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Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Parisby David King
Synopses & Reviews
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, René 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.
"In 1944, when Parisian police entered a mansion littered with dismembered, rotting bodies, they thought of the Gestapo, but it turned out to be a purely French affair. Historian King (Vienna 1914) has mined the resulting global media circus (not only in France; Time magazine covered it) and extensive official records to tell a gripping story. The villain was a textbook psychopath, Dr. Marcel Petiot: a charming but heartless liar. Despite spending 20 years in and out of police courts, he won elections to local offices in the provinces only to be dismissed for petty crimes. Moving to Paris, he sold narcotics to addicts under the guise of treatment. During the German occupation, he offered to smuggle people out of France, murdering them when they arrived for the journey carrying their valuables. He went to the guillotine proclaiming himself (despite overwhelming evidence) a resistance hero, who killed only Nazis and collaborators. This fascinating, often painful account combines a police procedural with a vivid historical portrait of culture and law enforcement in Nazi-occupied France. Illus. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Gripping...expertly written and completely absorbing." Kirkus Reviews
"One of history's most macabre bouts of serial killing....David King, the author of Vienna 1814, has more than just fresh eyes and imaginative speculation to power his revisiting of this long-forgotten true crime." New York Times
"If you like true crime, put this book at the top of your reading list....An exceptional piece of crime reporting backed by a gut-wrenching narrative that is masterful, haunting, and an incredible literary achievement." King Features Syndicate
"Unprecedented detail....The detail with which King explores the story is aided by the fact that not only did he have access to trial materials, including a stenographic record no one thought existed, but also the complete police dossier, which had been classified since the investigation began." Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"A page-turning, detective/manhunt/courtroom drama...King tells it with the skill of the best police and courtroom beat reporters, mixed with the sweeping eye of a social historian." Lexington Herald-Leader
"A new masterpiece of true crime writing...the most startling impression left by Death in the City of Light is of Paris itself, confronting the bestiality lurking behind its supremely civilized facade, and of the handful of Parisiennes who tried to serve justice in spite of it." Salon.com
"Required reading." New York Post
"Weirdly fascinating." Bloomberg.com
"This nonfiction account tracks the extensive manhunt and sensationalized trial of Dr. Marcel Petiot, who lured his victims by promising them safe passage out of Nazi-occupied Paris. King gained access to classified French police files in order to re-create this story of terror against the chaotic backdrop of war." Goodreads September 2011 Movers & Shakers list
"Erik Larson's tour de force of narrative nonfiction hasn't been matched — until now....While this work is painstaking in its research, it still has the immediacy and gasp power of a top-notch thriller. True-crime at its best." Booklist (starred review)
"Gripping...expertly written and completely absorbing" Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"David King's anticipated crime history." NPR.org
As the Nazi war machine caused death and destruction throughout Europe, one man in the Fatherland began his own reign of terror.
This is the true story of the pursuit and capture of a serial killer in the heart of the Third Reich.
For all appearances, Paul Ogorzow was a model German. An employed family man, party member, and sergeant in the infamous Brownshirts, he had worked his way up in the Berlin railroad from a manual laborer laying track to assistant signalman. But he also had a secret need to harass and frighten women. Then he was given a gift from the Nazi high command.
Due to Allied bombing raids, a total blackout was instituted throughout Berlin, including on the commuter trainsand#151;trains often used by women riding home alone from the factories.
Under cover of darkness and with a helpless flock of victims to choose from, Ogorzowand#8217;s depredations grew more and more horrific. He escalated from simply frightening women to physically attacking them, eventually raping and murdering them. Beginning in September 1940, he started casually tossing their bodies off the moving train. Though the Nazi party tried to censor news of the attacks, the women of Berlin soon lived in a state of constant fear.
It was up to Wilhelm Land#252;dtke, head of the Berlin policeand#8217;s serious crimes division, to hunt down the madman in their midst. For the first time, the gripping full story of Ogorzowand#8217;s killing spree and Land#252;dtkeand#8217;s relentless pursuit is told in dramatic detail.
About the Author
David King is the author of the acclaimed Vienna, 1814 and Finding Atlantis. A Fulbright Scholar with a master's degree from Cambridge University, he taught European history at the University of Kentucky for several years. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky with his wife and children.
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