It’s extremely rare that I start a book and don’t finish it. Call it what you will, I just can’t stand not knowing the ending of even a very very bad book. Blogging about the books I read has only reinforced this pre-existing neuroticism.
So about a third of the way through Death in the City of Light, I found myself in a pickle. I received an advanced reading copy DitCoL as part of a prepublication promotion, but such is the state of my reading list that I got around to it well after the finished copy had been released. Therefore, take anything I write here with a grain of salt: While books usually don’t go through huge changes after the ARC has been made, there’s a slight chance that some of what I mention here is no longer true in the final version.
Simply put—I wasn’t a fan of this book. I’m not a big true-crime reader by any standards (although I do love a good mystery), and maybe it’s just that this isn’t my genre. But I found DitCoL both slow going and hard to follow. It’s the report of the search for and trial of Marcel Petiot, a French doctor who spent much of Occupied Paris murdering wealthy Jews and mobsters. Author David King pulls no punches in the beginning chapters, which include a grisly description of Petiot’s secret slaughterhouse and begin building the environment of suspicion, terror, and disillusionment that characterized wartime France.
Unfortunately, after an inticingly gruesome start, the story fell apart. The reporting was too lengthy and drawn out, and I was frequently thrown off course by mentions of characters whom I no longer remembered. There were also a few chapters detailing the lives of Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre, which, while informative, really had nothing to do with Petiot’s story. The trial at the end, rather than being a culmination of the book’s suspense, felt flat and disappointing.
Of course, as a true crime author, King was limited in his writing. It can be difficult to turn dry details into drama, facts into fantastics. He did have some success, I believe, in painting an accurate picture of Occupied France and the complete chaos and confusion that followed the Axis surrender. Indeed, Petiot became very difficult to prosecute when the defense claimed he was a member of the French Resistance movement who had made some errors in judgment. What is the protocol for incriminating someone who murdered brutal inforcers of the Nazi regime?
As I said before, I’m not a big reader of nonfiction during my leisure time, so this book was good for me, a broadening of horizons. That said, I grew very frustrated with how long it took me to finish, especially since I have a whole list of wonderful books lined up and waiting. Take a look!
I actually started Maine a couple of days ago, but it’s been slow going so far since I’ve started turboknitting in an attempt to finish a pair of leg warmers before the UO/OSU Civil War game this Saturday, which I will be attending! And hopefully wearing some kickass leg warmers. Maine is great so far, though. Reminds me very much of one of my lesser-known favorites and old-lady read, Colony.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!