The amount of research and time needed to construct high-quality historical non-fiction must be staggering and author David King did an excellent job of producing an intriguing, in-depth book.
The story of the shadowy and twisted life and crimes of Dr. Marcel Petiot in Nazi-occupied Paris is detailed, thorough and dark. King mixes police information, conversations, recollections and actual case-related documents to tell the tale. Dr. Petiot used the ruse of a French Resistance escape route to lure victims to his home and dispose of them, while hoarding their clothing and keeping their riches. Once discovered, his victim count continued to rise and his twisted mental state and behavior would become exposed over a long period of time.
Police were called to a home at 21 rue Le Sueur after reports of a heavy and pungent smoke coming from the building. When the police arrived and entered, they were immediately faced with charred human remains, suitcases, scattered clothing and a strange room that resembles a torture chamber. When it was discovered that Marcel Petiot was the owner of the home, the search for the doctor began. What unfolded was a search that involved the Resistance, family members of Petoit, the Gestapo, local authorities and the underlings of Paris.
Petiot, while not mentally stable, was quick, very intelligent and created a story and an escape that made his capture hard to come by. His victim count was potentially over one hundred and when he was finally apprehended, the trial of the doctor was sensational. The details that were revealed were extremely sinister and often hard to believe, especially when the dark past of Petiot’s life came out. As a reader, I could only wonder how he had evaded arrest for so long, at any point of his life.
Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris is a well-researched and exciting book that focuses on a dark event within an already dark period of time. King does a nice job of filling in tiny details, names and places without becoming boring or tedious with his descriptions. King was also able to compile a lot of information into a fast-paced narrative that never seemed to lag or read like a textbook.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Crown. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.