counter create hit City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris

Availability: Ready to download

Appointed to conquer the 'crime capital of the world', the first police chief of Paris faces an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s. Assigned by Louis XIV, Nicolas de La Reynie begins by clearing the streets of filth, and installing lanterns throughout Paris, turning it into the City of Light. The fearless La Reynie pursues criminals through the labyrinthine neighborhoods Appointed to conquer the 'crime capital of the world', the first police chief of Paris faces an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s. Assigned by Louis XIV, Nicolas de La Reynie begins by clearing the streets of filth, and installing lanterns throughout Paris, turning it into the City of Light. The fearless La Reynie pursues criminals through the labyrinthine neighborhoods of the city. He unearths a tightly knit cabal of poisoners, witches, and renegade priests. As he exposes their unholy work, he soon learns that no one is safe from black magic - not even the Sun King. In a world where a royal glance can turn success into disgrace, the distance between the quietly back-stabbing world of the king’s court, and the criminal underground proves disturbingly short. Nobles settle scores by employing witches to craft poisons, and by hiring priests to perform dark rituals in Paris' most illustrious churches and cathedrals. As La Reynie continues his investigations, he is haunted by a single question: Could Louis’ mistresses be involved in such nefarious plots? The pragmatic, and principled, La Reynie must decide just how far he will go to protect his king. From secret courtrooms to torture chambers, City of Light, City of Poison is a gripping true-crime tale of deception and murder. Based on thousands of pages of court transcripts, and La Reynie’s compulsive note-taking, as well as on letters and diaries, Tucker’s riveting narrative makes the fascinating, real-life characters breathe on the page.


Compare
Ads Banner

Appointed to conquer the 'crime capital of the world', the first police chief of Paris faces an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s. Assigned by Louis XIV, Nicolas de La Reynie begins by clearing the streets of filth, and installing lanterns throughout Paris, turning it into the City of Light. The fearless La Reynie pursues criminals through the labyrinthine neighborhoods Appointed to conquer the 'crime capital of the world', the first police chief of Paris faces an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s. Assigned by Louis XIV, Nicolas de La Reynie begins by clearing the streets of filth, and installing lanterns throughout Paris, turning it into the City of Light. The fearless La Reynie pursues criminals through the labyrinthine neighborhoods of the city. He unearths a tightly knit cabal of poisoners, witches, and renegade priests. As he exposes their unholy work, he soon learns that no one is safe from black magic - not even the Sun King. In a world where a royal glance can turn success into disgrace, the distance between the quietly back-stabbing world of the king’s court, and the criminal underground proves disturbingly short. Nobles settle scores by employing witches to craft poisons, and by hiring priests to perform dark rituals in Paris' most illustrious churches and cathedrals. As La Reynie continues his investigations, he is haunted by a single question: Could Louis’ mistresses be involved in such nefarious plots? The pragmatic, and principled, La Reynie must decide just how far he will go to protect his king. From secret courtrooms to torture chambers, City of Light, City of Poison is a gripping true-crime tale of deception and murder. Based on thousands of pages of court transcripts, and La Reynie’s compulsive note-taking, as well as on letters and diaries, Tucker’s riveting narrative makes the fascinating, real-life characters breathe on the page.

30 review for City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sean Gibson

