Death in the City of Light
- Written by David King

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

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, the head of the Brigade Criminelle, was tasked with tracking down the elusive murderer in a twilight world of Gestapo, gangsters, resistance fighters, pimps, prostitutes, spies, and other shadowy figures of the Parisian underworld.

The main suspect was Dr. Marcel Petiot, a handsome, charming physician with remarkable charisma. He was the "People's Doctor," known for his many acts of kindness and generosity, not least in providing free medical care for the poor. Petiot, however, would soon be charged with twenty-seven murders, though authorities suspected the total was considerably higher, perhaps even as many as 150.

Who exactly was being slaughtered, and why? Was Petiot a sexual sadist, as the press suggested, killing for thrills? Was he allied with the Gestapo, or, on the contrary, the French Resistance? Or did he work for no one other than himself? Trying to solve the many mysteries of the case, Massu would unravel a plot of unspeakable deviousness.


"A new masterpiece of true crime writing . . . just shy of setting a new standard for the form."


More Praise for
Death in the
City of Light

When Petiot was finally arrested, the French police hoped to have some answers.

But the trial soon became a circus. Attempting to try all twenty-seven cases at once, the prosecution stumbled in its marathon cross-examinations, and Petiot, enjoying the spotlight, responded with an astonishing ease. His attorney, René Floriot, a rising star in the world of criminal defense, also effectively, if aggressively, countered the charges. Soon, despite a team of prosecuting attorneys, dozens of witnesses, and over one ton of evidence, Petiot's brilliance and wit threatened to win the day.

Drawing extensively on many new sources, including complete access to the massive, classified French police file on Dr. Petiot, Death in the City of Light is a brilliant evocation of Nazi-Occupied Paris and a harrowing exploration of murder, betrayal, and evil of staggering proportions.

Dr. Petiot was accused of masterminding what Commissaire Massu called "the most dreadful criminal
plot that I have ever seen."

  Available as hardback, ebook, kindle, nook, mp3 download, and unabridged audiobook.

“One of history's most macabre bouts of serial killing . . . David King, the author of Vienna 1814 , has more than just fresh eyes and imaginative speculation to power his revisiting of this long-forgotten true crime . . . he gained access to the extensive police records of the case, which had been classified for six decades.”

-The New York Times

“If you like true crime, put this book at the top of your reading list. Death in the City of Light is the gripping rapid-fire suspense story of one of the most terrifying serial killers ever, a man that few of us have ever heard of . . . An exceptional piece of crime reporting backed by a gut-wrenching narrative that is masterful, haunting, and an incredible literary achievement.”

-King Features Syndicate

“As compelling as a thriller and hauntingly grim.”

-Sunday Times (London)

You won't read many better true crime books.”

-London Evening Standard

“A story of two different types of evil, one against the backdrop of the other, this is a must for those who addictively consume the fact-fiction thrillers of Erik Larson and Ben McIntyre.”

-Daily Mail (London)

“Engrossing and atmospheric . . . true crime noir at its best.”

-Book Browse, Editor's Choice

“Erik Larson's tour de force of narrative nonfiction hasn't been matched – until now . . . While this work is painstaking in its research, it still has the immediacy and gasp power of a top notch thriller. True crime at its best.”

-Booklist (Starred)

“Gripping . . . Expertly written and completely absorbing.”

-Kirkus Reviews (Starred)

“A gripping story . . . this fascinating, often painful account combines a police procedural with a vivid historical portrait of culture and law enforcement in Nazi-occupied France.”

-Publishers Weekly (Starred)

A new masterpiece of true crime writing . . . just shy of setting a new standard for the form.”


“A story of almost incomprehensible madness, a uniquely disturbing chapter in wartime history . . . richly reported and engagingly written.”

-The Daily Beast

“King's admirably clear-headed account puts what's known in context, filling out the narrative with verbatim police-report dialogue to create a compelling portrait of Occupation-era France.”

-The Onion's AV Club

“Required reading.”

-New York Post

“A mass murderer even the Gestapo found creepy . . . [King's] descriptions of the underworld are fascinating and I appreciated his attention to detail.”

-San Francisco Chronicle

“Unprecedented detail . . . The detail with which King explores the story is aided by the fact that not only did he have access to trial materials, including a stenographic record no one thought existed, but also the complete police dossier, which had been classified since the investigation began.”

-Seattle Post Intelligencer

“Fans of Erik Larson will revel in this account . . . David King had access to previously unavailable documents and his account of the manhunt and farcical trial, which makes the O.J Simpson case seem a model of juridical probity, is funny and macabre.”

-The Globe and Mail

“Very sinister . . . through an ocean of impressive research, he has successfully added another horrid chapter to a period of time that can scarcely afford another horrid chapter.”

-Toronto Star

“Expertly told”


“Beyond chilling.”

-New York Daily News



“Gripping story of true crime . . . Reads like a thriller.”

-Cleveland Plain-Dealer

“At the very least, this story would make a fine true-crime drama. But in the hands of historian David King, a masterful story weaver, it is much more.”

