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THE AFFAIR OF THE POISONS

MURDER, INFANTICIDE, AND SATANISM AT THE COURT OF LOUIS XIV

Superior history, wonderfully complex and colorful, about the dark side of the Sun King’s court. (8-page color insert, not...

Recounting truly baroque French doings in the last quarter of the 17th century, as well as the story of the special royal commission appointed to investigate the wickedness, Somerset (Elizabeth I, 1991) offers some dish about liaisons that were truly dangerous.

It was good to be the Sun King at Versailles—except for all the poisonings, necromancy, and related bad behavior that seemed to be gaining ascendancy. During the raunchy reign of Louis XIV there was rampant fooling around, though apparently in every reign a little high life must fall. The intricate Affair of the Poisons began with alarming rumors flying about fortunetellers, alchemists, astrologers, abortionists, black magicians, and Satanists plying their occult trades in the employ of aristocrats and courtiers. Most frightening among these tales of rank people working for people of rank were the accounts of death by poison. The weapons of individual destruction included powdered glass, orpiment, realgar, white arsenic, and disgusting special formulations designed to effect widowhood at a time when divorce wasn’t available. Potions were available to produce advantageous connections for ardent admirers of those who were otherwise coupled. There were, patently, killers in lace and décolletage and murderers in silk breeches. It was feared the web of intrigue might even reach the King’s person, since among diverse suspects was his favorite mistress. But Louis was oddly merciful to Mme. de Montespan in a day when even the most innocent of inconvenient women might simply be packed off to a convent forever. More plebian “divineresses” didn’t get off so lightly. Before the furor abated, there were 104 trials and 34 executions, “with offenders being variously burnt alive, decapitated, hanged, strangled or broken on the wheel.” Thereafter, the King’s behavior noticeably improved. Satan was no longer popular in France. Though Somerset doesn’t speculate, apparently the Evil One moved on to New England, where the Salem witchcraft trials began shortly thereafter.

Superior history, wonderfully complex and colorful, about the dark side of the Sun King’s court. (8-page color insert, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-33017-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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