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

Death in the City of LightWhile the Nazis occupied France from 1940-1944, Dr. Marcel Petiot was engaging in his own “final solution.” This true crime expose delves into what was one of France’s most notorious and prolific serial murderers, Dr. Petiot having killed an estimated 27 to as many as 150 men, women, and children in a three-year time span.

Though perceived as gentle, kind, and generous by those who thought they knew him, he in fact only posed as a liberator for Jews hoping to escape occupied France to find sanctuary in South America. Insisting that these hopefuls bring their possessions to him for safe keeping and submit to an injection that would keep them safe from foreign diseases, Petiot instead killed his victims and kept their possessions amounting in the end to thousands, if not millions, of dollars worth of furniture, clothing, furs, and jewelry.

As a doctor, Petiot was quite adroit at dismembering his victims, burning them in a coal fire in the basement of a second home, and then depositing the remains in the courtyard and covering them with lime to disguise the smell. When this house of horrors caught fire one night, the police discovered thousands of human bone fragments along with remaining hair and even some skin still not burned or decomposed.

Author David King weaves Petiot’s actions and his court hearings in with the Nazi occupation and final expulsion from France, showing clearly the extreme measures humans are capable of exacting on their fellow man. A riveting choice for book clubs interested in history and true crime.

Crown/Random House; ISBN 978-0-30745-289-4; $26.

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