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Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris (2011)

by David King

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7385026,273 (3.38)32
The gripping true story of a brutal serial killer who unleashed his own reign of terror in Nazi-occupied Paris. Dr. Marcel Petiot was eventually charged with 27 murders, although authorities suspected the total was considerably higher. The trial became a circus, and Petiot enjoyed the spotlight. A harrowing exploration of murder, betrayal, and evil of staggering proportions.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
an awesome book, but a total creepshow. I don't ever want to read it again. ( )
  kickthebeat | Nov 1, 2020 |
Death in the City of Light by David King A sordid true story that never really gets going and never really gets anywhere either.
Main characters just drift off in to the side stories and the never ending names can take a bit of following. The real villain of the story comes across not so much as a monster as a slightly misguided half decent bloke. If you get the chance, don't bother.What I did enjoy in this book though, was the description of life in Paris under the Third Reich. I had previously read a few things like the (unsanctioned) biography of CoCo Chanel and her fraternising during the occupation. It makes it sound slightly dodgy using that word but in reality she and lots of others were really on the Nazi side through and through. Bad things were done in full view and good folk turned their eyes away. English folk too were on that side including a fair chunk of the British Royal Family. Anti-Semitism was rife, Eugenics too, I bet it was an interesting time to be alive in and just bloody bad luck if you backed the wrong side.Personally, I don't judge anyone and I wonder what any human would do in those situations, what never ceases to amaze me is how simple it seems for all the rules of civilised society to just disappear so bloody quickly. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
very interesting. it never occurred to that people were killing jews, while pretending to send them to Argentina.
some parts of the book went on too long. PETIOT in hiding, the trial. ( )
  mahallett | May 24, 2020 |
This is a very unlikely but probably true story of Marcel Petiot, doctor, serial killer, mayor, thief, fraud, author and...by my guess, a psychopath.


This book follows him dashing through the annals of history, avoiding justice, getting caught and finally getting sentenced. Despite the high number of people he was convicted of killing - 26 - he probably killed more than that.

He claimed to have been a very high-ranked member of the French resistance and killed every single one of his victims as part of a very covert operation. Trouble was, his clinic-cum-torture-and-killing-chamber was not only filled with corpses upon his unveiling, but also with a lot of suitcases, clothes and jewellery belonging to his victims. Most of them are believed to have paid Petiot large sums of money to have them transported out of then nazi-occupied France. From the book:

Concealed in a cupboard in Petiot’s basement were some twenty-two toothbrushes, twenty-two bottles of perfume, twenty-two combs and pocket combs, sixteen cases of lipstick, fifteen boxes of face powder, and thirty-six tubes of makeup, mascara, and other beauty products. There were also ten scalpels, nine fingernail files, eight hand mirrors, eight ice bags, seven pairs of eyeglasses, six powder puffs, five cigarette holders, five gas masks, four pairs of tweezers, two umbrellas, a walking cane, a penknife, a pillowcase, a lighter, and a woman’s bathing suit.

What I deem to be psychopathic traits, were shown early in his youth but also during his military service; from the book:

After Petiot’s arrival, the unit began to enjoy an unaccustomed variety of dry sausages, cheeses, candy, wine, and other luxuries, no doubt obtained from daily and nightly foraging excursions. Petiot seemed to glow after each triumph. The soldier remembered one conversation about the morality of theft, Petiot arguing that it was completely natural. “How do you think that the great fortunes and colonies have been made? By theft, war, and conquest.” Then morality does not exist? No, Petiot answered, “it is the law of the jungle, always. Morality has been created for those who possess so that you do not retake the things gained from their own rapines.” Petiot would later claim that he learned a lot from war.

Before being captured for his crimes, but while being wanted by the authorities, Petiot not only claimed to be his brother while visiting the fresh crime-scene, but also posed as Captain Henri Valeri in order to discuss the case about the case...

[...] with the procureur de la république, who later said he had been impressed by Valeri’s thoroughness, energy, and command of the facts of the case. “It’s unbelievable,” Valeri’s secretary, Cécile Dylma, said to Inspectors Lucien Pinault and Émile Casanova, about learning the identity of her boss. “He’s a man so sweet, so calm. Captain Valeri has never shown a single act of anger towards us.” At the same time, she acknowledged that he declined most invitations and generally kept quiet about his private life. “To think that I have been alone with him in his office for a month,” Dylma said, “it makes me shudder.”

The way King has documented the trial of Petiot is well done, considering the undertaking; Petiot marshaled the whole thing as a ringmaster would his circus, but constantly staying manic and defiant throughout the entire process. He even made fans out of some in the audience and signed copies of his books during recess.

In the end, Petiot met his doom, but loads of questions still remain riddled throughout this case, regarding a man who at the time of his capture remained on a pension for a mentally disabled person. He was still working as a doctor at the time.

This is a quite astonishing tale, and King tells it well, without demonising Petiot too much; he seems to realise that just telling the facts is enough to amaze anybody who reads this book, and I've read quite a few books on serial killers. ( )
  pivic | Mar 20, 2020 |
You go into this book thinking it will be a book about a serial killer and finish the last page thinking about the veil of morality that covers acts of war. There were many times during the book that I found myself thinking that had the Nazis won the war, this man would have been left alone to do as he pleased. I also thought about his victims - Everyone who is forced to action during a war (either by conscience or by threat) is also forced to pick a side. If you pick the losing side, you are completely fucked in the end. You've got a 50-50 shot and sometimes the morality of the situation isn't clear.

So, there were a lot of bodies. It was wartime. I'm not sure how to qualify that.

The book was sort of confusing. But, I know next to nothing about France, so there were a lot of names and places that were unfamiliar to me. ( )
  rabbit-stew | Mar 29, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Kingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Amis, MartinCover photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hudz, TonyDirectorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michael, PaulNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zitt, DanExecutive producersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The gripping true story of a brutal serial killer who unleashed his own reign of terror in Nazi-occupied Paris. Dr. Marcel Petiot was eventually charged with 27 murders, although authorities suspected the total was considerably higher. The trial became a circus, and Petiot enjoyed the spotlight. A harrowing exploration of murder, betrayal, and evil of staggering proportions.

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Average: (3.38)
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