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

Image of Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris
Author(s): 
Release Date: 
September 20, 2011
Publisher/Imprint: 
Crown Trade Group
Pages: 
432
Reviewed by: 

“Using the long classified files of the Parisian police, Mr. King pulls from these sources and puts together a story that brings to life an unfathomable Paris coupled with crimes that—even in our time—are all too easy to imagine.”

In Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris David King gives us a story that is part history, part true crime, part thriller, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Set in Paris during the Nazi occupation, Death in the City of Light tells the true story of Doctor Marcel Petiot, a respected physician known around Paris as “the people’s doctor” for his caring for the poor and criminal classes; however, he would shock a city that believed it had seen it all when he was charged with the murders of 27 people and suspected of 150 more. The question of their identities and his motivations would captivate Parisians and at some point even take headlines away from the war.

Parisian police inspector Commissaire Georges-Victor Massu was tasked with finding Petiot and solving the case. Petiot’s arrest led many to hope for answers, but the ensuing trial became a farce, creating more questions than it ultimately solved.

Who were these victims? Were they Nazis and collaborators making Petiot a hero of the Resistance? Were they undesirables of the Gestapo and Petiot enjoyed their protection for what he was doing? Or were they innocent victims and the good doctor a hideous monster unparalleled in Parisian history?

Mr. King’s account of the case and the trial is full of twists and turns worthy of classic detective stories. What is more, Death in the City of Light, like Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, brings to mind the ease with which serial killers take advantage of the chaos of war, the excitement of a big city poised on change. One can only imagine such dark forces at work in today’s Baghdad, Kabul, Cairo, or London.

Using the long classified files of the Parisian police, Mr. King pulls from these sources and puts together a story that brings to life an unfathomable Paris coupled with crimes that—even in our time—are all too easy to imagine.