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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2011 Paul Michael (P)2011 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“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)
“A gripping story…this fascinating, often painful account combines a police procedural with a vivid historical portrait of culture and law enforcement in Nazi-occupied France.”(Publishers Weekly)
“Gripping….expertly written and completely absorbing” Kirkus Reviews)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Full face masks and other details

While I enjoy an information-packed historical horror as much as the next person, this way REALLY LONG and could have been better had it been edited. Also, I love me some Law & Order SVU, but there were many long, graphic descriptions that I struggled with. It is an interesting book, but not great. I was generous with the review because it wasn't out and out terrible (see my review of Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter if you want to read about a truly terrible book).

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  • Story

We expected it to read more like a story.

It was good material but it was written full of dry, dull boring facts. It was not arranged in such a way as to keep the interesty.

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  • Story
  • Katherine
  • olympia, WA, United States
  • 11-07-11

long and boring

the story goes into to much history of WWII and not enough detail for the serial killer

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  • Story
  • Charles
  • Marlton, NJ, United States
  • 10-26-11

A Captivating Story/History Lesson

A fascinating mystery set in the backdrop of occupied France in WWII. As an avid reader of WWII history, I was completely unaware that these events actually took place. The book is well written but does often times delve into great levels of detail. It also describes the general attitudes of the French towards their German occupiers but also their attitude toward each other after the end of the war in 1945, another area with which I was unfamiliar. I chose the audio version of the book and I am very happy I did as I would have found trying to pronounce all of the French names frustrating. A highly interesting story. Definitely recommended.

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  • levi
  • clovis, CA, United States
  • 10-21-11

Facinating story of a little known mad man

I read audio books for two reasons: to learn and to be entertained. This book does both. I had never heard this story, even though I have read many books about world war II and about true crime. I came across this book by accident when I was ordering an Eric Larson book. Just like Larson, in books such as "Devil in the White City", this author uses the backdrop of History as he tells the story of a mad man. Also like Larson, he is able to keep the reader yearning for more with every chapter. The narration is terrific. I usually prefer the narrator to just read the darned book, without too much dramatic interpratation. The fact that this narrator, however, speaks using the French and German accents when quoting really brings the story to life. I love this book, and look forward to reading more books by this author.

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  • David
  • Oakland, CA, United States
  • 10-21-11

Interesting story, rambling tale

If it weren't for the fact that this is such a compelling and interesting story, the book would be dull and rambling. It was an amusing story despite the author. I stopped listening with about half an hour left.

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  • Story

I should have read the reviews!

What a boring list of people and places w/o any real story. I tried and tried to listen to this book, but it began to feel like work so I stopped.

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  • Story

EXCITING AND ENGROSSING STORY OF MADNESS AND EVIL

A little known tale that highlight the evil and greediness of mankind kept me enthralled from beginning to end. A must read for all WWII history buffs and those who value justice.

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  • Philip
  • Thousand Oaks, CA, United States
  • 10-09-11

Bored To Death

I was surprised that such a potentially interesting subject could be so easily turned into a pile of boring mush. There was no tension, no suspense and no drama . . . though the narrator's cheesy French accents were occasionally entertaining.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Not quite as described but...

I enjoyed this book. It did have its dry moments, but overall it was a good listen. This is a good one to listen to as long as there isn't anything else commanding your attention as it has a large number of facts introduced in clumps.

I was not a fan of the French voices the author gave the people, I understand it takes place in France, but it would have been easier to understand, and less choppy, if he had just kept the same accent through the entire book. It made them into caricatures.

I found it interesting that you knew he did the murders from the beginning. It made the book interesting to see the twists and turns and deceptive traits of Petiot throughout the entire investigation and trial.