 "Beside a Monster" 67

8 A Delivery 74

9 Evasion 82

10 "Goodbye Arrogance" 90

11 Sightings 94

12 The Gestapo File 105

13 Postcards from the Other Side 118

14 Destination Argentina 127

15 War in the Shadows 139

16 The Attic 146

17 Frustration 156

18 Nine More 164

19 The List 172

20 Apocalyptic Weeks 178

21 "P.S. Destroy All My Letters" 188

22 At Saint-Mandé-Tourelle Station 193

23 Interrogations 202

24 Beating Chance? 214

25 The Knellers 225

26 The Petiot Circus 236

27 "Not in Danger of Death" 246

28 Two to One 253

29 Inside Murder House 260

30 Black Fingernails 269

31 "A Taste for Evil" 275

32 The Hairdresser, the Makeup Artist, and the Adventuress 287

33 Walkout 295

34 Naufrageur 302

35 The Verdict 310

36 Timbers of Justice 320

37 The Loot 327

Epilogue 335

Acknowledgments 343

Selected Bibliography 347

Notes 358

Illustration Credits 401

Index 402

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Death in the City of Light 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
BookSakeBlogspot More than 1 year ago
I put off reading this book, because traditionally I don't enjoy non-fiction, but I do like stories with a historical basis. I wish I hadn't put it off, because once I started it, I really wanted to keep reading and just didn't have as much time on my hands. The author writes non-fiction in a very narrative style, which surprised me and made me wish other non-fiction was written this way. He does a great job of painting a picture of the crime scenes, courtroom, people etc. that makes you feel like you are a part of the story. At times it did get a little wordy and overly descriptive, but for the most part it was appropriate and made the book easier to read. As I was reading this novel, I found myself getting goose bumps, and having to go check that my doors were locked because the descriptions are somewhat creepy, but it was all in a good way that added to this unfortunately true story. There aren't any books that I have read recently that compare to this one, especially in the non-fiction category, it is definitely one that I will recommend to my friends and family. Reviewed by Gabi for Book Sake.
Icecream18 More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most interesting nonfiction books a reader can come across. It chronicles the evil and murders of Marcel Petiot. Petiot may be held accountable for over one hundred murders, making him one of the most diabolical murderers of all time (who was not, of course, a war lord). He operated under the guide of aiding Jews during World War II; instead, he brutally killed them. He plucked some victims off the street, leaving their families to wonder. There are many questions regarding Petiot that really have no definitive answer. Was he a sociopath? Psychopath? Part of the French Resistance? Skilled physician? or, perhaps, all of the above. The author doesn't attempt to sway the reader one way or the other, he remains fairly neutral. Forensic teams examined Petiot's handiwork, autopsies were performed, etc...the reader has the privilege of following this mystery and the experts who attempted to answer or at least describe the questions behind Petiot. The author has clearly done extensive research, everything flows. The events fall into place like dominoes, the reader won't be too confused (and this has the potential for being a confusing nonfiction book). This book is recommended to young adults/adults who enjoy nonfiction.
Kay2001 More than 1 year ago
In a word.....WOW!!! I think you know by now that I am obsessed with True Crime. I have read a lot and always learn something. Death in the City of Light was mind blowing for me. I know I say it every time but the degree of sickness that these people, serial killers have is something that I don't think I will ever understand. Dr. Petiot was a much loved doctor. Who would have thought that he would have bodies and body parts in and about his house and sewers. He was a cold blooded killer with a wife and family! No not the first or the last but something about this book repulsed me so much more than others. I can't put my finger on just what it was. The number of murders reported in the book is 27 but I really think there are so many more victims that are unidentified and or unfound. The author did his research and there is a lot of history included. Remember, this was all going on while the serial killer Hitler was doing his own murdering. We read a lot about Paris at this time and that was very interesting for me. Let me tell you, lots of grimacing and head shaking went on while I was reading this book. Death in the City of Light is a bit on the long side due to all the vivid details and descriptions that the author includes. The trial was for me the best part of the book. Still caused me to shake my head more than once at the goings on, it got more interesting with every page turn. Definitely one to read if you are a true crime fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of historical true crime and this was a really interesting book and not a true crime event I'd heard of before. Dr. Petiot murdered at least 27 (or perhaps over 100) people in Nazi occupied Paris between 1941-1944 when his crimes were discovered. After a 7 month chase he was captured and over his trial claimed he was a member of the French Resistance, despite proof that several of his known victims were Jews and disappeared after being taken to Dr. Petiot for a clandestine escape to Argentina to avoid Nazi deportation. Additionally no Resistance groups had heard of him or the resistance group Fly-Tox that he perported to work with. This book is a very interesting read (though I do wish the author had presented the facts chronologically and didn't skip hop around with dates quite so much ) and worth every penny.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had never heard of this guy before,the story was fascinating! I usually am not into nonfiction, but really enjoyed the book.
Puriel More than 1 year ago
