Copy received through the Goodreads First Reads program.
I had never heard of Dr. Marcel Petoit until I entered this giveaway. I really wanted to like...moreCopy received through the Goodreads First Reads program.
I had never heard of Dr. Marcel Petoit until I entered this giveaway. I really wanted to like this book. The subject matter has "gripping" written all over it: Serial killers! The French Resistance! Nazis in Paris! And this story was biiiiig news. And not only in France! Author David King even references a story written in The Washington Post about Petoit's trial. Unfortunately, I found the book to be slow going. That's really unfortunate, because Petoit is darkly fascinating.
(view spoiler)[Petoit really was a medical doctor, and apparently pretty generous to those with little means. But was not only a doctor, but a disturbed electricity-stealing former mayor, among other things. And although he was officially accused of murdering 27 people, the real total might have been as high as 150! In addition to being numerous, the aftermath of Petoit's murders was pretty gruesome. It will be hard to erase the mental image of a basement full of bodies dissolving in lime. Although he claimed to be a hero of the Resistance who only "liquidated" members of the Gestapo, in reality many of his victims were Jews who were trying to escape Nazi Europe. Petoit ran a fake escape agency. Instead of getting a ticket to Argentina, would-be émigrés were murdered for profit.
Much of this book was repetitive, and despite a pretty respectable amount of fascinating details, a lot of the book didn't really seem to go anywhere. Puzzling over the triangular room in Petoit's charnel house, finding out about Petoit's odd behavior, and the victims' stories, which were essentially the same story over and over. Actually, this last one made sense--if Petoit had a system, and it worked, there would be no real reason to deviate. The courtroom scenes were fascinating, but a little confusing. I read in another review that the French court system is different than the American one. I agree it would have been nice to get an overview of that, because I was puzzled, not knowing the differences.
The oddly inserted side material read as forced and nonsensical. Why bother talking about Sartre and Camus when they don't factor into the main thread of the story? Yes, the interweaving of the serial killer and cultural events worked in The Devil in the White City, but it doesn't work here. It doesn't fit the main narrative, and adds nothing.
I feel this book would have been a lot better if it had been organized and streamlined a little better. It really does seem that King was trying to write the second The Devil in the White City, and that is too bad, because it trips the narrative up in some places. The title structure is even the same! Drop the second storyline, and tell the story in a more linear fashion, and there is great potential for a gripping true crime book. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The writing is dry, and it's pretty slow going, even though nearly half of the page count is footnotes! Regardless of that, this is an interesting lo...more
The writing is dry, and it's pretty slow going, even though nearly half of the page count is footnotes! Regardless of that, this is an interesting look at the history of native American populations and some of the major national parks, and the influence of the BIA and the NPS on the two. There's a lot of thought-provoking info to be found here, especially for those familiar with the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Olympic, Glacier, and Everglades park units.(less)
This is a readable, comprehensive overview of the early years of overland western emigration. A good choice for anyone looking to gain an understandin...moreThis is a readable, comprehensive overview of the early years of overland western emigration. A good choice for anyone looking to gain an understanding of this period in United States history.(less)
Erik Larson certainly knows how to write a history. He takes an unusual angle on a well-known subject and makes it seem like a new discovery.
When I le...moreErik Larson certainly knows how to write a history. He takes an unusual angle on a well-known subject and makes it seem like a new discovery.
When I learned about Hitler in school, or later when I would read histories of the era, the big question that I was never ever to answer was "How?" How did Hitler gain power so quickly? How did Germany let this happen? How did Europe let this happen? Why did appeasement seem like a good plan? Larson's book is the closest thing to an answer that I've ever gotten. How could Germany say no to prosperity and a renewed sense of legitimacy in th eyes of the world? And Hitler, a remarkably charismatic leader, could be quite reasonable-sounding when you met him in person.
Oh, sure, there was a darker side. Sometimes people you know would be questioned, or lose their job, or disappear... but if you looked the other way, everything was sunny and coming up roses. And it wasn't just Germany, either. When Willam Dodd became the U.S. ambassador to Germany and moved there with his family, his daughter Martha was especially enchanted with the "new Germany." That enchantment took quite a long time to wear off. Even though tererible things were happening in front of people's very eyes, each incident was written off as an anomoly. Even attacks on American citizens--I had never heard about this before, and I was very surprised.
Larson focuses largely on Ambassador Dodd and Martha. His wife and son (Bill, I think?) are barely mentioned. Dodd was more or less a laughingstock as an ambassador. He lived frugally, wasn't as into the social aspect of ambassadordom as usual, and broke protocol on a number of occasions. He was a historian, not a socialite. Martha was a bit of a scandal, and people gossiped about her. She was involved with several men, including a high-ranking Nazi official and a Russian member of the NKVD (a precursor to the more infamous KGB).
The scariest thing about this book is how absolutely normal everyday life seemed (for the most part) up until the Night of the Long Knives. Why didn't anyone stop the Nazi rise to power? Probably because no one expected things to go the way they did.
A very informative (and at times very disturbing) book about the history of communications over the past 100 years. Telephone, radio, movies, TV--they...moreA very informative (and at times very disturbing) book about the history of communications over the past 100 years. Telephone, radio, movies, TV--they've all followed a pattern that Wu calls The Cycle, morphing from new, experimental, Wild West-style technologies embraced by hobbyists to corporately controlled entities with restricted access.
Sound familiar? It should.
If you use the Internet, you should read this book. (If anyone's reading this review, I can safely guess that you use the Internet. Read the book.) It's also valuable for those who own a television, watch movies, tune in to the radio, or own any sort of product manufactured by Apple.(less)