My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked this one up because of my long-term interest in forensics and serial killers and because I knew so very little about Nazi-Occupied Paris (and overall, not that much about European serial killers with several notable exceptions).
Dr. Marcel Petiot is a rather enigmatic character and 350 pages later he remains so. Petiot served in WWI as a young man and had documented mental issues thereafter. Some people loved him as a physician while others deemed him little more than a drug dealer to the gangsters and ladies of the night. He may have been a little of both.
The book opens with the discovery of bones in one of his buildings. There appeared to be several men and women dismembered buried in quick lime or burned in stoves. Commissaire Georges-Victor Massu was called into investigate and to his horror the investigation revealed as few as twenty-five and possibly as high as a hundred missing people and body parts.
Petiot was thought to kill for three reasons a) any patient who might reveal to the police that he was illegally prescribing morphine and other narcotics b) wealthy Jews trying to escape the country c) Gestapo officers and French collaborators. Certainly in the trial, he claimed any of his kills (he went to trial on 27 counts) were in the last group and he had done it as part of the French Resistance and for the love of his country.
The book looks in great detail about the Petiot’s early life and his medical practice, the police investigation during which Petiot was on the run and the trial, which was a circus of botched media control, poor technique and a trial of public opinion.
Over all, the book wasn’t bad. It’s obviously meticulously researched but the research is part of the problem. It almost felt like King wanted to write two different books: one about Occupied France (and was denied the chance) and one about Petiot. The middle of the book bogs down badly with detail that had nothing to do with anything. I was fine with setting the stage a bit. I didn’t know that much about the Nazi occupation and that is rather necessary to understand the feelings of the time and the trial (where Petiot, who had been a prisoner of the Nazis, claimed he was killing Nazis and no one else). However, it was obvious the author is enamored of his subject matter and we get several chapters about Camus, Sarte and Picasso among other celebrities of the time. I kept wondering if Camus and Sarte would show up later in the story at the trial but no.
I think the excess detail was not to the book’s advantage. World War two history buffs and forensic science buffs are not necessarily interchangeable. I started getting bored and it did take me quite a while to get through this. At the end I almost felt that King felt a little sorry for Petiot and that he hadn’t had a fair trial (which is the sentiment of some of those involved). However, given the copious detail provided (and unlike law shows would have us believe, trials aren’t all that exciting), I can say yes there were MANY unanswered questions and that there probably was grounds for a mistrial but frankly most of the mistakes documented here were in the defenses favor. Well, at least I got to see something about a serial killer I had known little about.
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The Thirteenth Child by J.L. O'Faolain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This urban fantasy erotica is the first in a series. The narrator is Tuulois MacColewyn, an exiled sidhe who usually just goes by the name ‘Cole.’ He’s been living in NYC since at the very least, the 1920’s after his exile. There are missing chunks of his back-story but we do know that he was Queen Titania’s ‘wolf’ and was exiled by Lord Oberon and that he has helped detective James Corhagen with odd cases in the past.
The men have a tumultuous past and a great deal of sexual tension and desire between them (though I must admit, I felt that more from Cole than James). James, however is married with two kids and one on the way, and his wife Sarah is a very sore point between them (Cole doesn’t believe the first child is James). Cole is very comfortable with his bisexuality. James seems far less so.
When James magically summons Cole right out of the apartment he shares with young Katalina (platonically), Cole isn’t thrilled. James needs his help. Someone is murdering people in seriously bizarre ways and their children have gone missing. One of Cole’s sidhe abilities is to raise the dead and it’s soon evident that there is a plot afoot and that the children are the center of it. With the help of Vallimun, Corhagen’s boss, they have to unravel the mystery before the thirteenth child is kidnapped and another family dies.
Overall, I enjoyed this. I know other reviewers were disappointed in the lack of romance but that is the appeal to me. Because it really isn’t romantic. It’s flat out urban fantasy with erotica in it and I couldn’t think of a better meeting of subgenres. For me, romantic subplots are fine, full on romance as the main plot, not so much so. I liked Cole a lot though I thought both Corhagen and Vallimun needed fleshing out more (though since this is through Cole’s eyes that is easier said than done). I liked the research put into the faeries but thought some of the police procedural aspects were a tad iffy.
On the negative side, I didn’t see a good reason why Cole is so wrapped up in Corhagen (there seemed to be more chemistry with Vallimun and there is a three way mutual attraction thing in the storyline). Corhagen seemed more cold and distant than anything but that could be a side effect of the denial Cole seems to believe James is in living in. For those looking for a lot of sex scenes, there aren’t that many. This did not bother me. I was put off a little by the timing of some of the sex scenes (as in the dumbest time ever to take your clothes off sort of thing) and the continued reminders of how huge everyone was (well, I suppose that’s part of the genre). I would definitely buy the next one in the series. Cole and his world were interesting.
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