Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris - Steven Levingston

The Belle Epoque in Paris conjures up thoughts of beautiful people, beautiful clothes, gracious living and strolling on the Promenade des Anglais on the Riviera. Little Demon in the City of Lights gives us the dark underside of that picture.

The disappearance of a rich ladies' man in Paris in 1889 started a string of events that would end in a landmark legal case, the first where hypnotism was used as a defense against the charge of murder.

When Michel Eyraud and his mistress Gabrielle Bompard came up with the plan to murder and rob Toussaint-Augustin Gouffé, Michel was certain they would never get caught but thanks to the budding science of forensics and the dogged determination of Goron of the Surete, they were pursued across the globe and eventually brought to justice. Then came that landmark defense, can a person be hypnotised into doing something against their will?

This book does a good job of presenting the atmosphere of Paris during this period. The idea of public executions and dead bodies in the morgue for entertainment is completely foreign to us but the book helps us envision it. The main characters involved are given thorough backgrounds so we can understand where they are coming from. Some explanations go a bit longer than I needed but that's a minor point for me. All in all, a fascinating look at a fascinating historical crime.

I received this through Netgalley and appreciated the opportunity to read and review it.