    Imagine the Salem witch trials, only instead of rough woolen homespun, everyone is wearing fancy dresses, ridiculous wigs, and too much rouge, and they’re speaking with French accents (well, and in French)…oh, and instead of charges being completely absurd and totally fabricated, let’s say that one in five accused parties actually did eat babies, commune with Satan, and dance naked with centaurs by the moonlight. That’s pretty much the story you get in City of Light, City of Poison. Okay, well, Imagine the Salem witch trials, only instead of rough woolen homespun, everyone is wearing fancy dresses, ridiculous wigs, and too much rouge, and they’re speaking with French accents (well, and in French)…oh, and instead of charges being completely absurd and totally fabricated, let’s say that one in five accused parties actually did eat babies, commune with Satan, and dance naked with centaurs by the moonlight. That’s pretty much the story you get in City of Light, City of Poison. Okay, well, not really—as far as I’m aware, there was no Satan communing or naked centaur dancing going on (though there WAS some baby sacrificing and possibly consumption, but it was for perfectly legitimate reasons...because the alleged enhancement of sexual prowess is a legitimate reason, right?. The seventeenth century, not unlike the twenty-first century, was a fun time if you were into mass hysteria. Case in point: Paris in the reign of Louis XIV (Mr. “L’etat, c’est moi” himself), where the first official police chief of Paris, the doughty and redoubtable (if not exactly life of the party) Nicolas de La Reynie has the unenviable task of investigating a series of suspicious events that led to the high-profile members of the king’s court being charged with, or at least suspected of, conspiring with charlatans and miscreants of all types to abort babies (and use their body parts for all sorts of nefarious reasons) and poison numerous prominent menfolk whose wives and lovers were either being abused by them, taken advantage of financially, or who had simply grown tired of their lack of juice in the sack and wanted to toss them overboard for some handsomely mustachioed swashbuckler. Of course, the closer the investigation got to Louis’s court, including longtime mistress Madame de Montespan, the more reticent he was to dig too deeply (even when evidence suggested that the king himself may have been a target for a loving dose of arsenic), which put the kibosh on a more thorough investigation of the facts. Despite the king’s efforts to destroy all evidence, La Reynie’s personal files remained intact and came to light many years later through the investigative efforts of a bevy of intrepid scholars, resulting in Tucker’s thorough and meticulously researched account of “the affair of the poisons.” On the one hand, this is a finely crafted account of a lurid and thoroughly fascinating historical event; on the other, it can get a little bogged down in the minutiae of the testimony of the many accused parties and, for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on, doesn’t hum along at the speed you’d think it would given the juicy subject matter. Perhaps the most interesting part (and maybe it says something about me that I find this more fascinating than using ground-up babies as an aphrodisiac…which seems perfectly logical to me) was Tucker’s account of an overwhelmed and frustrated La Reynie pouring through the hundreds of pages of witness testimonials (without the aid of a computer, obviously), trying to make a coherent narrative out of a contradictory mass of individual statements. I have a very vivid picture in my mind of the poor chief of police tacking papers up on the wall and moving them around again and again, trying to see how all the pieces fit together. I’d like to have seen more of that. A solid 3.5 stars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    THIS IS A NEW FAVORITE!!! I absolutely LOVED this work of historical nonfiction. Tucker's writing is absolutely phenomenal. She truly paints a picture of 17th century France, and at times it feels like you're reading a novel rather than historical nonfiction. It's a page turner, but Tucker is also meticulous in her research. Given the nature of this book--everyone is getting murdered, poisoners everywhere, possible cannibalism and child sacrifice--it's easy to see how the author might fall into THIS IS A NEW FAVORITE!!! I absolutely LOVED this work of historical nonfiction. Tucker's writing is absolutely phenomenal. She truly paints a picture of 17th century France, and at times it feels like you're reading a novel rather than historical nonfiction. It's a page turner, but Tucker is also meticulous in her research. Given the nature of this book--everyone is getting murdered, poisoners everywhere, possible cannibalism and child sacrifice--it's easy to see how the author might fall into the trap of playing up the sensationalism for the sake of a wilder story. Tucker resists the urge, and the book is all the stronger because of that. In addition to its salacious elements, this book is a fascinating portrait of a man trying his best to force order upon a decidedly disorderly city. The contrast between La Reynie's storyline and that of the murderers trying to take control of their own worlds through violent means presents a fantastic contrast. This is now among my favorite books of all time, and might be my favorite work of historical nonfiction. Definitely worth picking up!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robert Melnyk

    I struggled between giving this book either 2 or 3 stars. The history was really interesting, but I thought the book was very hard to follow. There were so many characters introduced which I thought were not fully explained or developed that it was sometimes hard to keep everyone straight. The book is non fiction which some have said reads more like a fiction novel than an historical text book. My feeling is that it was a non fiction history book which tried to read like a fiction novel but did I struggled between giving this book either 2 or 3 stars. The history was really interesting, but I thought the book was very hard to follow. There were so many characters introduced which I thought were not fully explained or developed that it was sometimes hard to keep everyone straight. The book is non fiction which some have said reads more like a fiction novel than an historical text book. My feeling is that it was a non fiction history book which tried to read like a fiction novel but did not do a great job doing either one. However, all in all, I think it was very well researched, and the subject matter was interesting. Paris during the late 1600's was a very strange place, to say the least!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Susanna - Censored by GoodReads

