City of Light, City of Poison

City of Light, City of Poison

Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris

Book - 2017
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WW Norton
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.
“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

Baker & Taylor
Draws on transcripts, letters, and diaries to chronicle how an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s led to Nicolas de La Reynie's appointment as Paris' first police chief and the installation of lanterns that turned Paris into the City of Light.

Book News
Tucker explores the seedy side of late 1600s Paris in this narrative of the city's first police chief. The book reads like a detective novel, following Nicolas de La Reynie through the criminal underworld and up into the chambers of King Louis XIV. As La Reynie investigates the Sun King's mistresses for a myriad of nefarious deeds, the reader learns of the inner workings of the court as well as the justice system. The book is a fun mix of royal intrigue, police procedural, and history lesson. Annotation ©2017 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Draws on transcripts, letters and diaries to chronicle how an epidemic of murder in the late 1600s led to Nicolas de La Reynie's appointment as Paris's first police chief, the installation of lanterns that turned Paris into the City of Light and the investigations in the criminal underground that implicated Louis XIV's mistress.

Publisher: New York :, W.W. Norton & Company,, [2017]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780393239782
Characteristics: xxiii, 310 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Jun 18, 2018

I really looked forward to reading this, but eventually didn’t finish it. The writing was too pendactic. How evil can people be to each other? Turn out, pretty evil, and I just didn’t want to know about it that much.

Apr 03, 2018

As fun as a 'Who-Done-It' because the writing is so good. I'm a dunce for remembering names and relationships, so I had to keep a running list of the cast of characters for the first third of the book. Once I'd gotten familiar with everyone, I was fine and could carry on, but just to let you know, there are a lot of names and connections to remember.

Sep 10, 2017

This book is not for the faint of heart. The routine torture endured by the victims of the French Justice system after they were found guilty made me ill. Tucker spends a great deal of time detailing this procedure and, I found, has very little sympathy for the women (mostly) trapped in this sexist, hysterically paranoid, society of Louis 14th. I rather think of the poisoners as victims of brutal, tyrannical, and mostly old husbands; their suppliers of poison as ignorant, poor, and powerless; all destined to die at the hands of a corrupt and cruel church and state. However, if anyone has a lingering desire to be part of a grand court this is the cure.

Aug 06, 2017

The author spends much time in setting the decadent French scene in the late 1600’s as she deftly tells the story of the first police chief in scandal filled Paris. If nothing else, one comes away from the book with the understanding that it takes great writing skill to make historical research so readable.

ArapahoeSummer May 23, 2017

Tucker offers a detailed account of the darker side of Paris in the late 1600s pulled from the notes of Nicolas de La Reynie. Some chapters focus on court intrigue rather than crime in order to demonstrate the reach of the poison trade.

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