Gayle K. Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite
Murder in the Metro
Laetitia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France
Louisiana State University Press 2013
New Books in BiographyNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in French StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network July 31, 2013 Oline Eaton
The stories of individual lives are endlessly complex, weaving together the contemporary events, the surrounding culture, and incorporating random factual odds and ends. This is one of the challenges of writing biography- one must become expert on so many things- and also one of the pleasures of reading it: the fact that a biography can reveal something not simply about another person, but also provide an in-depth glimpse into other worlds. Such is the case with Gayle K. Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite‘s Murder in the Metro: Laetitia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France (Louisiana State University Press, 2013) which, in the course of exploring a grisly unsolved murder, immerses the reader in the 1930s Paris underworld.
In 1937, Laetitia Toureaux was discovered in the first class car of ametrotrain with a 9-inch knife stuck in her neck. In Murder in the Metro, Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite untangle Toureaux’s complicated life–she was, at one time, simultaneously spying for the Italian government, the Paris police, and the French terrorist organization the Cagoule–in an effort to give a plausible explanation for how and why she might have died.
However, their work extends beyond sleuthing; Murder in the Metrois a gripping story, but it’s also an effort to call scholarly attention to the use of terrorism during France’s Third Republic and, following World War II, the subsequent downplaying–even, at times, obfuscation–of such acts. Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite write that, in 1937, Toureaux’s life and death “offered a perfect tableau for the press to explore and expound upon the issues of gender and, to a lesser extent, class.” Today, she still acts as a tableau of sorts, her history merging with that of the Cagoule to provide a canvas from which scholars–with Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite leading the charge–can explore the nuances of the times in which she lived: a period marked by progress and innovation, but also violence and political unrest, all set against the clouds of a fast-approaching war.