    Actual rating about 3.5 stars. This book is less strictly about Paris' first police chief, and more about "The Affair of the Poisons," when the aristocrats of France decided the way to solve their problems, financial and otherwise, was to poison people. (1660s and 70s) It was the great case of his career. There's also an interesting look at how much solving these cases depended on "The Question": evidence extracted under torture - often contradictory or useless in some other fashion. Actual rating about 3.5 stars. This book is less strictly about Paris' first police chief, and more about "The Affair of the Poisons," when the aristocrats of France decided the way to solve their problems, financial and otherwise, was to poison people. (1660s and 70s) It was the great case of his career. There's also an interesting look at how much solving these cases depended on "The Question": evidence extracted under torture - often contradictory or useless in some other fashion. (Waterboarding was popular then, too.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    *I received a free advance reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I thought this was going to be a history of founding of Parisian law enforcement, similar to the early days of Scotland Yard. It is not. I expected a police procedural history. Instead, what I got were pages upon pages of detail about Louis XIV and his numerous mistresses. This is a well-researched true crime narrative of "the Affair of the Poisons", the events of which took place between 1667 and 1682. For *I received a free advance reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I thought this was going to be a history of founding of Parisian law enforcement, similar to the early days of Scotland Yard. It is not. I expected a police procedural history. Instead, what I got were pages upon pages of detail about Louis XIV and his numerous mistresses. This is a well-researched true crime narrative of "the Affair of the Poisons", the events of which took place between 1667 and 1682. For what it is, the book is well-written and readable, more novel than textbook. It's very detailed, but not tedious. If you're looking for a true crime thriller, look no further. That being said, and the reason for my rating, is that it was not what I expected based on the book description and not my cup of tea. One final note, this is my first ARC so I don't know if they are all similar, but the quantity of typographical errors was extremely distracting. I do hope that they are fixed in the final print version when it is released.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    An intensely well-researched book about a little-known (okay, so it was little-known to me, anyway) and fairly bizarre slice of French history. There are a lot of details. Details outside the main story, details that you miiiiiiiight just not care enough about. So I don't think this is a book for everyone. For me, those details helped contribute to the overall backdrop of this era of Paris and of the characters' personalities and inner lives/motivations. Not a quick read, but a good one.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    Full review at TheBibliophage.com Holly Tucker has accomplished a feat of research in creating City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris. More than that, Tucker has made the detailed historical events and personages into an incredibly readable story. It’s extraordinary!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Babbs

