A Time Travelers Notebook by Author Holly Tucker

Barnes & Nobel Reviews City of Light!

Apr 4, 2017 | Media, Reviews

The array of culprits and the goggling audience alike ranged from the most glittering members of France’s aristocracy to Paris’s dregs. That’s one reason the bizarre chain of events that kept France intermittently on edge and in a tizzy from 1670 to 1682, retold with verve by Holly Tucker in City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris, may qualify as the first truly modern scandal. What historians of Louis XIV’s reign most often call “The Affair of the Poisons” had it all: sex, death, forgery, sorcery, clandestine meetings in sordid locales, political rivalries and shenanigans, iniquity among the powerful. Not to mention a dedicated flatfoot out to get to the bottom of things — and, ultimately, an official cover-up once somebody too close to the king for anyone’s comfort was implicated.

Previewing our own age of tabloid docudramas, “audience” isn’t even a wholly figurative term. The whole gallimaufry went on long enough that a play burlesquing it was produced on the Left Bank in time for one of the well-born suspects to attend it, not long before she wound up in the dock herself. Like a number of her peers, the duchess of Bouillon (some name!) had been hoping to bump off a husband she disliked with help from a sinister back-street necromancer, abortionist, and peddler of potions known as Madame Voisin. Unlike some of the other perps, however — including her sister Olympe, the duchess of Soissons, who bolted the country when alerted to her impending arrest — Bouillon had enough temerity to successfully stymie Tucker’s hero: Nicholas de la Reynie, the founder of the Paris police force . . .




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New York Times Declares City of Light “True Crime Book for the Beach”

If mystery novels appeal to the credulous child in me, true crime stories speak to my inner voyeur. In reading this current batch of books, I’ve walked alongside a prisoner on her way to her execution, learned how to poison a wineglass and watched a king’s mistress do away with her rival. And that’s only from the first book on my list: CITY OF LIGHT, CITY OF POISON:...

The New Yorker Reviews City of Light!

CITY OF LIGHT, CITY OF POISON, by Holly Tucker (Norton). In 1667, Louis XIV, hoping to reduce crime in Paris, created a law-enforcement position—the lieutenant general of police—with sweeping powers of surveillance and detention. Tucker’s history focusses on the first incumbent, Nicolas de la Reynie, who built up a network of informants and discovered more than he’d...

WXXI Connections Interviews Holly about City of Light, City of Poison

Torture. Sweeping police powers. Unlawful detention. Scandal at the highest level. We're talking about... Paris, roughly 340 years ago. In a remarkable new book, professor Holly Tucker tells the story of l'Affaire de les Poisons -- the Affair of the Poisons, which rocked France and put a target on King Louis XIV himself. Louis responded by appointing Paris' first police...

Historical Novel Society Spellbound by City of Light, City of Poison

Paris in the late 17th century was not a place for the faint of heart. Despite the frightening ease with which you could be imprisoned without trial on the king’s command, the infamous lettre de cachet, crime, particularly at night, was rampant in the city. Paris was such a city of darkness in fact that it was in danger of becoming “an embarrassment” to the Sun King. In...

Bookwitty Declares City of Light, City of Poison Engrossing & Appalling

Holly Tucker’s City of Light, City of Poison is a riveting tale of power, passion and toxic lovers set in seventeenth century Paris. Tucker’s account of what became known as The Affair of the Poisons may read like a novel but is built from her meticulous study of historical documents and includes scintillating excerpts from court documents, memoirs, letters and records...
City of Light, City of Poison Cover


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