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City of Light, City of Poison

Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris

Holly Tucker (Author, Vanderbilt University)

 

“A fierce tale of conspiracy and retribution… Thanks to Tucker’s sympathetic necromancy and her luscious resurrection of everyday detail, even in gilded palaces the human psyche seems familiarly deceitful and self-justifying.” —Michael Sims, author of The Story of Charlotte’s Web and Arthur and Sherlock

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’s most illustrious churches and cathedrals.

As La Reynie continues his investigations, he is haunted by a single question: Could Louis’s mistresses could 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.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • March 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-393-23978-2
  • 6.5 × 9.5 in / 336 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

City of Light, City of Poison is not only a serious, meticulously researched work of nonfiction, it is an irresistible story. Full of danger, mystery, and excitement, it will keep you up well into the night, marveling at this forgotten world of dark intrigue.” — Candice Millard, author of Hero of the Empire

City of Light, City of Poison is not only a serious, meticulously researched work of nonfiction, it is an irresistible story. Full of danger, mystery, and excitement, it will keep you up well into the night, marveling at this forgotten world of dark intrigue.” — Candice Millard, author of Hero of the Empire

“In her fascinating book, Holly Tucker fuses history and mystery to create the dramatic effect of a novel while remaining true to the real-life plots and poisons of France’s seventeenth century… A genuinely illuminating study of a remarkably amoral moment in human history.” — Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner’s Handbook

“In her fascinating book, Holly Tucker fuses history and mystery to create the dramatic effect of a novel while remaining true to the real-life plots and poisons of France’s seventeenth century… A genuinely illuminating study of a remarkably amoral moment in human history.” — Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner’s Handbook

“At once bewitching and chilling, the dark story of toxic intrigue, murder, and mayhem in the Sun King’s France reads like the most gripping thriller, thanks to Holly Tucker’s storytelling flair and relentless research.” — Adrienne Mayor, author of The Poison King

“At once bewitching and chilling, the dark story of toxic intrigue, murder, and mayhem in the Sun King’s France reads like the most gripping thriller, thanks to Holly Tucker’s storytelling flair and relentless research.” — Adrienne Mayor, author of The Poison King

“Imagine a novel full of sex and betrayal, conspiracy and politics, murder and magic, detective work and justice. Holly Tucker has written one—except this isn’t fiction: it just reads like it.” — Malcolm Gaskill, author of Witchfinders

“Imagine a novel full of sex and betrayal, conspiracy and politics, murder and magic, detective work and justice. Holly Tucker has written one—except this isn’t fiction: it just reads like it.” — Malcolm Gaskill, author of Witchfinders

“Tucker’s narrative is rich in document and detail, while never losing sight of these historical events as a compelling police procedural, unfolding at a moment when the process of modern police investigation was just being invented.” — Elizabeth C. Goldsmith, author of The Kings’ Mistresses

“Tucker’s narrative is rich in document and detail, while never losing sight of these historical events as a compelling police procedural, unfolding at a moment when the process of modern police investigation was just being invented.” — Elizabeth C. Goldsmith, author of The Kings’ Mistresses

“[Holly Tucker] has unearthed and brought to life a treasure trove of court documents and notes. . . . [City of Light, City of Poison] provides stunning insights into the real filth of Louis XIV’s reign . . . [and is] completely absorbing, especially because of the wealth of everyday life detail Tucker provides.” — Booklist

“Tucker . . . vividly brings to life a slice of Parisian history in [a] rigorously researched true-crime epic . . . [that] reads like a combination of the most compelling mystery fiction and Dumas’s romances of twisted court intrigues.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

City of Light, City of Poison . . . is part true crime, part history, and all scandal.” — Library Journal (Editors’ Pick)

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