by David King

Crown, $26.00, 416 pages

In the waning days of the German occupation of Paris, a horrific murder scene is discovered in the fashionable 16th arrondissement. When police enter the townhouse at 21 rue Le Sueur, they find charred human remains, bone fragments and a nightmarish pit along with large quantities of furniture, clothing, jewelry and a mysterious room with a false door and peephole. As the body count increases, the owner of the building is quickly identified as the chief suspect. After a nationwide manhunt, made more difficult by rapidly disintegrating political and military conditions, Dr. Marcel Petiot is arrested and charged with 27 murders. The trial quickly becomes a sensationalistic sideshow, grabbing the attention of Paris and the world. Was Petiot , as he claimed, a dedicated and daring Resistance fighter? Or, a psychopathic thief and murderer?

Although well-documented, the truth of Petiot and the extent of his crimes remain unresolved. The volume of facts and figures presented along with the narrative does little to advance what is already known about the man or his motivation. Fans of true crime and courtroom drama may enjoy this book.

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen,