Book: Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King
Genre: True Crime
Publisher: Broadway Paperbacks
Publication date: 2011
Summary: On a late winter day, about three months before the D-Day invasion, a grisly discovery was made in a building in the 16th arrondissement of Paris after neighbors reported a horrible smelling smoke. Men from the fire brigade broke into the mansion to find human remains burning in a coal stove and scattered throughout the basement. Further investigation uncovered more bodies and body parts culminating in a pit in the carriage house filled with “a revolting mix of quicklime and decomposing bodies of varying stages–the dumping ground, in effect of a veritable slaughterhouse.”
“Who was the killer?” is not the most interesting question in this macabre story. The real questions are “who are the victims?” and “why were they killed?” In Paris, in 1944, the answers to the last two questions are the difference between murders motivated by greed and killings justified, as best they can be, by the clandestine war fought by resisters to occupation. This book covers the investigation, trial, and historical record of the attempts to answer these questions.
Thoughts: I don’t read the true crime genre, but I was looking for a paperback book to take to France that I could read in bathtubs, hot tubs, and other wet and relaxed locations that I might encounter on my vacation where hardbacks and e-books aren’t appropriate. This book had the Eiffel Tower on the cover and was written by a historian. I figured this was as good as true crime gets with a setting and time period that appealed to me.
As it turned out, I learned a lot about what it was like to live in Nazi-occupied Paris and the months immediately following the war. I also learned why I don’t read true crime. I think you need to train your brain to remember what happens in the first part of the book, the investigation, so that you’re entertained by how the facts are revealed in the trial. Probably, watching lots of Law and Order episodes helps. I came away with more admiration of the true crime reader than I’ve had in the past, because I got lost in the midst of the book.
Fortunately, the descriptions of people, places, and events placed in the historical setting was as enlightening as I hoped it would be, adding a layer to my understanding of Paris on the days when I was walking the streets where the actions in this story took place almost 70 years ago.
Appeal: The most enthralled reader of Death in the City of Light by David King will love true crime, Paris, and history. But two out of three ain’t bad.
Challenges: This is my 11th book for the Books on France challenge of which I originally intended to read only three — and I’m still working on more!
I’m also linking this to Monday’s regular feature at An Accidental Blog: Dreaming of France. Paulita wrote of a country home she’s visited multiple times in France. Check her post for links to other France-themed posts this week.
Reviews: Kelly provided a much more in-depth look at this book at Bibliomantics: True Crime Alert: Kelly Reviews “Death in the City of Light” by David King. MK of Popcorn Reads requested the ARC of this book believing it to be a novel, but she ended up liking it anyway: Death in the City of Light by David King.
Have you read this book? What did you think?