Landru's Secret: The Deadly Seductions of France's Lonely Hearts Serial Killer

Landru's Secret: The Deadly Seductions of France's Lonely Hearts Serial Killer

by Richard Tomlinson


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On 12 April 1919, the Paris police arrested a bald, short, 50-year-old swindler at his apartment near the Gare du Nord, acting on a lead from a humble housemaid. A century later, Henri Désiré Landru remains the most notorious and enigmatic serial killer in French criminal history, a riddle at the heart of an unsolved murder puzzle.

The official version of Landru’s lethal rampage was so shocking that it almost defied belief. According to the authorities, Landru had made “romantic contact” with 283 women during the First World War, luring ten of them to his country houses outside Paris where he killed them for their money.

Yet no bodies were ever found, while Landru obdurately protested his innocence. “It is for you to prove the deeds of which I am accused,” he sneered at the investigating magistrate.

The true story of l’affaire Landru, buried in the Paris police archives for the past century, was altogether more disturbing. In Landru’s Secret, Richard Tomlinson draws on more than 5,000 pages of original case documents, including witness statements, police reports and private correspondence, to reveal for the first time that:

Landru killed more women than the 10 victims on the charge sheet.

The police failed to trace at least 72 of the women he contacted.

The authorities ignored the key victim who explained why the killings began.

Landru did not kill for money, but to revel in his power over what he called the “feeble sex”.

Lavishly illustrated with previous unpublished photographs, Landru’s Secret is a story for our times: a female revengers’ tragedy starring the mothers and sisters of the missing fiancées, a lethal misogynist and France’s greatest defense lawyer, intent on saving his repulsive client from the guillotine.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781526751416
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 04/05/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Richard Tomlinson first came across Landru in the early 1980s when he was researching a French history Ph.D. at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. He did not believe the prosecution case and has been exploring l’affaire Landru ever since.

After completing his doctorate at Cambridge University, Richard pursued an award-winning career as a a journalist in China and Europe. He is an acclaimed author, whose most recent book, a biography of the cricketer W.G. Grace, was hailed as “magnificent” (_Daily Telegraph_), “compelling” (_Mail on Sunday_) and “my biography of the year” (_Evening Standard_).

Table of Contents

List of Characters vii

Note on Money ix

Prologue: Alas, I Have Little Hope xi

Part 1 The Disappearances (January 1915-April 1919)

Chapter 1 The Locked Chest 3

Chapter 2 The Lodge at Vernouillet 11

Chapter 3 The 'Garnet Noir' 19

Chapter 4 The Villa Tric 27

Chapter 5 Madame Sombrero 33

Chapter 6 Lulu 43

Chapter 7 Sacré Coeur 53

Chapter 8 The Fatal List 67

Part 2 The Investigation (April 1919 - November 1921)

Chapter 9 The Enigma of Gambais 81

Chapter 10 Why Would I Have Killed Them? 87

Chapter 11 I Will Tell You Something Horrible 99

Chapter 12 Conscience Recoils Before Such a Monster 113

Part 3 The Trial (7 - 30 November 1921)

Chapter 13 Chivalry No Longer Exists 127

Chapter 14 Philomène's Dream 137

Chapter 15 Her Private Life Does Not Concern Me 143

Chapter 16 You Accuse Me, You Prove It 155

Chapter 17 Let Us Not Look for Tragedy 165

Chapter 18 You Cannot Live With the Dead 181

Chapter 19 A Veritable Puzzle 195

Chapter 20 You Have Death in Your Soul 201

Chapter 21 Do You Feel Nothing in Your Hearts? 209

Chapter 22 A Terrible Doubt Came to You 217

Part 4 Landru's Secret

Chapter 23 The Signpost 225

Chapter 24 The Road to Gambais 231

Chapter 25 The Road to Vernouiliet 241

Afterword: From the Quai de la Pinède to the Jardin des Plantes 251

Notes 255

Note on Sources 287

Select Bibliography 289

Acknowledgements 291

Index 293

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