Imagine a serial killer accused convicted of brutally murdering twenty-six in the current court system. There would be little doubt in your mind that this person was evil. Now imagine taking into account that this was during the last World War. Also, that the person accused was a French doctor that had been part of the French military during the First World War and part of the French resistance during the second. Add on to that idea that he claimed to be a hero of the resistance, not some monster that he was proclaimed to be by the people. This is the story of, Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi Occupied Paris by David King, and our character, Marcel Petiot.
The story is detail laden on the entire process of the initial crime scene on through the investigation of Dr. Petiot and his family, the court trial, his time in jail and his eventual conviction and beheading in the traditional French guillotine. At times the story feels very dense with a plethora of detail about the entire situation but also at other times there is just enough that you want to keep reading to find out more. The perfect blend and balance for a non-fictional read, as this is based off of real life accounts of the Dr. Marcel Petiot trial of the 1940s.
Not only do you find out that Dr. Petiot had murdered those twenty-six, you find out that there were many, many more that he executed during his ‘rein of terror’ that including many Nazi leaders and many other Germans that had infested the symbol of France, the beautiful city of Paris. He used this cover as a resistance member to murder these Germans as well as people that he just did not necessarily get along with in life for whatever reasoning. It was this that became his downfall. The fact that he had murdered many Germans in the same brutal fashion as the twenty-six he was convicted did not even come much to mind in the Parisian court where he was tried.
King also explores the mental stability of Dr. Petiot and his mental conditions that plagued him from his service to France in the First World War, but according to the physicians that were checking his mental state during the trial and prison time he had no such thing and was perfectly stable. All-in-all the book has moments where it shines like a beacon in a true-crime mystery thriller novel, but the book also its downfalls. It can be at times a bit muddled and has a feel of brokenness. Whether this was the intent by King to make us feel like the investigators in the story is unbeknownst to the audience. Certainly this is a book worth reading.
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