The book is very hard to really get into. It is so slow moving. I'm not all that fond of this author. He didn't GRAB me. I won't pick this author again. Just not enough punch!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story line, but a bit longer and more indepth than it needed to be.
thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
The book begins in 1944, in the upscale 16th arrondissement of Paris, a city under siege by the Germans. It is the time of The holocaust! There is black putrid smoke escaping from a chimney. A neighbor calls the police after the stench becomes overwhelming, but when the police arrive to investigate, they find something quite unexpected. It is a scene of mass murder and bodies are burning. Dr. Marcel Petiot, the owner of the building, was rumored to be in the French resistance but he has a checkered past. He disappeared shortly after the discovery of the bodies. The investigation into the mass murders is hampered by the nature of the times with the German occupation. The death and disappearance of many, for either criminal or religious reasons, was commonplace, so, although, Dr. Petiot aroused the suspicions of many, he was largely ignored. The Nazis routinely kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, and/or murdered, anyone they deemed dangerous to the regime. The court case appeared to be sloppily handled and mismanaged but one has to keep in mind that it took place shortly after the liberation of Paris, and the crimes were committed during the German occupation which made the evidence collection and witness interview process more cumbersome than it normally would have been. The scope of the crime and the madness surrounding it, coupled with the inept handling of the investigation, at the time, with the war still raging in Europe, made it a monumental effort for the police force to solve it and for the author to research. It is obvious that he has done an enormous amount of work compiling the information and has included an abundance of footnotes to back it up. Still it was hard to follow, at times. It was, nevertheless, a good mystery, making me question if it could really be true because the crimes were so heinous. If it didn't get so bogged down in details, it would have held my interest more, since it kept me guessing; did he or didn't he? It wasn't until the last two dozen pages that I was enlightened as to whether or not the main character was guilty or innocent. At times, the writing style seemed confusing. The message was often unclear and redundant, and the reading became tedious. A descriptive character list, someplace at the back of the book and a time line to follow for each character, to make the book easier to follow, would have been helpful. The unknown names of places and people and the plethora of foreign titles and details, made it even more perplexing. Some of the episodes seemed to be repeated or were so similar that it appeared that way. Since this was an Advanced Reader's Copy, perhaps many of these issues were corrected in the final version. I did not care for the cover which features some kind of a creature overlooking the city. Rather than looking scholarly, as a non-fiction book generally does, it looks as if it is geared for a different audience, one that likes science fiction, fantasy or stories about monsters. Petiot was indeed a monstrous man but not a monster. Was he "the great imposter" or the victim of circumstances? He had many identities and false papers to go with them. Was he a resistance fighter, a collaborator or a serial killer? A master at conversation, brilliant in creating excuses, charismatic and witty, he was an enigma to those who knew him or investigated his behavior.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a well researched and written historical crime narrative that really kept me lnterrested. I recommend it for folks that enjoy this type of material.
Needs-a-hobby More than 1 year ago
Mildly Disturbing, but overall an interesting read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. King is surely giving Erik Larson a run for his money. This novel was a true page turner, horrifying, and written in an easy flowing narrative style. The fact that it is all true-is really mind-blowing. Keep them coming Mr. King and watch out Mr. Larson !
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was excited to get this book with its comparisons to the writing of Erik Larson. I really like quality true crime where the crime is placed within the context of its place and time. Erik Larson does this really well so I was really hoping that was another author in the same genre. Plus serial killer in Nazi-occupied Paris - how cool and eerie is that? The crimes and the search for the serial killer are definitely detailed with some additional information about the place and time. However, the writing was so dry that I just couldn't care and abandoned about a third of the way in. Very disappointing.
Eliz12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh my gosh this book is so dark I felt like I had been in a dungeon for a week. This is an astonishing true story of a murderer whose evils are unlike anything I've ever heard. (What kind of man lures Jews, certain they are headed to the Nazi extermination camps, with a promise of safe passage to South America, then murders and dismembers them and places their remains in a lime pit?)I actually woke up at night frightened by what I had read here.That said, this is a very good book. Well-researched and written, compelling, memorable. Just not for the faint of heart.
dulcibelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lots of nonfiction authors compare themselves to Erik Larsen (Thunderstruck, Isaac's Storm), but most fall short of that comparison. King comes the closest of any I've read. And, I think the short fall is because of the subject - not the author. This is the story of a French doctor who was convicted of killing 26 people during WWII (and who may have killed over 100). Unfortunately, the trial was a farce (even though he was convicted) and this makes the story a little difficult to read. Also, most of the information is contained in descriptions of testimony rather than the testimony itself and I think we would have fared better with direct quotes from the trial.Even with the failings described above, this story was fascinating. King allows himself to speculate (in the Epilogue), based on a newly discovered memoir by a young man who survived his encounter with the doctor, what might have actually happened in Paris and explains why it's important all these years later.This review is based on an uncorrect proof.
Ronrose1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book presents a very detailed look at a part of history that took a back seat to the World War raging through out the 1940's. With all the death and destruction occurring in France attributable to the war, it is almost unimaginable that a serial killer ran amok in Paris at this time already so filled with sorrow and misery. French citizens were under constant scrutiny during the occupation from many sources including German military, German Gestapo, spies, French Gestapo, French Resistance, and neighbor watching neighbor. It is hard to imagine that a man could murder an estimated 25 to 50 people and still carry on an every day life of a doctor. Dr. Marcel Petiot's preferred method involved convincing his victims, often his patients, that he could spirit them out of occupied France to freedom in Argentina. Many of his victims were Jews who were being pursued by the Nazi's. Dr. Petiot was eventually accused of murdering 27 people. There may have been many more, but the police could only identify 27 with any certainty as the bodies were dismembered and disposed of in a lime pit or burned. This appears to be a case of the criminal often outsmarting and being one step ahead of the police. He left little or no direct evidence that he had committed the murders. He appeared to be completely amoral, with no regret for having taken the lives of so many people. This book is a mesmerizing study of a man who puts himself above the law and his fellow citizens in order to gain personal wealth. Throughout the book there is a lingering question of whether Dr. Petiot will get away with these murders. The seeming ineptitude of the Paris police leaves open the question of whether the doctor will go free or go to the guillotin. No matter your opinion of our justice system, the scenes of the French judiciary system of the late 1940's, will leave you thankful for our current laws and procedures. While not as fast paced as an adventure novel, this book has the impact and immediacy of nonfiction. This book provided for review by the well read folks at Shelf Awareness and the Crown Publishing Group.
TFS93 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My review is in reference to an uncorrected proof copy of the book. I had never heard of this story before receiving this book. King does a wonderful job of telling Petiot's story. I was horrified by the fact that it was so long before Petiot was caught. I am sure he has killed more than we will ever know. I felt so sorry for his wife and son who I felt were also duped by him. He took advantage of so many who really thought he was going to help them. A very very sad story that will make you wonder how anyone could do these terrible things. Great for those who love true crime and little known stories of the holocaust. Highly Recommended for those who love history.
allthesedarnbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is an interesting blend of World War II history and true crime. It opens in 1944 in occupied Paris when a fire reveals a grotesque scene of burnt human remains in a rundown mansion. More bodies are discovered, grisly details of the crimes emerge, and the killer is revealed as a man using the hopes and dreams of people looking to escape the Nazis for his own gruesome profit. The picture of Paris in wartime is gritty and dark, and the author shows us how the crimes were very much a product of this setting. It raises important questions about who to believe amidst war. It's not a happy book by any means but it's certainly a fascinating one. Recommended for history buffs and true crime fans.
4daisies on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed in the readability of this book. I was expecting a book about the hunt for a real-life serial killer in Nazi occupied Paris to be a riveting, page-turner. Instead, it was actually a rather dry account of the events and I had a difficult time slogging through all the difficult to pronounce French names with no pay-off in learning much of anything about the actual victims, other than the basics Mr. King no doubt gleaned solely from the court documents. This was characterized as "a colorful, character-rich narrative". I beg to differ. I will say that it gives a disturbing view of what life was like for Parisians during the 4 years spent under Nazi occupation.
SenoraG163 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a word.....WOW!!! I think you know by now that I am obsessed with True Crime. I have read a lot and always learn something. Death in the City of Light was mind blowing for me. I know I say it every time but the degree of sickness that these people, serial killers have is something that I don't think I will ever understand. Dr. Petiot was a much loved doctor. Who would have thought that he would have bodies and body parts in and about his house and sewers. He was a cold blooded killer with a wife and family! No not the first or the last but something about this book repulsed me so much more than others. I can't put my finger on just what it was.The number of murders reported in the book is 27 but I really think there are so many more victims that are unidentified and or unfound. The author did his research and there is a lot of history included. Remember, this was all going on while the serial killer Hitler was doing his own murdering. We read a lot about Paris at this time and that was very interesting for me. Let me tell you, lots of grimacing and head shaking went on while I was reading this book. Death in the City of Light is a bit on the long side due to all the vivid details and descriptions that the author includes. The trial was for me the best part of the book. Still caused me to shake my head more than once at the goings on, it got more interesting with every page turn.Definitely one to read if you are a true crime fan.
