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

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,631 Ratings  ·  686 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, r ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Crown Publishing Group (first published January 1st 2011)
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When you decided to read this book it is important to realize that this is a work of nonfiction. Although a verdict was reached at the trial, there remain numerous unanswered questions. The author has scrupulously investigated all the known facts and clearly presents them to the reader. Througout the book he made evident what is known fact and what is speculation. In the epilogue he presents his own speculations concerning the questions that remain unanswered. I appre
Moira Russell
This was really quite good. Unsettling, but good. It's one of the v few true crime nonfiction books I've read (and, dear God, I have read TOO MANY of those) which didn't feel at all exploitive - unlike The Devil in the White City which I couldn't finish reading (will try again -- just not -- now....). While City explicitly, and often heavy-handedly, contrasted the idea of Modern Technological Progress with H. H. Holmes' horrible murder house, the hook for this story is, here's a serial killer in ...more
Pamela Huxtable
Ultimately, a bit disappointing.

How could you go wrong with all these elements? A serial killer in Nazi controlled Vichy France, who claims to be part of the French Resistance, executing informants - and it's a true story!

King's narrative never really finds a good stride, and he takes many a detour and digression on the way through the discovery, investigation, and trial of Dr. Petiot, the serial killer of the title. Some digressions - such as details about the lives of Sartre, Camus, and Picas
Jul 02, 2013 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Putting the "meh" in "dénouement"

I really wanted to enjoy "Death in the City of Light." It certainly *looked* intriguing; German-occupied 1940s Paris is not your customary setting for a true crime thriller. Unfortunately author David King couldn't quite deliver a finish that lived up to the pursuit of fugitive doctor Marcel Petiot as he tried to evade French authorities following the discovery of dozens of bodies in and around his Paris townhouse.

By filling the first part of his novel with the
Let me start this off by commenting on true-crime in general. While I find the subject interesting, I usually don't read books like this -- it feels wrong, being entertained by another person's misery and misfortune. But, for whatever reason, historical crime writing is somehow "okay" for me. Current crime = no, historical crime = okay. It's weird, and probably hypocritical, but there it is.

I was really interested in reading this book -- I think I even bought it as a pre-order on Amazon. I had j
Jaclyn Day
One of my strangest guilty pleasures is reading true crime nonfiction. (Brandon calls me the “black widow.”) I think there’s a part of all of us that is fascinated by the extent to which people can snap and do insane, unthinkable things.

The serial killer in this book, Dr. Marcel Petiot, is a particularly nasty case of crazy. The authorities weren’t sure exactly how many people fell victim to him—the number ranges from 27 to over 100—and the cause of death has never been determined either. (Theor
Charlene Intriago
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brian Kelley
On the one hand I am tempted to suggest that it is comforting to learn another culture screws up high-profile cases too. On the other hand, the surreal circumstances of serial killer Marcel Petiot are too astonishing not to know--for seventeen years I've taught a WWII unit as a companion piece to a month with the Diary of Anne Frank. My students not only read Anne's diary but they self-select two other books of interest about the period. In all of my digging through fiction and nonfiction, poetr ...more
Apr 18, 2012 Taylor rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was a mess. I'm not sure what book the Booklist guy was reading, but it wasn't the same one I was. For an author who boasts that he access to records about the killer, Dr. Petiot, from both the German and French Governments, he really had nothing to say from them. There is no definative answer about whether the Doctor was actually a Nazi spy, or part of the French Resistance, and more importantly, the author didn't seem to try and find out. World War II wasn't that long ago-there are p ...more
Jul 25, 2014 Jeanette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an outstanding non-fiction account; I almost gave it 5 stars. And it could also demand a review that would go on for 3 or 4 full pages. It encompasses so much of the knot of both Nazi and Resistance authorities in subversion and clash with each other BEYOND the war-time CITY criminal behavior of neither faction, the "picture" is never clear. Not who belongs where, or who is in the "know" to whom. It's like looking at 150 or more characters through the multi-lens eye of a fly to try and d ...more
Karen Wellsbury
The story is so fascinating, and compelling that I got lost in this book a couple of times.
It took me a very long tine to read, because I went backwards and forwards checking things and looking up stuff on the internet.