    This book is not really an account on the first Police Chief of Paris, though some of his major achievements are discussed, and more a true crime novel that takes place in the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV, with particular focus on the mystics and the use and detection of poison. Tucker also does a great job bringing us into the lives of women of the era. If you enjoy this period in history, you'll likely devour this book in a single sitting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    2.5 stars This true account of a massive criminal investigation in 1670’s Paris could have been much better. In brief, many people accused others of involvement in poison and witchcraft, and at least some of the poisoning seems to have been true (various poisons were in fact found in the possession of some of these folks, and in the case of one noblewoman, her father and brothers all really did die under similar and suspicious circumstances). Louis XIV appointed Nicolas de la Reynie police chief 2.5 stars This true account of a massive criminal investigation in 1670’s Paris could have been much better. In brief, many people accused others of involvement in poison and witchcraft, and at least some of the poisoning seems to have been true (various poisons were in fact found in the possession of some of these folks, and in the case of one noblewoman, her father and brothers all really did die under similar and suspicious circumstances). Louis XIV appointed Nicolas de la Reynie police chief to reduce the high crime rate in Paris at the time (including lots of murders), but made him back off this particular investigation once fingers began to be pointed at some of Louis’s own mistresses. It’s interesting stuff, and a quick read; you could likely read it in a single sitting if so inclined. That said, Tucker takes a somewhat novelistic, almost sensationalist approach, despite the fact that she does seem to stick to documented historical facts. There are many chapters about the doings of Louis’s mistresses and female associates (including the sudden death of his sister-in-law Henrietta Anne, sister of Charles II of England), which never really merge with the poison storyline. At best the history of the mistresses provides some background on why one or two of them might have been as cutthroat as was alleged (though only sort of; on their way out these women got significant parting gifts from the king), but it’s all indirect and spends a lot of time with mistresses who were never even implicated. After all the talk about Henrietta Anne I thought we’d get at least a theory on who might have poisoned her, but the author offers very little analysis in the end. Because the author doesn’t really analyze the facts presented, it’s a bit hard to tell, but I had the impression she was more on the side of the authorities – and more inclined to believe the confessions of people who had been imprisoned for months or sometimes even years without trial, but with the ever-present threat of torture and execution – than I was. Judicial torture was a commonplace part of the process, though strangely, it occurred between sentencing and execution. (I don’t know if the examples the author presents are representative, but in the book, only one person provided meaningful new information under torture, and she later recanted.) The torture is described in unpleasant detail and recurs frequently throughout the book. Noblewomen fared far better in court than commoners, some of whom seem to have been convicted and executed before their cases were fully investigated. There’s a witch hunt quality to the whole thing in the figurative as well as literal sense, and by the time Marie-Anne Mancini told off the police chief in court I was cheering her on. Oddly there’s no discussion of the gender dynamics at play here either – given that most of the accused appear to have been women, that abortion was a major accusation and that a common motivation for women accused of poisoning seems to have been domestic abuse and/or escaping forced marriage. At any rate, colorful history but not very substantive. The author certainly has storytelling skills, but the book is lightweight.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    This is a very well researched book, very informative about one of histories greatest cover ups, but it is by no stretch of the imagination a relaxing read. This was well written but way darker then I was expecting (and my expectations were too sunny to begin with). The cover is stunning though.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katie Long

    I have been meaning to read this since I met Holly Tucker at the Decatur Book Festival in 2017 and am so glad that I finally did. I was fascinated by the amount of research she did for this book, but I was truly impressed by the way she wove all of that meticulous research into a compelling, page-turning narrative. It has everything, murder, magic, revenge, satanic sacrifices, you name it. You really couldn’t make this up!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    This author did a lot of research, supposedly based on actual historical records, into the more prurient details of French history. This is not a history of the Parisian police. It felt like watching an episode of one of the trashier reality TV programs. There were poisonings, abortions, witchcraft, royal mistresses, mucky streets and general unpleasantness. It all seemed pretty pointless and I didn't feel like it was worth any more of my time. I abandoned the audiobook after two hours.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    Review: This was a fascinating and well-researched story, but it wasn't told in a particularly engaging way. "Appointed to conquer the “crime capital of the world,” the first police chief of Paris faces an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s. Assigned by Louis XIV, Nicolas de La Reynie begins by clearing the streets of filth and installing lanterns throughout Paris, turning it into the City of Light. The fearless La Reynie pursues criminals through the labyrinthine neighborhoods of the city. He Review: This was a fascinating and well-researched story, but it wasn't told in a particularly engaging way. "Appointed to conquer the “crime capital of the world,” the first police chief of Paris faces an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s. Assigned by Louis XIV, Nicolas de La Reynie begins by clearing the streets of filth and installing lanterns throughout Paris, turning it into the City of Light. The fearless La Reynie pursues criminals through the labyrinthine neighborhoods of the city. He unearths a tightly knit cabal of poisoners, witches, and renegade priests. As he exposes their unholy work, he soon learns that no one is safe from black magic—not even the Sun King" (source). I had high hopes for this initially. It started out with a note from the author about attributing actions, emotions, or motives to people only if primary sources supported doing so, which I always appreciate. Unfortunately, the author didn't do a whole lot of attributing emotions to anyone. While the events this story covered were fascinating, the dry style did it no favors. I never felt pulled forward by the narrative or even particularly curious about what was going to happen next. That may be for the best, in a way, since at the end, it still wasn't clear to me exactly what had happened and what was just hearsay. I found that a bit of a letdown.  The lack of a cast of characters was also disappointing, as many people popped in and out of the story. As I expected at the beginning, however, I was impressed by the author's research. Her use of direct quotes from primary sources was particularly interesting. Despite a somewhat dry tone, I did enjoy this story. I don't think it lived up to its potential though. Other nonfiction authors I've read could probably have used these great primary sources to write something that better conveyed the emotions of the people involved. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for other nonfiction or some fiction on the topic. This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey

  14. 4 out of 5

    Liz De Coster

    I realize this isn't on the author, but I think it's worth noting for interested readers that the publisher made a hash of the branding here. The "police chief" is an ancillary character until the last third of the book, and I think they'd have done better to market this without a protagonist but as a historic true crime poisoning spree among 17th century Parisian elites. Magic plays a small role, and I guess every book about Paris has to mention lights, but the title isn't a homer in my books. I realize this isn't on the author, but I think it's worth noting for interested readers that the publisher made a hash of the branding here. The "police chief" is an ancillary character until the last third of the book, and I think they'd have done better to market this without a protagonist but as a historic true crime poisoning spree among 17th century Parisian elites. Magic plays a small role, and I guess every book about Paris has to mention lights, but the title isn't a homer in my books. However, Tucker is well-positioned to write this book given her research interests, and she does a pretty deft job extracting engaging content from dry legal documents. A few of the digressions don't quite pan out as strongly as I'd thought, which is a little frustrating in a book with a large cast.

  15. 4 out of 5

    SibylM

    This is a very well-written and engrossing story, meticulously documented and sourced. That said, the whole "Affair of the Poisons" -- with its reliance on people informing against each other under torture, mass hysteria, accusations of witchcraft, black masses, infant sacrifice -- reminded me of the Salem Witch Trials (very close in time) as well as the satanic child-molesting cult accusations of the 1980's and 1990's. The author just seemed a bit too credulous, and didn't provide much context This is a very well-written and engrossing story, meticulously documented and sourced. That said, the whole "Affair of the Poisons" -- with its reliance on people informing against each other under torture, mass hysteria, accusations of witchcraft, black masses, infant sacrifice -- reminded me of the Salem Witch Trials (very close in time) as well as the satanic child-molesting cult accusations of the 1980's and 1990's. The author just seemed a bit too credulous, and didn't provide much context about how such instances of (probable) mass hysteria come about, how the legal system gets involved, how victims of witch hunts are chosen for persecution, and so on.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    I picked this up because I read about this scandel before. If you are watching, or have watched, the series Versailles, you should read this. Tucker's book is quite well researched, and she goes into depth with all the players in the scandel surronding the royal court, murder, and child killing. A good read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Audio # 28 You know I've listened to this twice and I think I'd be better off reading Affair of the Poisons or buying the paper book I this one. Audio isn't getting it