-Star Tribune

“An intriguing tale, highlighted by an intrepid French detective and courtroom drama.”

-Christian Science Monitor

“Grisly and gruesome”

-The Chronicle Herald

“At its heart, King's book is a page-turning, detective/manhunt/courtroom drama . . . and King tells it with the skill of the best police and courthouse beat reporters, mixed with the sweeping eye of a social historian.”

-Lexington Herald-Leader

“Meticulously researched page-turner . . . This outstanding work of true-crime writing has its own place in the pantheon of the genre. You'll be up long into the night, unwilling to put this one down.”

-Louisville Courier-Journal

Death in the City of Light is a thrilling masterwork of archival research, popular history and true crime.”


“A well-placed narrative . . . sweeping cast of characters reflecting the moral, political, and personal tangles in Paris that the Nazi occupation fostered.”

-The Scotsman

“If you like Erik Larson, especially the 2003 bestseller The Devil in the White City , you will appreciate King's latest tome.”

-ABC Local, Australia

“Grisly . . . Compelling and extremely well-researched.”

-Edmonton Journal

“David King gives us a story that is part history, part true crime, part thriller, and thoroughly enjoyable. . . . full of twists and turns worthy of classic detective stories.

-New York Journal of Books

“One of history's most gruesome serial killers.”

-The Daily Mirror (London)
in a feature on the book

“David King, acclaimed author of Finding Atlantis , draws extensively from many new sources, including the massive, classified police file on Dr. Petiot, to create a gripping, page-turning narrative of the riveting murder investigation and subsequent trial that rocked wartime France.”

-Book-of-the-Month Club

“Historian David King specialises in grand and gripping non-fiction thrillers with a twist of chaos.”

-South China Morning Post

“A thriller, in every sense of the word . . . a book that will keep you occupied for days and awake for as many nights . . . A blockbuster of a book!”

-Pattaya Mail, Thailand

“An exemplary book.”

-Il Venerdì di Repubblica

“There's a very short list of books about serial killers that manage to be both creepy and smart. David King's compelling story of the murderous Marcel Petiot, Death in the City of Light , belongs high on this list. It's a story of dark deeds and dark times wonderfully illuminated by its insights not only into the behavior of human beings at their worst but also at their best, a recognition of the steadfast courage that eventually brings evil to an end.”

-Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

“David King is that rarest of rara avises, a masterful historian who also knows how to tell a ripping good story. I can't get enough of this marvelous, riveting book.”

-Ed McClanahan, author of The Natural Man , Famous People I've Known , and I Just Hitched In from the Coast

“David King's anticipated crime history.”


“David King turns his unprecedented and unfettered access to declassified police files into a mesmerizing read. . . King lays it all out in a way that combines psychological character study with the crime story.”


“A remarkable portrait of Paris under the Nazi occupation and just after the war . . . With the strengths of a novelist, King's book reads like a great thriller.”

-Deseret News

“King has some new evidence and presents as full a recounting as we are going to get. It is an exciting, bizarre, and macabre tale, told with just the right amount of detail and explanation . . . a significant contribution to the history of the Occupation.”

-The Dispatch

“A riveting choice for book clubs interested in history and true crime.”

-Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends, and Foundations, Book Club Choice

“I think fans of the television show Law and Order , especially those interested in factual, historical mysteries, would really love this book.”

-Criminal Element

“This extraordinary true story illuminates one of the grimmest crimes of the last century . . . a true story as absorbing, gripping, and shocking as fiction.”

-The Crime Vault

“A fine piece of narrative nonfiction . . . Great on gripping historical and cultural details. Fiction-lovers, you, too, will love this book because it reads like the most fascinating of mystery novels.”

-Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pennsylvania

“If you enjoyed Devil in the White City, you will surely enjoy Death in the City of Light.”

-Warwick's Books, La Jolla California

“Quite fascinating! Delve into the mind of a psychotic killer in the midst of Nazi-occupied Paris . . . Very absorbing in history and crime”

-Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Washington

“One of the best historical serial killer stories you're likely to ever hear.”

-Barnes & Noble Book Club True Blood

“King tells the story with grace and clarity . . . King's book is more than a thriller. It's a man-on-the-street tour of German-held Paris, a cinematic glimpse both of life under Hitler's dreaded Gestapo and the Resistance movement that helped bring an end to its reign of terror.”

-Erickson Tribune

“We love books that make us feel like we're reading a suspenseful, slash-and-burn true crime paperback but that possess a depth, insight, and style that are memorable . . . Consider us fans of the books on this week's list that manage to pull it off.”

-Kirkus' List of 10 Crazy (But Undeniably True) Stories, Huffington Post

“An absolutely gripping story . . . Anyone who has an interest in the history of Paris during World War II and enjoys a good thriller that captures your interest to its stunning conclusion will love this book.”

-The Cairns Post, Australia

Death in the City of Light by David King has to be one of the most frightening things I have ever read.”

-Book Lounge, Canada

Death in the City of Light is one of the most cogent examinations of pure evil that I have read.”

- Northside, PW Bookseller of the Year