About

Mur­der in the Métro

  • Laeti­tia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France
  • Gayle K. Brunelle, Ph.D. and Annette Finley-Croswhite, Ph.D.

An enthralling his­tor­i­cal study of an unsolved murder

On 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 by a win­dow, an eight-inch stiletto buried to its hilt in her neck. No one wit­nessed the crime, and the killer left behind lit­tle foren­sic evi­dence. This first-ever mur­der in the Paris Métro dom­i­nated the head­lines for weeks dur­ing the sum­mer of 1937, as jour­nal­ists and the police slowly uncov­ered the shock­ing truth about the vic­tim: a twenty-nine-year-old Ital­ian immi­grant, the beau­ti­ful and elu­sive Laeti­tia Toureaux. Toureaux toiled each day in a fac­tory, but spent nights work­ing as a spy in the seamy Parisian under­world.  Just as the dan­ger­ous spy Mata Hari had fas­ci­nated Parisians a gen­er­a­tion before, the mys­tery of Toureaux’s mur­der held the French pub­lic spell­bound in pre-war Paris, as the police tried and failed to iden­tify her assassin.

In Mur­der in the Métro, Gayle K. Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite unravel Toureaux’s com­pli­cated and mys­te­ri­ous life, assess­ing her com­plex iden­tity within the larger polit­i­cal con­text of the time. They fol­low the trail of Toureaux’s mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion to the Comité Secret d’Action Révo­lu­tion­naire, a secret right-wing polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion pop­u­larly known as the Cagoule, or “hooded ones.” Obsessed with the Com­mu­nist threat they per­ceived in the grow­ing power of labor unions and the French left wing, the Cagoule’s lead­ers aimed to over­throw France’s Third Repub­lic and install an author­i­tar­ian regime allied with Italy. With Mus­solini as their ally and Ital­ian fas­cism as their model, they did not shrink from com­mit­ting vio­lent crimes and foment­ing ter­ror to accom­plish their goal. In 1936, Toureaux—at the behest of the French police—infiltrated this dan­ger­ous group of ter­ror­ists and seduced one of its lead­ers, Gabriel Jean­tet, to gain more information.

The  tale of Laeti­tia Toureaux epit­o­mizes the tur­bu­lence of 1930s France, as the coun­try pre­pared for a war most peo­ple dreaded but assumed would come. This period, there­fore, gen­er­ated great anx­i­ety but also offered new opportunities—and risks—to Toureaux as she embraced the iden­tity of a “mod­ern” woman.  The authors unravel her mur­der as they detail her story and that of the Cagoule, within the pop­u­lar cul­ture and con­flicted pol­i­tics of 1930s France.

By exam­in­ing doc­u­ments related to Toureaux’s murder—documents the French gov­ern­ment has sealed from pub­lic view until 2038—Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite link Toureaux’s death not only to the Cagoule but also to the Ital­ian secret ser­vice, for whom she acted as an infor­mant.  Their research pro­vides likely answers to the ques­tion of the iden­tity of Toureaux’s mur­der and offers a fas­ci­nat­ing look at the dark and dan­ger­ous streets of pre-World War II Paris.

  • Gayle Brunelle is a pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity at Fuller­ton and the author of The New World Mer­chants of Rouen, 1559–1630.
  • Annette Finley-Croswhite is a pro­fes­sor of his­tory and chair of the depart­ment of his­tory at Old Domin­ion Uni­ver­sity in Nor­folk, Vir­ginia. She is also the author of Henry IV and the Towns: The Pur­suit of Legit­i­macy in French Urban Soci­ety, 1589–1610.

French His­tory
May 2010
312 pages, 6 x 9, 11 halftones
ISBN 978–0-8071–3616-4
Cloth $39.95

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Mur­der in the Métro: Le Crime du Métro

  • Une étude his­torique pas­sion­nante d’une assas­siner non réso­lus et la jus­tice ne fait jamais

Dans la soirée du 16 Mai 1937, a ouvert les portes du train à la sta­tion Porte Dorée dans le métro parisien pour révéler une mourante chuté par une fenêtre, un stylet de huit a enterré à sa garde dans son cou. Per­sonne n’a été témoin du crime, et le tueur laissé peu de preuves médico-légales. Cette assas­siner toute pre­mière dans le métro parisien a dom­iné la une des jour­naux pen­dant des semaines durant l’été 1937, en tant que jour­nal­istes et la police décou­vrit lente­ment la vérité choquante sur la vic­time: une femme de vingt-neuf ans, immi­grant ital­ien, la belle Laeti­tia Toureaux.  Elle tra­vaillé chaque jour dans une usine, mais passé des nuits à tra­vailler comme un espion dans les bals musette parisi­ennes. Tout comme la dan­gereuse espi­onne Mata Hari avait fasciné les Parisiens, une généra­tion aupar­a­vant, le mys­tère de l’assassiner Toureaux a tenu en haleine le pub­lic français en avant-guerre, Paris, comme la police a essayé et échoué à iden­ti­fier son assassin.