  18. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    Between 3 and 4 stars but I’ll round up for the cover art. (I love me some good cover art.) I love this kind of history. Tucker does a phenomenal job of making the setting of 17th century Paris feel real. Her first two paragraphs describe the filth of the city streets before any system of public sanitation was instituted, and it’s vivid. “Several times a week, butchers, tanners, and tallow makers welcomed herds of cattle and sheep to the city’s central slaughterhouses.... On Thursdays and Between 3 and 4 stars but I’ll round up for the cover art. (I love me some good cover art.) I love this kind of history. Tucker does a phenomenal job of making the setting of 17th century Paris feel real. Her first two paragraphs describe the filth of the city streets before any system of public sanitation was instituted, and it’s vivid. “Several times a week, butchers, tanners, and tallow makers welcomed herds of cattle and sheep to the city’s central slaughterhouses.... On Thursdays and Fridays, Parisians had no choice but to trudge through inches of congealed blood. Even on nonslaughter days, the streets were permanently rust colored from the blood that had soaked into the earth.” So gross! And so alive! I want to go to the old alleys of Paris and look for rust colored cobblestones! This book takes an in depth look at one historical episode—the Poison Affair—but Tucker gives other surrounding details that make it fascinating and easy to read. Two bummers—Tucker didn’t attempt at all to interrogate the description of witches. Only because I’ve read other histories about this era do I know to question how women working magic and controlling reproduction are described. The main villain, Catherine Voisin, is described as vile, abusive and devilish. And hey, maybe she was, lady did make a shit ton of poison. But her partner in crime, a male priest who actually murdered newborn babies he’d kidnapped from their impoverished mothers as part of a ritual sacrifice to cast spells, comes across as benign and repentant and hapless. Can’t we get a little grotesque description of the dude slitting babies throats? Is he only just a pawn of the evil wicked woman? A good deal of the poisoning described was women poisoning their husbands. Tucker provides only a superficial analysis of the women’s motives (they wanted to marry their hot lover or get an inheritance) without grounding it in the economic and political realities of women’s subservient positions in society. She makes passing reference to one witch being burned alive while her daughter was forced to watch. Let’s break that down!!! Holy shit! Can you think of a more direct way to scare the next generation of women out of trying to assert mystical control over their own bodies and the earth? But rather than portraying it as a government sponsored program of multi-generational terror and social conditioning, she represents it as an efficient way for the police chief to work through the hordes of prisoners he’s got locked up for poisoning. I don’t know anything at all about these specific stories beyond what this book says, but I know enough to know what questions the author didn’t ask, to see the hole left in the research she presents. Second bummer—Louis XIV is also taken at face value as this driven and powerful king who had women lining up around the kingdom to sleep with him. It wasn’t as overt as plenty of other historical writing, but the de facto romanticizing of the monarchy—yawn. Even though the political lens of the book was lazy and harmful, I would recommend it to readers who enjoy good true stories of historical suspense. It is bonkers that a poor witch in the dumpiest neighborhood in Paris came this close (allegedly) to murdering the glorious Sun King. It is bonkers to understand more how humans have lived and built societies with each other in past eras. Very fun to read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    3 1/2 stars - rounded up to 4 stars

  20. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    25 JAN 2020 - A bit of a tattle-tale read. I would have enjoyed reading more about the First Police Chief - he introduced clean streets and "light" to the City of Light and more. A fun Winter beach read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Natacha Pavlov

    *I received a review copy from the publisher—thank you! Well researched and at times quite morbid, I found this a compelling read. A historical true crime account that reads like a dark novel, it follows the first police chief of Paris, Nicolas de La Reynie, as he takes on the Affair of the Poisons during Louis XIV's reign. I knew very little about those events, and enjoyed the author's skill in balancing great detail with succinct narrative. The earlier descriptions of Paris's filthiness *I received a review copy from the publisher—thank you! Well researched and at times quite morbid, I found this a compelling read. A historical true crime account that reads like a dark novel, it follows the first police chief of Paris, Nicolas de La Reynie, as he takes on the Affair of the Poisons during Louis XIV's reign. I knew very little about those events, and enjoyed the author's skill in balancing great detail with succinct narrative. The earlier descriptions of Paris's filthiness instantly brought to mind Suskind's 'Perfume', and the large cast of (often dubious) characters of all walks of life only added to the aura of sweeping darkness. As the title hints, La Reynie is the reason Paris was dubbed 'the City of Light,' for it was his ordinance that required lanterns to light the streets at night in an effort to curb crime; rendering it the first major European city to do so. I look forward to checking out other works by the author.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gwen Cooper

