A delicious account of a murder most gallic - think CSI Paris meets Georges Simenon - whose lurid comibation of sex, brutality, forensics, and hypnotism riveted first a nation and then the world.
Little Demon in the City of Light is the thrilling - and so wonderfully French - story of a gruesome 1889 murder of a lascivious court official at the hands of a ruthless con man and his pliant mistress and the international manhunt, sensational trial, and an inquiry into the limits of hypnotic power that ensued.
In France at the end of the 19th century a great debate raged over the question of whether someone could be hypnotically compelled to commit a crime in violation of his or her moral convictions. When Toussaint-Augustin Gouffé entered 3, rue Tronson du Coudray, he expected nothing but a delightful assignation with the comely young Gabrielle Bompard. Instead, he was murdered - hanged! - by her and her companion Michel Eyraud. The body was then stuffed in a trunk and dumped on a riverbank near Lyon.
As the inquiry into the guilt or innocence of the woman the French tabloids dubbed the "Little Demon" escalated, the most respected minds in France debated whether Gabrielle Bompard was the pawn of her mesmerizing lover or simply a coldly calculating murderess. And, at the burning center of it all: Could hypnosis force people to commit crimes against their will?
©2014 Steven Levingston (P)2014 Blackstone Audio
"This is an amazing tale of sex and hypnosis and murder in Paris, and it’s all true. Levingston has produced both a ‘mesmerizing’ crime story and also a fascinating look at science and society in the late 19th century." (Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs)
"Vividly conjuring a sweeping cast of characters who reflect the lusty excess and dark anxieties of the times, Little Demon in the City of Light paints a lavish portrait of Belle Époque Paris while unfurling one of the most compelling murder trials in the city’s history. With penetrating insight and radiant style, Steven Levingston has crafted a mesmerizing true story." (Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City and American Rose)
I was hoping this book would live up to the premise of discussing more the two sides of the early debates of Hypnotism's role in crime. There is certainly discussion of this but it's really only about 10% of the book. The book is more just a murder story - and not a good one at that. "Murder of the Century" was vastly better.
I will say, on an audiobook level, the narrator was fantastic. Great French accent, great differentiation in tone and pace at the right times.
Levingston tells the true story of a murder at a time when psychology was just beginning to emerge into a separate discipline. There are many historical figures of interest, such as Charcot. The story holds its suspense. Very satisfying.
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