CasualFriday on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the true story of Marcel Petiot, a Paris doctor who allegedly murdered untold numbers of people and stole their money and belongings under the guise of helping them escape occupied France. Besides detailing the investigation and trial, it provides a detailed picture of Paris during the Occupation: a chaotic and corrupt dance of mobsters, collaborators and Gestapo agents.The book is being marketed as an Erik Larson read-alike, but I found it nowhere near as compelling as the Larson books I've read. Mr. King's research is admirable, but perhaps too much of that research found its way into the final draft, and the overall tone of the book is very dry. I don't want to say that the book wasn't quite lurid enough. Let's just say that Mr. King doesn't have Larson's skill at shaping a narrative.
etxgardener on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the manner of Erik Larson, author David King examines the Parisian serial killer, Dr. Marcel Petiot, who murdered over 25 people in his townhouse in Paris' chic 16th arrondissement during the German occupation of the city.What should have been a riveting story gets bogged down in way too many details and back-stories of minor characters. It's like King, having researched his subject for years, couldn't bring himself to leave any nugget of information out of his final manuscript. This book needed a good editor.
NovelChatter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Don't be mislead by the cover art for Death in the City of Light, this is no graphic novel, nor is it a work of fiction. I saved this review for Halloween because I think there's nothing more macabre than the sick twisted horrors of what takes place in the real world.David King's book opens on a street in the fashionable 16th arrondissement neighborhood of Paris, where neighbors are complaining of thick black smoke permeating the area along with a nauseating stench filling the air. It's a great opening and takes the reader by the hand and pulls you in! That's a great hook! You are compelled to keep turning the pages, as King begins to paint the grizzly picture of the accused doctor, Marcel Petiot and the heinous crimes he is accused of committing.King kept me going for about the first third of the book, then suddenly, for me, the book began to read more like a police report than a horrific true story being related to readers, eager for the truth. I found myself getting online and hitting the search engines for maps of the city, trying to see what the neighborhood may have looked like in those days of WWII. Trying to find something to relate the history to. I realize that I have an advance readers copy, and hope that photos, maps, diagrams, floor plans and the like would be included in the final print copy. I researched a bit online and it seems that perhaps that may not be the case. I think it would help the reader put things into perspective. So many people alive back in 1944 are no longer here and I suspect that most of the readers of Death in the City of Light have no idea what the city looked like back then, how people lived and how the neighborhood functioned within the city. I have no clue, but went looking for answers about the smaller day to day things.While I did enjoy King's book from the beginning, I was equally as frustrated with it, when as I read on, I got more and more bogged down. I felt like I was reading a clinical report. Testimonies and trial transcripts lost me. Somewhere along the line, for me, Mr. King lost his ability to tie in this reader. And that's a sad thing.I do recommend Death in the City of Light, it's a fact based, but gruesome story of a serial killer that raged in Paris about sixty seven years ago, and that is amazing even to this modern world of 2011.I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.**This ARC was provided to me by the Crown Publishing Company and in no way affected by opinion and review of this book.
susanamper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Purported to be the thrilling chase for the serial killer of Nazi Occupied Paris--did he kill 100+ people, 27, none? Was he a Resistance fighter, Gestapo Stooge, or esteemed doctor. David King's Death in the City of Light is a mess (with a terrible title)--one can usually count on at least a sense of place especially in stories that take place in WW II and more especially Paris. There is none of that. We don't really come to understand Marcel Petiot or his motivations. I stuck with the book to see how he would be caught. He was more mangled than caught and though convicted the story is a real disappointment.
gbelik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a good evocation of everyday life in Paris during WW2, plus an almost too detailed study of a serial killer, his crimes and his trial. I'm generally not a fan of true crime, but the setting made this one a little out of the ordinary
mainrun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was was not familiar with the events that took place in the book. The first half of the book makes the serial killer look very guilty. The second half, about the trial, hints the killer may be innocent, or at least not found guilty due to the skill of his defense attorney, and the ineptitude of police and prosecutors. I enjoyed the suspense, and reading the verdict. However, I am not a fan of the book's true crime style.