    I love reading noir and detective stories in the summer, and I think I thought this would be a bit more "true crime" than it ended up being--a sort of cool, gripping detective yarn about Paris's first chief of police creeping through the dark underbelly of 17th Century Paris as he tries to track down an elusive ring of expert poisoners posing as "witches" and "mystics" to infiltrate the highest circles of the Sun King's court. It wasn't quite that, although it was still engaging enough. The first I love reading noir and detective stories in the summer, and I think I thought this would be a bit more "true crime" than it ended up being--a sort of cool, gripping detective yarn about Paris's first chief of police creeping through the dark underbelly of 17th Century Paris as he tries to track down an elusive ring of expert poisoners posing as "witches" and "mystics" to infiltrate the highest circles of the Sun King's court. It wasn't quite that, although it was still engaging enough. The first two-thirds seems to focus mainly on who was sleeping with who in Louis XIV's court (answer: everybody was sleeping with everybody). And the descriptions of the torture methods employed by the official "detectives" once they started rounding up the suspects behind the "Affair of the Poisons" were interesting if you're into that sort of thing...which, frankly, I'm pretty much not. Having said that, this book was clearly thoroughly researched, accessibly written, and does a great job of bringing a fascinating time and place to life, while also making the reader feel up-close-and-personal with a group of historical figures who tend to seem, so many years later, less like personalities than stuffy figures from a history book. This book definitely made them feel like real people--and people who you come to know well. If you go in expecting more salacious court gossip than detective story (assuming, of course, that you like salacious court gossip), then you'll probably have a great time with this book. Not one of my all-time favorites, but definitely worth the read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I found this quite fascinating. Set in the days of Louis the XIV, Paris was a shambles, and the first Police Chief La Reynie comes into power, to try to establish order in the area. One of his first tasks to fight crime, is to pull the city from darkness. He establishes street lamps throughout the city, that burn all night, and makes the earliest police responsible for these - thus, Paris was named the City of Light. But under his reign, La Reynie kept documents and papers related to years of I found this quite fascinating. Set in the days of Louis the XIV, Paris was a shambles, and the first Police Chief La Reynie comes into power, to try to establish order in the area. One of his first tasks to fight crime, is to pull the city from darkness. He establishes street lamps throughout the city, that burn all night, and makes the earliest police responsible for these - thus, Paris was named the City of Light. But under his reign, La Reynie kept documents and papers related to years of the Affairs of the Poisons. Mistresses of the king, fortune tellers, magic black sabbath ceremonies, the creation of poisons. It was quite a tale, well researched, and read like fiction. I really enjoyed it, and never knew much about Paris's history of the dark arts. It was a worthy non-fiction read. I am choosing not to consider this an October "Fall Flurry" book, as while it had a spooky and eerie air, and certainly a dark and sinister tone, Halloween is an American construct, and doesn't feel like it fits in at all with early France. Although the lighting of the women on fire as execution, seemed an awful lot like Salem, and there was a connection to women performing magic and spells, this was early Paris. Now that I think about it, this could fit into "society" as a tag, as this was the setting up of a city and its first law and order, and much had to do with how people behaved and acted to preserve societal norms, particularly those of the court.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emesskay

    This is a history book that reads like a mystery or thriller. I found the book very hard to put down , and stayed up way past my bedtime in order to finish it. Many of the criminals sound like villains from a storybook, except they were real people who actually did these things, lived these lives. I remember studying Louis XIV (the Sun King, he of "L'etat c'est moi" fame), and how he had to wrest control of the monarchy back from the nobility, and how he used things like ballet to keep the This is a history book that reads like a mystery or thriller. I found the book very hard to put down , and stayed up way past my bedtime in order to finish it. Many of the criminals sound like villains from a storybook, except they were real people who actually did these things, lived these lives. I remember studying Louis XIV (the Sun King, he of "L'etat c'est moi" fame), and how he had to wrest control of the monarchy back from the nobility, and how he used things like ballet to keep the nobility in check and preoccupied. I was not familiar with other details of his reign, and what a terrible, crime-ridden place Paris was during the 17th Century. So from that point of view, it was interesting to learn about what measures Louis XIV took to clean up the streets, including appointing the first police chief of Paris. I thought the book was extremely well written, in an engaging style. The author truly knows her subject inside and out, backwards and forwards, and it shows. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of France, the history of policing, or who enjoys mysteries or "true crime" books. Full disclosure - I did receive this book as part of a Goodreads Giveaway.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    Sometimes a review will say that a non fiction book reads "like a novel," and this is considered a big compliment. Well, I read a novel about this same event last year (La Chambre Ardente, by Max Gallo) and City of Light, City of Poison was better than that novel in every way. This book nicely sketches the characters involved, from the lowly women who made big money by concocting poisons to the members of the nobility who used their services. It's a dramatic mix of lowlifes and corrupt Sometimes a review will say that a non fiction book reads "like a novel," and this is considered a big compliment. Well, I read a novel about this same event last year (La Chambre Ardente, by Max Gallo) and City of Light, City of Poison was better than that novel in every way. This book nicely sketches the characters involved, from the lowly women who made big money by concocting poisons to the members of the nobility who used their services. It's a dramatic mix of lowlifes and corrupt aristocrats, reaching all the way up to the intimate circle around the Sun King himself. Holly Tucker has deeply researched her subject and then written with both narrative verve and good historical judgment. The reader wants to see certain people get thrown under the bus, but Tucker doesn't go any farther than the evidence.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Book received from NetGalley. I liked this book and may at some point give it a re-read. I went into it believing it was about crime in Paris and the beginning of the gendarme in that city. While it has a bit of that it also goes into court life, The Affair of the Poisons during the reign of Louis XIV. So it seemed a bit jumpy to me, and occasionally a bit hard to follow. I did learn a few things about French history, but there were enough issues that I had to give it 3 instead of 4 stars.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra

