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Review of Die in Paris by Marilyn Z Tomlins

french crime books

The Life and Crimes of Dr Marcel Petiot…

I must confess that when a friend contacted me to say she thought I would enjoy reading and reviewing a book called “Die in Paris” I was a little doubtful.

It is the true story of Dr Marcel Petiot – France’s most notorious serial killer and I admit that I’ve never heard of him. Serial killer books are not normally my thing but I do read every single book I’m sent to review so that I can give an honest informed opinion – even if it is only my own.

A weighty book of more than 400 pages arrived in the post and I started to read. In all honesty, the first chapter had me worried, it is very factual and full of detail about who discovered the gruesome scene at the Dr’s house in Paris, those who lived and worked in the road where the house was located, the policemen on duty etc. I carried on though and then I began to get really intrigued.

When the author Marilyn Tomlins started to introduce Dr. Petiot and his background, history and antics – the story reeled me in. The man was a manipulative, cunning killer who had absolutely no compunction about who he killed, from children to old people. Operating in a time of War, when Paris was occupied and when people were terrified of being caught doing anything that might attract the attention of the German forces in charge – this man carried out murders under the noses of everyone.

Marilyn spent two years researching every aspect of Dr Petiot’s life, times and crimes and her meticulous investigation is evident. She paints a picture of life in Paris under the Germans for ordinary people and this is necessary because when you read the story of Dr Petiot’s crimes it’s almost impossible to accept that he got away with it for so long unless you have that background detail. She tells about his early life when he was a soldier in the French Army of World War I and decorated for bravery – it helped him to pull the wool over the eyes of many. He was an intriguing character – calculating, controlling, unscrupulous, devious – all of those things, and yet he often treated patients for free if they were poor and many thought him a kindly and generous man. I think it was not from a sense of compassion but of omnipotence  – he thought he was above everyone else and smarter than them – and he very nearly was.

It is an incredible story of a man who committed atrocities for years and got away with it through cunning intelligence and a fine performance and he almost got away with it completely. Marilyn follows the court case where he is accused of killing a fraction of the number of people he is believed to have really murdered – thanks to his dedication in destroying the bodies. Her painstaking research makes for fascinating and compelling reading.

So, in conclusion, I’m not a fan of serial killer books but I really enjoyed this one, it does have gruesome descriptions but not gratuitous and it is a riveting story.

Read: Interview with Marilyn Z Tomlins

Read: Marilyn Tomlins’ intriguing ghostly story that inspired the book Die in Paris

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