Allan Massie

Toxic Relations

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris


W W Norton 310pp £20.99 order from our bookshop

Holly Tucker is a professor of French and biomedical ethics and society – an unusual combination that perhaps accounts for this book: a history of the Affair of the Poisons, the greatest scandal of the reign of Louis XIV. The affair began with the trial of the Marquise de Brinvilliers in 1675 on suspicion of poisoning her father and two brothers. This gave rise to numerous other allegations of poisoning in high places. It’s a lurid and horrible story that touched the throne: the king’s most famous mistress, the Marquise de Montespan, was among those caught up in it. She was accused of attempting to poison the king after realising that Louis’s attraction to her was fading. Other prominent nobles were implicated too, at least on the fringes, but, apart from the Marquise de Brinvilliers, who was eventually found guilty of murder and executed, most of those involved were lowlifes belonging to the criminal underworld of Paris. Nonetheless, fuel was added to the flames of suspicion by Brinvilliers’s assertion that ‘half of the nobility have done the same things, if I felt like talking, I’d ruin them all’.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,