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Death in the City of Light

The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris

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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.

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 01, 2011 – In 1944, when Parisian police entered a mansion littered with dismembered, rotting bodies, they thought of the Gestapo, but it turned out to be a purely French affair. Historian King (Vienna 1914) has mined the resulting global media circus (not only in France; Time magazine covered it) and extensive official records to tell a gripping story. The villain was a textbook psychopath, Dr. Marcel Petiot: a charming but heartless liar. Despite spending 20 years in and out of police courts, he won elections to local offices in the provinces only to be dismissed for petty crimes. Moving to Paris, he sold narcotics to addicts under the guise of treatment. During the German occupation, he offered to smuggle people out of France, murdering them when they arrived for the journey carrying their valuables. He went to the guillotine proclaiming himself (despite overwhelming evidence) a resistance hero, who killed only Nazis and collaborators. This fascinating, often painful account combines a police procedural with a vivid historical portrait of culture and law enforcement in Nazi-occupied France. Illus.

Customer Reviews

Great read, interesting and historical

Dr. Petoit was a sociopath who took advantage of the chaos of Nazi controlled Paris and used that to entrap and murder those trying to escape. Primarily for financial gain and seemingly for his own amusement, this was a monster who is interesting to read about.
Well written and interesting piece that was hard to put down.

Timing, Luck & a Sociopathic Killer

Never heard of this case. What makes it so interesting is the times--occupied Paris. The killer was able to hide among the events and have half-way plausible excuses. The court part of the book resembles some of the recent circus-like cases on TV. I guess nothing about serial killers is new, but this book is very well written.

Must Read

Great book!! Loved it!

Death in the City of Light
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: History
  • Published: Sep 20, 2011
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 432 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings