Around the Press in 80 Books: Murder in the Metro

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Senior Editor Alisa Plant writes about Murder in the Métro.

BrunelleMURDER_covfrontHROn the evening of May 16, 1937, the train doors opened at the Porte Dorée station in the Paris Métro to reveal a dying woman slumped on the floor, an eight-inch stiletto buried in her neck. She was alone in the car. No one witnessed the crime, and the killer left behind little forensic evidence. Police identified the dead woman as twenty-nine-year-old Laetitia Toureaux, an Italian immigrant with ties to a right-wing terrorist organization, the Cagoule. This sensational crime—the first murder in the Paris Métro system—captivated the imagination of the French public for weeks, but Toureaux’s killer was never found.

Sixty years later, in 1997, historians Gayle Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite came across a fleeting reference to Toureaux’s murder. Intrigued, they decided to do some digging in French archives to see what they could learn about her life and shocking death—only to be met with resistance at every turn. Inventories of documents revealed that files about Toureaux did exist, but normally helpful archivists claimed they had no knowledge of any such records, or demanded that Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite obtain special permissions from the French Ministry of Culture in order to view them. But while Laetitia Toureaux and the Cagoule cast a longer and darker shadow than Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite had initially realized, these obstacles only increased their determination. Tenacious researchers, they at last succeeded in gaining access to the huge police file about Toureaux, her political activities, and the investigation into her death. They began writing her story. And they posted a preliminary article about their findings online, which is where I came in.

As the acquiring editor for European history here at the Press, I seek out top-flight scholarship for our list. Reading about Toureaux, I quickly became transfixed by Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite’s work. I contacted them in the hope that their manuscript wasn’t under contract elsewhere—and it was not. Long story short, about a year later Murder in the Métro was published under the LSU Press imprint. Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite believe they’ve solved the mystery of who killed Laetitia Toureaux. But if you want to know who did it, you’ll have to read the book.

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