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Lavishly illustrated with previous unpublished photographs, Landru’s Secret is a story for our times: a female revengers’ tragedy starring the mothers and sisters of the missing fiancées, a lethal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 defense lawyer, intent on saving his repulsive client from the guillotine.
“A shocking story of deception and murder…This is true-crime writing at its best.”
~Dean Jobb, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
“The untold story of a serial killer who preyed on ten lonely war widows in World War One France… lifts the lid on the life of Henri Désiré Landru, the most notorious serial killer in French criminal history.”
~Amie Gordon, Daily Mail
“The human drama plays out alongside portraits of Paris during and after Landru’s spree: the bombed streets, heartfelt notes sent via the underground whoosh of the pneumatique mail system, the ‘curtain raiser’ headlines of a national press wringing its hands in barely suppressed glee.”
~Zoë Apostolides, The Spectator