As everyone knows, WWII certainly has its share of horror stories, and I thought I had heard most of them. Thus, I was intrigued when I came across David King's meticulously researched account of real-world French serial killer, Marcel Petiot, who terrorized Nazi-occupied Paris, taking advantage of the tumultuous atmosphere for his own nefarious intentions. Having been born long after the 1940's, and being unaware of this larger-than-life demonic criminal, I was fascinated. Petiot cleverly exploited the conditions in Paris under Nazi occupation, and he caused the horrific death of many who were already suffering so terribly at the hands of the Germans.
"Death in the City of Light" reads easily, and it is by no means a dry courtroom drama. That sense of being aware that something terrible is happening, yet finding myself unable to look away, is a feeling that builds throughout this compelling book, which includes photographs of the crime scene and of the farcical jury trial that followed. Petiot's disturbing countenance stares out from several of the images, and details of his intelligence and charm reminded me of that fictional counterpart, Hannibal Lechter.
But, knowing that this madman was real makes the story that much more gripping, and his placement in one of the darkest times in modern European history made this read a captivating one. I highly recommend it.