Sharon reviews Little Demon in the City of Light by Steven Levingston, Doubleday, 2014 333 pages
Gabrielle is a murderer. Or is she? She committed a crime. Or did she? This is a true story set in Paris in the 1890s. Paris was the City of Light. The Eiffel Tower had just been installed. Everywhere you looked there was beauty and style. But crime and darkness also existed in the shadows.
Hypnotism was all the rage. Parties of the rich and beautiful always included it, along with champagne and absinthe. Gabrielle was rich, privileged and very susceptible to being hypnotized. Chafing under the restrictions that her father laid down, Gabrielle runs away and into the arms of Michel Eyraud. Within a year, Gabrielle is completely under his spell. One night, a wealthy Parisian businessman Toussaint-Augustin Gouffé is lured to their apartment and killed. Strangled by Gabrielle? Perhaps, but did she mean to do it?
When Gabrielle and Michel are captured and brought to trial, Gabrielle testifies that she did not murder the gentleman. She was made to perform the crime while hypnotized. Is that even possible? Both the defense and the prosecutors bring famous authorities who give evidence for and against her claim.
While this happened over 100 years ago, you will recognize the sensationalism of the press. You’ll learn of one of the first cases that used forensic science to identify the victim and track down the criminals. And you’ll come to know all of those involved- Gabrielle and Michel, the detectives of the recently formed Surete’ police force, the forensics experts and other scientists of the day. Then you can make up your own mind as to whether Gabrielle is guilty or not.