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Death in the City of Light by David King

Monday, August 22, 2011
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, RenĂ© 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.

Goodreads Summary

This is one of the most interesting nonfiction books a reader can come across.  It chronicles the evil and murders of Marcel Petiot.  Petiot may be held accountable for over one hundred murders, making him one of the most diabolical murderers of all time (who was not, of course, a war lord).   He operated under the guide of aiding Jews during World War II; instead, he brutally killed them.  He plucked some victims off the street, leaving their families to wonder. 
There are many questions regarding Petiot that really have no definitive answer.  Was he a sociopath? Psychopath? Part of the French Resistance? Skilled physician?  or, perhaps, all of the above.  The author doesn't attempt to sway the reader one way or the other, he remains fairly neutral. 
Forensic teams examined Petiot's handiwork, autopsies were performed, etc...the reader has the privilege of following this mystery and the experts who attempted to answer or at least describe the questions behind Petiot.  The author has clearly done extensive research, everything flows.  The events fall into place like dominoes, the reader won't be too confused (and this has the potential for being a confusing nonfiction book).  This book is recommended to young adults/adults who enjoy nonfiction.

4 Stars