Monday, March 17, 2014

Little Demon in The City of Light

Paris was an exciting place in 1889. The new Eiffel Tower was a visible reminder that the city itself was one of the marvels of the modern world. Science and culture thrived in the new and fragile Third Republic. The scientific community was exploring new and fascinating fields. Among these fields was the new fad of hypnotism. In France two main schools of thought struggled for dominance. One of the main points of contention concerned the amount of free will that the subject under hypnosis retained. The Paris school argued that subjects under hypnosis could not be compelled to act against their own moral code. The rival school in Nancy claimed that subjects had no free will at all. This academic debate would soon be put to the test in a sensational murder trial.

Gabrielle Bompard was a young, free spirited girl who came to Paris to escape her father and step-mother. She soon became the mistress of Michel Eyraud. Eyraud was a shady business man who spent most of his time cheating people out of their money. Together with Gabrielle he murdered an acquaintance of his. After disposing of the body they fled to America. The police case for the missing friend ended up in the hands of Surete chief Marie-Francios Goron. Goron was able to discover the identity of the murdered man’s body, and was eventually able to connect the murder to Eyraud and Bompard.

Bompard fled Eyraud in America and returned to France. She claimed that she was not guilty of any crime because she had be forced under hypnosis to help in the murder. Eyraud was captured in Cuba and returned to France. The case would fascinate the Parisians and would be the first time that hypnosis was used as a murder defense.

The Little Demon In The City of Light is a fascinating book. The story itself almost seems like a convoluted murder mystery. Steven Levingston keeps this true story of crime moving along at a wonderful pace. The dogged Goron chasing down every clue, refusing to be stopped by inept police work in other parts of France. The shifty, murderous Eyraud with his manipulations. Most of all there is the character of Bompard. The young woman was an enigma. Was she a clever seductress, the “LIttle Demon?” Was she a simple minded victim of the stronger Eyraud? Like all real history the truth is often unknowable. We have to decide for ourselves about this young woman.

This is a fascinating story and deserves to be known. Levingston is an excellent writer and really brings this story to life. If you like history, true crime, or mystery novels, do yourself a favor and get this book.

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