First edition.
Publisher, Date:
New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company, [2017]
xxiii, 310 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Nicolas de La Reynie, appointed by Louis XIV as the first police chief of Paris, pursues criminals through the labyrinthine neighborhoods of the city, unearths a tightly knit cabal of poisoners, witches, and renegade priests, and discovers that the distance between the quiet backstabbing world of the king's court and the criminal underground is disturbingly short. As he continues his investigations, La Reynie suspects that Louis's mistresses are involved in many of the nefarious plots he has uncovered, and he must decide just how far he will go to protect his king. Tucker has crafted a gripping true-crime tale of deception and murder based on thousands of pages of court transcripts and La Reynie's notebooks, letters, and diaries.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 247-296) and index.
A note on currency -- Burn notice -- Part I: "Day and night they kill here". Crime capital of the world -- City of light -- The street at the end of the world -- To market -- Part II: King of hearts. Agitation without disorder -- The dew and the torrent -- The door marked 1 -- "He will ... strangle me" -- Part III: "She will turn us all into poisoners". The golden viper -- "Madame is dying, madame is dead!" -- Poison in the pie -- An alchemist's last words -- The faithful servant -- "Brinvilliers is in the air" -- Part IV: "Cease your scandals". House of porcelain -- Offering -- "The sneakiest and meanest woman in the world" -- "Burn after reading" -- Dinner guests -- The question -- Monsters -- Part V: "She gave her soul gently to the Devil". Quanto -- Search and seizure -- A noble pair -- The burning chamber -- "Beginning to talk" -- Fortune-teller -- "From one fire to another" -- Part VI: Wicked truths. The poisoner's daughter -- Sacrifices -- "A strange agitation" -- Lock and key.
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Booklist Reviews

A university professor and expert on biomedical ethics, Tucker (Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution, 2011) has unearthed and brought to life a treasure trove of court documents and notes from Paris' first police chief, Nicolas de la Reynie, showing how poison was a longstanding weapon of choice to end political and sexual rivalries in the court of Louis XIV. Although Louis XIV himself fed the incriminating documents into a fire at Versailles immediately after the police chief's death, de la Reynie had made his own notes about "The Affair of the Poisons," which Tucker combed through. This history partially focuses on how de la Reynie, who served as police chief from 1667 until his death in 1709, worked to rid Paris of its appalling filth and crime. It also provides stunning insights into the real filth of Louis XIV's reign, gilded, as in the Sun King's creation of Versailles, but rotten with duplicity and murder. Completely absorbing, especially because of the wealth of everyday life detail Tucker provides. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Tucker (Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Science Revolution) vividly brings to life a slice of Parisian history in this rigorously researched true-crime epic, set during the reign of Louis XIV. The book opens in 1665 with the murder of the city's criminal lieutenant, the public official with jurisdiction over most crimes committed in the city, who was stabbed to death by some inept burglars, followed by the poisoning of one of his colleagues, who resolved civil disputes, a year later. The embarrassment about these deaths led to the appointment of the first police chief of Paris, Nicolas de La Reynie, who began with reforms to literally clean up the filthy streets of the city and to deter nighttime crime with a massive campaign to install thousands of lanterns on most Paris streets. Eventually, he investigated the Affair of the Poisons, a series of crimes involving members of France's high nobility and reaching into the palace. The investigation led to the creation of a secret tribunal that imprisoned hundreds and executed more than 30 people. Although many documents were burned by the king himself after La Reynie's death, Tucker draws on other contemporary records to meticulously reconstruct this fascinating chapter in the annals of true crime. The result reads like a combination of the most compelling mystery fiction and Dumas's romances of twisted court intrigues. (Mar.)

Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.


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