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.