Great and thought provoking
May 01, 2014 Simon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's a book about a French doctor who lured people into a secret chamber in a more or less abandoned mansion in the heart of Paris during the Occupation, killed them there (we never learn exactly how, which while not exactly the author's fault, does not make it easier at the end of the book) while peering through a peephole at them, then went on the lam, was caught, tried, and executed. It's a book in which the reader discovers that every single gangster in France apparently has an alias ("Guill ...more
Rob Kitchin
This book is a fairly pedestrian affair, setting out the main features of the case, the investigation and the trial. Despite having access for the first time to the classified French files, it is unclear what new insights King brings to the story. And despite the focus on Petiot, he remains somewhat an enigma as there are still so many holes to his biography and very little concerning his motives, other than broad speculation. The narrative also suffers from some odd asides. For example, the mat ...more
May 22, 2012 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, when I was walking through the bookstore, looking for something good to read and came upon a true crime book that not only was about a serial killer, but was about a serial killer during the Nazi Occupation of France during World War II, I practically did a little dance in the book aisle. Overall, I am really glad that I picked up this book. It cured my need to read something about a serial killer, preferably someone no one has really talked or heard about, and it was actually a really fun r ...more
Noran Miss Pumkin
Disappointment!!! In 400 plus pages, I would like some of the numerous historical loose ends that the authors writes about, would be tied up at the end. NO!!! Was the killer killing for his own personal gain, or did he just enjoy killing and slicing, Was was a with the Resistance, The Nazi, the Comies?!?! All of them or none of them. Where did all the wealth go to? some of it had to be traceable. I was led along an enticing path, only to be disappointed.

I hiked for miles, on a high school band
Derek Davis
Another dull serial killer book. How do they do that?

This one involves a physician who, during the period of Nazi occupation in Paris, lured rich Jews and French gangsters with the promise of using the Resistance to aid their escape to Argentina. Instead, he gassed them in a little triangular room, chopped them up, tossed the parts into a lime pit or his woodstove and used the money gleaned to buy real estate and art works.

Marcel Petoit was not a nice man, but a witty one, who jousted with judg
Paul Pessolano
“Death in the City of Light” by David King, published by Crown Publishing.

Category – True Crime/History

In 1944, with the German Army occupying Paris, a grim discovery was made in a building owned by Dr. Marcel Petiot. Neighbors alerted police to an awful smell coming from the house and the police found human remains in the building. The bodies were dismembered and the smell originated from two coal stoves where some of the remains were being burned. It was also discovered that there were many mo
Jason Reeser
Jan 01, 2013 Jason Reeser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David King's look at the mystery of Marcel Petiot and his Parisian "Little Shop of Horrors" is fascinating, to be sure. If you enjoy books about Paris, and true crime, you cannot find a more interesting subject. Not only is this a true crime story, it is laced with World War II history, since the Nazi Occupation of Paris frames the case. In fact, it tangles up the courtroom drama, and muddies up the French Prosecution.
The serial killer known as "The Monster of Rue le Sueur" may just be the most
Lolly's Library (Dork Kettle)
During the years of Nazi occupation of Paris, Marcel Petiot, a seemingly respectable doctor, murdered an unknown number of people. Was he a German sympathizer, using his own form of a "final solution" on innocent Jews who merely wanted to escape the city? Was he a member of the French resistance, acting as judge and executioner towards those he saw as friendly towards the Nazi occupiers? Or was he merely a cunning sociopath who took advantage of the chaos of the times to inflict as much horror a ...more
Mar 16, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This enthralling book begins with the investigation of a revolting smell emanating from a house in Paris in 1944. Although the city, under occupation, has already seen endless suffering the gruesome discoveries within the house shocked even wartime Paris. Inside there were body parts in the basement, a lime pit full of bodies and a soundproofed room which resembles a torture chamber. The house belonged to a doctor - Marcel Petiot - who briefly put in an appearance to claim he worked for the resi ...more
Terri Lynn
When the Nazis and Gestapo call you a "dangerous madman", you have to be pretty bad! This book covers the case of a very unusual serial killer who was also a doctor and at one time a mayor. His name is Dr. Marcel Petiot and this book tells the true story of his brutal reign of terror over the citizens of Paris and other areas of France before and during the occupation by the Germans.

Historian David King had access to trial materials and the complete police dossier. He also did very thorough a
Ronald Roseborough
This book presents a very detailed look at a part of history that took a back seat to the World War raging through out the 1940's. With all the death and destruction occurring in France attributable to the war, it is almost unimaginable that a serial killer ran amok in Paris at this time already so filled with sorrow and misery. French citizens were under constant scrutiny during the occupation from many sources including German military, German Gestapo, spies, French Gestapo, French Resistance, ...more
Nancy Oakes
Absolutely enjoyed this book and I can't wait for the author's next one. Here's a short review; for a longer one, click on through.

