Until recently, I haven’t been a huge fan of historical non-fiction. But this book looked interesting, so I decided to give it a whirl. And I am so glad I did. Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King was one of the most captivating, terrifying, fascinating books I have ever read.
As, I guess, would be true of any historical fiction worth its salt, I learned something. Lots of things. I had never even heard of Dr. Marcel Petiot before picking up this book. But what a depraved FREAK!
The book is richly detailed and thoroughly researched. David King clearly did his homework. In reading the author’s notes, it turns out he had unprecedented access to a wide array of useful materials, including sealed French police files, French gestapo records, and the diary of a madame from a house of ill repute. You can’t step to that!
Step by step, the book goes over the police investigation, the evidence, the horrors, the trial. You can’t make this stuff up. Truth is scarier than fiction.
Everyone knows about the atrocities that took place in the work and death camps during this time period. But this book outlines how the atrocities weren’t just going on there.
Still not intrigued? I don’t want to spoil anything, so if you want to maximize your surprise, skip over this part. But basically, the Doctor was posing as a member of the French Resistance, and pretending to be helping Jews and others escape from Nazi-occupied Paris, when in reality he was just taking all their money and stuff and killing and disposing of them in a manner most gruesome. The guy was evil. Like evil, evil. He gets what he deserves, but commits some serious atrocities in the process.
Gripping, intelligent, disturbing. I highly recommend it, if you’re in that kind of mood, and even if, like me, you don’t usually like this kind of book.