Saturday, October 8, 2011

David King's "Death in the City of Light"

David King's books include Finding Atlantis and Vienna 1814.

A Fulbright Scholar with a master's degree from Cambridge University, King taught European history at the University of Kentucky before becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky with his wife and children.

He applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris, and reported the following:
On March 11, 1944, police had been called around to a town house in the heart of Paris's fashionable 16th arrondissement. A thick black smoke had been pouring out of its chimney. When the patrolmen entered, they found a horrific scene: hands, feet, skulls, and bodies in various states of decomposition. Within minutes, the search was on for the owner of the property: a respectable family physician named Marcel Petiot.

On page 99, with Dr. Petiot still at large, the police visit a cafe owned by two of his friends. There the detectives learn the identity of one of the suspect's companions and receive a tip that "might have resulted in an early apprehension of the suspect, had the investigators pursued it."

While Petiot's whereabouts remained unknown to the police, readers learn exactly where he was hiding. He was spending the day mostly inside a friend's apartment, reading police novels, working on crossword puzzles, and making dice for his probability calculations (one of his many interests). At night, he slept on a mattress on the floor of his dining room. He had grown a beard and sported dark glasses so that he would not be recognized when he went out. His photograph was everywhere.

So how accurate is the Page 99 Test for Death in the City of Light? We gain a glimpse of the cat-and-mouse game of the police search and learn something about the suspect's strategy for evading detection. What the page does not reflect, however, is the seamy underworld of Gestapo, gangsters, resistance fighters, pimps, prostitutes, and other shadowy figures who make up the book's cast of characters. We also don't get a sense of the book's tour through wartime Paris from the dark days of the Nazi Occupation to the thrilling autumn of 1944 when the city is liberated and the suspect finally captured. But a single page can suggest only so much about a book - and, for such a snapshot, the Page 99 Test is not bad.
Learn more about the book and author at David King's website.

--Marshal Zeringue