First, a thank you to Crown for the ARC of this book, and an apology for taking so long to get to it.

On March 11, 1944, the air on the rue Le Sueur was filled with thick black smoke, smelling of "burnt caramel, burnt rubber, or a burnt roast of poor quality." The smoke had been coming out of a townhouse at number 21, and had been going for five days, but on that d
Patrice Hoffman
This was a pretty interesting read for me so thanks for the Goodreads giveaway that introduced me to this topic. I've never read a true-crime book before this one. I appreciate all the research that went into this. The book is about a crazy, sadistical nutcase named Dr. Marcel Petiot. This man's crimes were atrocious, evil, and gross. This book is pretty descriptive in that aspect.

I really enjoyed how the author would contrast the story of Petiot with what else was happening in Nazi occupied Pa
Aug 02, 2011 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
While Paris (and the world) is distracted by WWII, serial killer Marcel Petiot begins murdering and dismembering at least 26 people (but possibly as many as 150). The doctor not only killed patients, but set up a fake escape network for Jews in which they were lured to his little murder factory, executed, and he kept the valuables they were attempting to flee Nazi-occupied Paris with.

The subject matter of this book is fascinating in a dark, disturbing way, which is why I am giving it four stars
Erin Forson
Dec 12, 2011 Erin Forson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi Occupied Germany
by David King
This book left me feeling…
like my fingers couldn’t Google the name Dr. Marcel Petiot, the serial killer, fast enough.
Story Line
This is a work of non-fiction that reads like a story, which is fantastic, because I read little non-fiction and often hesitate to pick up a dreary, fact-laden read. Set in Nazi-Occupied France, the author braids in details of Dr. Petiot’s gruesome killings and dismemberments of at least 2
Aug 28, 2011 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
It's possible that true crime just isn't my thing. I'm on p. 153, and I'm giving up because I've been bored for the last 130 pages.

The writing style is more "history" than thriller, and the author clearly did a lot of research. Overall, King is a reasonably good author, although he ends far to many sections with the same formula: "He would soon have good reason to be skeptical", "He would soon learn that there were many more", "The police would soon have an answer, and it was not what he expecte
Aug 17, 2011 fleegan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What’s this? A serial killer? Paris? and Nazis? I’m in.

This historical true crime book reads like a novel, and is so facinating I couldn’t put it down. Mr. King writes about Dr. Marcel Petiot and how he prentended to work for the French Resistance during the Nazi Occupation of Paris. He would trick people (read: Jews) into thinking he was helping them get out of the country and then he would kill them and steal their money. People think he was responsible for at least one hundred murders during
During the Nazi occupation of Paris, a demonic serial killer was at work. When discovered, Paris investigators uncovered a tangled web of intrigue involving a respected physician, underworld figures, Gestapo connections, French Resistance fighters, Jewish refugees, and much more. David King's meticulous research draws the reader into the investigation and subsequent trial of one of the most cunning criminals and famous criminal trials in French history. This book is not for the squeamish--but it ...more
Jul 25, 2014 Brenda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A serial killer in Paris hides his nefarious deeds by melting into the chaos of the Nazi occupation.

The book opens with the discovery of a human slaughter house in the heart of Paris. A thick black smoke had gone up over a property belonging to Dr Marcel Petiot and his neighbours called in to the fire department, fearing his building was about to go up in flames. From there, the author, David King, traces the life of Dr. Petiot alongside the rise of Nazi Germany and it's occupation of Paris. Kin
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David King is the author of "Finding Atlantis", "Vienna 1814", and, most recently, "Death in the City of Light".
A Fulbright Scholar with a master's degree from Cambridge University, King taught European history at the University of Kentucky before becoming a full-time writer.
More about David King...

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“How do you think that the great fortunes and colonies have been made? By theft, war, and conquest.”

“Then morality does not exist?”

“No,” Dr. Marcel Andre Henri Felix 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.”
“Wives of criminals, Massau later reflected, were indeed an interesting lot. There are those who, real panthers in madness, defend their men with claws out; there are the cold and insensitive ones, who wrestling step by step, discuss each argument and answer your questions with other questions; there are the stubborn ones who can pass the entire night in total silence against the light of the interrogation; there are still others, who, shaken and in distress, discover as you do that they have lived for years beside a monster.” 1 likes
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