    City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker is a fascinating historical account regarding the first police chief of Paris, Nicolas de La Reynie, and the biggest mystery cases that he had to unravel. Before La Reynie became the lieutenant general of police in 1667, Paris was a filthy and disorganized city. La Reynie’s task was to turn Paris into the King’s jewel. He accomplished this by constructing collective cleaning efforts, a mud tax, public lighting, and other effective reforms. Throughout City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker is a fascinating historical account regarding the first police chief of Paris, Nicolas de La Reynie, and the biggest mystery cases that he had to unravel. Before La Reynie became the lieutenant general of police in 1667, Paris was a filthy and disorganized city. La Reynie’s task was to turn Paris into the King’s jewel. He accomplished this by constructing collective cleaning efforts, a mud tax, public lighting, and other effective reforms. Throughout his long career, La Reynie remained loyal, efficient, and hardworking. He was a man of action who was not afraid to utilize harsh punishment to ensure order. Under La Reynie’s guidance, Paris transformed into the City of Light that we know and love so much today. One of the strongest aspects of City of Light, City of Poison is its compelling narration. The writing is clear and not overly clouded with the narrator’s opinions, but there is still an element of personality that makes it interesting. Tucker is both a storyteller and a historian. The prologue contains so much intrigue and mysteriousness that I was hooked onto the story from the beginning. I not only was highly captivated throughout the book but also learned many facts about France in the late 17th century. Tucker’s detailed notes provide wonderful supplemental information. The first few chapters of City of Light, City of Poison introduce many different characters from all social classes. At first it seems like they are disjoint from each other, but eventually Tucker artfully ties together the many story lines into one complex web of relationships, forming the Affair of Poisons. The Affair of Poisons was a large conspiracy involving several important members of the French nobility as well as countless cunning charlatans and witches. La Reynie spent more than three years attempting to pinpoint the main culprits. Through meticulous and sometimes brutal interrogation, he made discoveries that shook the very foundations of King Louis XIV’s long reign. I find La Reynie to be a fascinating character and want to read more about the other reforms he instantiated. Though the Affair of Poisons is gripping, it makes up a significant portion of the book, which somewhat detracts from the rest of La Reynie’s story. Sometimes it seems like City of Light, City of Poison is more about the political intrigue around King Louis’ love life than La Reynie’s efforts to rebuild a city. Even so, I breezed through the book and rate City of Light, City of Poison 4 out of 5 stars.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Book 5 for #24in48! An enjoyable work of true crime/history read by Kate Reading. I’d known a bit about the Affair of the Poisons (Nancy Mitford covers some of it in The Sun King but waaaay dishier) but this is a much more in depth account of the Paris Chief of Police La Renier and his involvement. There are a LOT of historical figures introduced very quickly - if you’re not familiar with 17th century French history you may want to brush up on it beforehand.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Nutting

    Very well researched and an interesting look into the scandalous court of Lois XIV, but repetitious and I had trouble keeping track of who was who. Too many M, L and V names and then there were their titles to confuse it even more. This was no arsenic and old lace, it included every poison available wielded by the noblest of women.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gwendolyn

    Fascinating, Riveting. It reads almost like a thriller. 4.5 stars

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.