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Landru’s Secret (ePub)

The Deadly Seductions of France’s Lonely Hearts Serial Killer

WWI True Crime

By Richard Tomlinson
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 4.2 MB (.epub)
Pages: 312
ISBN: 9781526715319
eBook Released: 14th November 2018

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On 12 April 1919, the Paris police arrested a bald, short, 50-year-old swindler at his apartment near the Gare du Nord, acting on a lead from a humble housemaid. A century later, Henri Désiré Landru remains the most notorious and enigmatic serial killer in French criminal history, a riddle at the heart of an unsolved murder puzzle.

The official version of Landru’s lethal rampage was so shocking that it almost defied belief. According to the authorities, Landru had made “romantic contact” with 283 women during the First World War, luring ten of them to his country houses outside Paris where he killed them for their money.

Yet no bodies were ever found, while Landru obdurately protested his innocence. “It is for you to prove the deeds of which I am accused,” he sneered at the investigating magistrate.

The true story of l’affaire Landru, buried in the Paris police archives for the past century, was altogether more disturbing. In Landru’s Secret, Richard Tomlinson draws on more than 5,000 pages of original case documents, including witness statements, police reports and private correspondence, to reveal for the first time that:

Landru killed more women than the 10 victims on the charge sheet.

The police failed to trace at least 72 of the women he contacted.

The authorities ignored the key victim who explained why the killings began.

Landru did not kill for money, but to revel in his power over what he called the “feeble sex”.

Lavishly illustrated with previous unpublished photographs, Landru’s Secret is a story for our times: a female revengers’ tragedy starring the mothers and sisters of the missing fiancées, a lethal misogynist and France’s greatest defence lawyer, intent on saving his repulsive client from the guillotine.

Listed in 'six books at top of the tree' feature

The New European, 6th December 2018 – by Charlie Connelly

Charting the accused’s upbringing and dabbles in petty crime to the investigation and trial, it’s a comprehensive and well-structured book, filled with reported dialogue.

Click here to read the full review

The Spectator (online), 8th December 2018 - reviewed by Zoë Apostolides

From the evidence available, Landru killed at least a dozen women between 1914 and 1919, as well as the 17 year old son of his first victim. If it wasn’t for the work of two young woman desperate to find their missing sisters, Landru would have kept on killing, undetected. The attitude of the police and legal teams towards the victims and witnesses, mostly women, hindered the investigation and, like Landru himself, were a symptom of the misogyny rampant in France at the time. The victims and witnesses were slandered to fit their ideas and the real people ignored and forgotten. Landru murdered because he enjoyed having power over women, and as a criminal on the run it was the only power he had, other than terrorising his wife and children, who were all implicated in his crimes.

This book comprehensively covers the murders and trial of Landru, a truly repulsive man. The author uses contemporary sources and intelligent guesses to put together the timeline of events, adding information that the Paris police missed or ignored because it didn’t fit their timeline and motive. This book provides the reader with information about life in Paris during WW1 as well as social attitudes towards women and crime.

Rosie Writes... Blog

New evidence shines light on France’s most notorious serial killer

Radio France Internationale, 26th November 2018 - words by Jan van der Made

As featured on Most Notorious true crime podcast

Listen here

Most Notorious Podcast, Erik Rivenes

Featured on Crime Traveller website.

"Between 1915 and 1919 French serial killer Henri Désiré Landru is known to have taken the lives of 10 women and one youth before he was caught. Here, author Richard Tomlinson breaks open this intriguing case, revealing how the police misinterpreted a crucial piece of evidence, Landru’s incriminating notebook, which was then almost certainly stolen by one of the detectives, allowing the secrets it contained to remain untold."


See full feature here

Crime Traveller website

★★★★★ Fascinating and charming

You may not expect a book about serial murder to have charm, but this one does. Very readable and lovingly researched, it takes you into the lives of French people of a kind who feature little in the history books. This is a story of the French home front in the First World War, of the quiet desperation of a variety of women who are left alone and who seem to sleepwalk into the arms of a monster. Landru's victims, their families and his family are all fascinating, and the detail here is wonderfully rich. Less charming are the blundering lawyers and detectives, apparently determined to make a mess of the prosecution. Fortunately the author is there to make sense of things.

Amazon Customer

***** #MeToo thriller set in 1st World War Paris

I am great fan of thrillers, and here we have a gem of Parisnoir to add the genre. Tomlinson elegantly takes us on a journey of discovery following the hunch of his heroine, a humble housemaid, as she hunts down and tries to bring her sister's killer, the eponymous Landru, to justice. His misogyny and that of early 20th century French law are chilling and all the more shocking for this being a true story. The research involved in recreating this French mystery is both impressive and admirable. A real #MeToo for our times.

Amazon Review

***** His audacity is breathtaking
An unbelievable book in its content and breadth of detail. I was astounded at his audacity. Beautifully researched and written with a depth of feeling.

Amazon Review

***** A true life Sherlock Holmes

Astonishing that this story is not better known, but it really comes to life in this thrilling investigation. With the flair of a Poirot or a Holmes coupled with a 21st century consciousness, Richard Tomlinson has followed up on elements of the mystery that the police of the time ignored and unearthed a much more complex and chilling truth behind the character of Landru and those around him. A great combination of dogged research and gifted storytelling which remains very relevant for today’s treatment of female victims of crime.

Amazon Review

***** WORLD WAR 1 SERIAL KILLER - a brilliant book

I bought this book because of the absolutely mesmerising and terrifying cover - and I had no idea who Landru was. I am so glad I did as it is simply one of the most gripping stories and uncovers a whole new aspect to the fallout from World War 1. French women were at the time totally dependent on male protection - society was deeply misogynistic and as vast numbers of boyfriends, husbands and fathers died at the Front,vulnerable women turned to small ads to look for replacements. Read the full review here

Amazon Review

***** An unbelievable story

This is a gripping and harrowing story, told with great originality in a style which brings the characters and the period to vivid life. Highly recommended.

Amazon Review

About Richard Tomlinson

Richard Tomlinson first came across the Landru case in the early 1980s while trawling through old newspapers in Paris’s Bibliothèque Nationale. Landru’s Secret is the result of his long quest to discover the real identities of Landru’s supposedly besotted fiancées and the truth about why and how they disappeared. An award-winning journalist and author, he recently published an acclaimed biography of the Victorian cricketing hero W.G. Grace.
'Magnificent’ – Daily Telegraph. ‘Terrifically readable’ – Mail on Sunday. ‘Revelatory’ – Evening Standard.

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