November Bonus Review #6

Landru’s SecretPublished By: Pen & Sword

Publication Date: 10th October 2018

Format: Hardback

I.S.B.N.: 9781526715296

Price: £15.99

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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Lavishly illustrated with previous unpublished photographs, Landru’s Secret is a story for our times: a female revengers’ tragedy starring the mothers and sisters of the missing fiancées, a lethal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.

My Review

Another one from the big box of goodies sent from Pen & Sword.

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.


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