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Download Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris Audiobook, by Steven Levingston Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Steven Levingston Narrator: John Lee Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2014 ISBN: 9780449012987
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Murder most gallic—think CSI Paris meets Georges Simenon—whose lurid combination of sex, brutality, forensics, and hypnotism riveted first a nation and then the world

Little Demon in the City of Light is the thrilling story of a gruesome 1889 murder of a lascivious court official at the hands of a ruthless con man and his pliant mistress and the international manhunt, sensational trial, and an inquiry into the limits of hypnotic power that ensued.

In France at the end of the nineteenth century, a great debate raged over the question of whether someone could be hypnotically compelled to commit a crime in violation of his or her moral convictions. When Toussaint-Augustin Gouffé entered number three on Tronson du Coudray street, he expected nothing but a delightful assignation with the comely young Gabrielle Bompard. Instead, he was murdered—hanged—by her and her companion Michel Eyraud. The body was then stuffed in a trunk and dumped on a riverbank near Lyon.

As the inquiry into the guilt or innocence of the woman whom the French tabloids dubbed the “Little Demon” escalated, the most respected minds in France debated whether Gabrielle Bompard was the pawn of her mesmerizing lover or simply a coldly calculating murderess. And, at the burning center of it all was a question. Could hypnosis force people to commit crimes against their will?

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A lavish portrait of Belle Époque Paris…Mesmerizing.”

    Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author

  • “A first-rate detective story, a sensational trial, and Paris when the Eiffel Tower was new—a wonderfully entertaining piece of social history.”

    Joseph Kanon, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Levingston, who is nonfiction book editor of the Washington Post and knows a good story when he sees one, has given it a richly enjoyable telling. Its lurid and improbable plot twists are expertly transposed into a breathless true-crime thriller set against a sumptuous evocation of the boulevards, nightclubs, and boudoirs of Belle Époque Paris.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Levingston has unearthed a whopper of a story, and lovingly crafted a dense, lyrical yarn that hits the true-crime trifecta of setting, story, and so-what. Such books remind us that times may change, but the human animal does not.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “An engaging—and finally chilling—portrait of an uneasy era and a city of more shadow than light.”

    Washington Post

  • “Fascinating... A rich portrait of the period, as well as the intriguing story of a notorious murder case, with its strange (and often amusing) cast of characters.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Equal parts period piece, forensic manual, and legal thriller, the book is a strong entry in the fascinating case in a fascinating time genre.”

    Daily Beast

  • “A terrific story well told.”

    Seattle Times

  • “Readers are well served by his reimagining of this amazing true story.”

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

  • “The book is lovingly constructed from available sources, including newspapers, memoirs, and secondary histories, and immerses the reader in a period whose new-found obsessions—science and pseudo-science of the mind, criminal forensics, mass media, the macabre, and fame—have a seminal connection to our own time.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “A fascinating and easy-to-read true crime…[that] also explores the sensational reaction by the public and the press to not only the missing victim but to the unique defense claimed in court by Bompard. Verdict: Recommended for historic true crime fans, readers interested in nineteenth-century history, media historians, and general readers.”

    Library Journal

  • “Filled with clever and determined detectives (quotes from Sûreté chief Marie-François Goron’s own memoir are included), theories about criminology, opinionizing by such luminaries as writer Émile Zola, and the ambience of an era that arguably can’t be matched for its guilelessness. Levingston’s smartly chipper prose and fine attention to detail—down to the otter trim on Gabrielle’s hat—add an entertaining and authentic sensibility to this re-creation of a culture, a crime, and the first time an accused murderer had put forward a hypnotism defense.”


  • “The author foregoes the tabloid excesses and exploitation of lurid details from that time and focuses on the debate as to whether a person is capable of committing a crime under hypnosis or even post-hypnotic suggestion….What could have been a silly exposé of Paris, hypnotism, and detection is instead a well-constructed, informative work by a talented author.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “This is truly a book that will take you to another time and place.”

    David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist

  • “John Lee narrates this true-crime story in the straightforward tone of a newscaster…Lee’s relentless tone will draw listeners into the seamy underside of the City of Light.”


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About the Author

Steven Levingston is the nonfiction book editor of the Washington Post. A veteran international journalist who has worked in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Paris, along with assignments in New York, Chicago, and Washington, he lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife and two children.

About the Narrator

John Lee has narrated more than 100 audiobooks. His work has garnered multiple Earphones Awards and won AudioFile‘s Best Voice in Fiction & Classics in both 2008 and 2009. He also narrates video games, does voice-over work, and writes plays. He is an accomplished stage actor and has written and co-produced the feature films Breathing Hard and Forfeit. He played Alydon in the 1963–64 Doctor Who serial The Daleks.