Episode 41: Holly Tucker

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Alone, Pontchartrain inspected the black case. It was secured with not one but two sets of wax seals imprinted with La Reynie's official insignia. Pontchartrain cracked open the brittle seals with a small knife and inserted the key into the lock... Removing one large stack of pages, he placed the papers on the table and turned each gingerly. He saw names of France's highest nobility. Alongside them were scrawled the words "death," "poison," "murdered." -- Holly Tucker, City of Light, City of Poison I am so pleased to welcome my first true-crime writer -- all the more so because Holly Tucker brings her true crime tales to life from the pages of history. The central character of her latest book, City of Light, City of Poison is Nicolas de La Reynie, the first police chief of Paris, and the man who quite literally created the City of Light. City of Light, City of Poison gives us an insider's look into The Affair of the Poisons, the scandal which rocked the Sun King's court. Holly's book opens with King Louis XIV himself destroying what he thought were the only records of the investigation. Lucky for us, Louis was mistaken -- and Holly was tenacious. Holly is Editor-in-Chief of the marvelous website, Wonders & Marvels: A Community for Curious Minds Who Love History, Its Odd Stories, and Good Reads. My word, who doesn't? You can also keep tabs on her through her own author website, Holly-Tucker.com. In our interview, she gives a shout-out to authors Laura Hillenbrand and Erik Larson, and I would be failing in my duty to you not to recommend Holly's other foray into historical true crime, Blood Work, the research for which led her to Nicolas de La Reynie. As this goes live, it is Holly's launch day for City of Light, City of Poison. You can run over and like her on Facebook right here. While you're at it, go like Destination Mystery on Facebook as well. Meanwhile, though, you can enjoy this interview. If you'd rather read than listen, the transcript is below. Au revoir! -- Laura Transcript of Interview with Holly Tucker Laura Brennan: A professor of French History at Vanderbilt University, Holly Tucker writes extensively on true crime in early Europe. She has tackled murder and mayhem during the Scientific Revolution in her award-winning book, Blood Work, as well as childbirth and fairy tales in Pregnant Fictions. Her most recent book, City of Light, City of Poison, follows the first police chief of Paris as he works to root out organized crime and foil a cabal of poisoners, witches and unholy priests. Holly, thank you for joining me. Holly Tucker: Thanks for having me. LB: So, normally, in my interviews, I start by chatting about you and how you got into this, but I cannot wait to delve into this book with you. So let us start with City of Light, City of Poison. For someone who hasn't picked it up yet, what's the one thing they need to know in order to understand our conversation? HT: That it's a true crime mystery. It might read like fiction, but it's absolutely true. LB: When you say it might read like fiction, it does. It reads like a fast-paced novel where you're never sure who you should be rooting for. HT: There are so many different characters in this story as I researched it, it was really hard for me to try to figure out who exactly was up to no good and who is innocent. And I think that the biggest challenge in writing this book, and then also I hope to convey to readers, the pleasure of trying to solve the mystery and the puzzle themselves. LB: Your central character, although he was a real person, that first police chief of Paris, Nicolas de La Reynie. Because Paris up to that point didn't really have what we think of today as a police force. HT: No, it didn't. In fact I think it's safe to say it was considered to be the crime capital of the world. And the streets were foul and dirty, dangerous and most of the policing was done, if you could call it policing,

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