A Time Travelers Notebook by Author Holly Tucker

Newsday Reports City of Light “a classic whodunit”

Mar 15, 2017 | Media, Reviews

From 1679 to 1682, there transpired in the Paris of Louis XIV a series of sudden deaths that touched the public imagination in a deep and lasting way. Poisoners were at work — many of them, it seemed — and their victims included magistrates, aged and rich husbands, and, possibly, members of the king’s court at Versailles. The king was still consolidating his power at Versailles, and jealous nobles were suspected of threatening members of his entourage, and the monarch himself. The matter is known to the French as “l’affaire des poisons,” the affair of the poisons, one of those staples of court intrigue when the Sun King ruled supreme that have led to endless speculation with no definitive resolution.

Holly Tucker’s “City of Light, City of Poison” is an intriguing amalgam of historical evocation and crime narrative that places the emphasis on the investigating official, Nicolas de la Reynie, first chief of the Paris police force. Tucker tells the story as if it were a classic whodunit, bringing alive an extremely complicated and baffling series of events using La Reynie’s notes and voluminous court transcripts. The temptation to embroider and elaborate, to suggest motives and deduce states of mind, is very great. It sometimes feels as if the narrative is about to shift into fiction, but the facts of the court records keep reining things in . . .

 

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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...
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