En “Mur­der in the Métro” ou en français “Le Crime du Métro,” Gayle K. Brunelle et Annette Finley-Croswhite démêler la vie com­pliquée et mys­térieuse de Toureaux, en les éval­u­ant son iden­tité com­plexe dans le con­texte poli­tique plus vaste de l’époque. Ils suiv­ent la piste de l’enquête au Comité Secret d’Action Révo­lu­tion­naire, un organ­i­sa­tion poli­tique de la droit con­nue sous le nom “Cagoule.” Obsédé par la men­ace com­mu­niste, ils aperçurent dans la mon­tée en puis­sance des syn­di­cats et l’aile gauche française, les dirigeants de la Cagoule visant à ren­verser la France de la Troisième République et d’installer un régime autori­taire alliée avec l’Italie. Avec Mus­solini comme leur allié et le fas­cisme ital­ien comme leur mod­èle, ils n’hésitent pas à com­met­tre des crimes vio­lents et de fomenter la ter­reur pour attein­dre leur but. En 1936, Toureaux, à la demande de la police française, infil­trés à ce groupe de ter­ror­istes dan­gereux et l’un de ses dirigeants séduite, Gabriel Jean­tet, d’acquérir plus d’informations.

Le récit de Laeti­tia Toureaux incarne la tur­bu­lence des années 1930, la France, alors que le pays pré­parés pour une guerre ter­ri­ble, mais la plu­part des gens pris viendrait. Cette péri­ode a donc généré une grande inquié­tude, mais a égale­ment offert de nou­velles oppor­tu­nités et les risques à Toureaux en embras­sant l’identité de la femme «mod­erne». Les auteurs démêler son assas­siner comme ils détail son his­toire et celle de la Cagoule, dans la cul­ture pop­u­laire et la poli­tique en con­flit des années 1930 en France.

En exam­i­nant les doc­u­ments liés à assas­siner Toureaux, de doc­u­ments du gou­verne­ment français a scellé la vue du pub­lic avant 2038, Brunelle et Finley-Croswhite atta­chons la mort de Toureaux non seule­ment de la Cagoule, mais aussi aux ser­vices secrets ital­iens, pour qui elle a agi comme infor­ma­teur. Leur recherche apporte des réponses de nature à la ques­tion de l’identité d’assassiner Toureaux et offre un regard fasci­nant sur les rues et des lois som­bres et dan­gereuses de Paris en 1937.

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Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite set to pro­duce a Sequel to “Mur­der in the Métro”

  • Who killed Eugène Deloncle?

Once again Gayle Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite are intent on solv­ing a mys­te­ri­ous mur­der in 1930s France.  This sequel to “Mur­der in the Métro,” ten­ta­tively enti­tled “Ter­ror­ist of the National Rev­o­lu­tion: Eugène Delon­cle in Vichy and Occu­pied France,” will unravel the causes and cul­prits behind Deloncle’s vio­lent death.  The work will be the first biog­ra­phy of “Cagoule” founder Eugène Delon­cle.  A noto­ri­ous col­lab­o­ra­tor with the Ger­mans, dur­ing World War II Delon­cle cre­ated the MSR (Mou­ve­ment Social Révo­lu­tion­naire), an inde­pen­dent polit­i­cal party with a pro-German, anti-Semitic plat­form.  With fund­ing and weapons from the Gestapo, Delon­cle destroyed nine Jew­ish syn­a­gogues in Paris, and his MSR was instru­men­tal in tak­ing over Jew­ish prop­erty in the city as well.  Yet on Jan­u­ary 17, 1944, a group of armed men in Gestapo uni­forms burst into his swank Parisian apart­ment and assas­si­nated him before the eyes of his wife and daugh­ter, seri­ously wound­ing his son Louis as well, while his close col­lab­o­ra­tor (and his wife’s lover) Jacques Cor­rèze cow­ered naked in the bath­room.  Why had the Ger­mans turned against Delon­cle?  Or had they?  Rumors flew that the assas­si­na­tion was really a set­tling of accounts among dif­fer­ent branches of the French extreme right, or even the result of Deloncle’s recent efforts to join the Resistance.

Delon­cle was a wealthy, pow­er­ful mem­ber of the French bour­geoisie, highly edu­cated and with a charm and charisma that attracted fol­low­ers from all social classes.  He exer­cised a par­tic­u­lar attrac­tion for the often vio­lent young French men and women dis­il­lu­sioned with the French Third Repub­lic and drawn to the extreme right in the 1930s.  Deloncle’s polit­i­cal ambi­tions – he hoped to be the French Mus­solini – and obses­sion with secret plots drew him into a down­ward spi­ral of polit­i­cal sub­ver­sion, ter­ror­ist vio­lence and mur­der.  His strug­gle against bour­geois lib­er­al­ism and deter­mi­na­tion to achieve power drove him into alliances with ever more dan­ger­ous right­ist fig­ures – from the “main­stream” right to Vichy and finally, to col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Germans.

Ter­ror­ist of the National Rev­o­lu­tion” will con­tain a cast of char­ac­ters famil­iar to all who have read “Mur­der in the Métro,” such as Toureaux’s lover, Gabriel Jean­tet who  remained an ally of Delon­cle at the out­set of the war and prob­a­bly coop­er­ated with him in plot­ting the mur­der of ex-Minister of the Inte­rior, Marx Dor­moy, Jacques Cor­rèze, Deloncle’s puta­tive son and lover of his beau­ti­ful wife, Mer­cédès Delon­cle, and Cagoulard assas­sin, Jean Fil­liol, who joined the MSR and ulti­mately headed the dreaded Mil­ice as a Ger­man col­lab­o­ra­tor.   Delon­cle at one point described his Cagoule with the state­ment “nous sommes méchant” (we are dangerous/brutal).  But Delon­cle made ene­mies who, it seems, were at least as bru­tal and dan­ger­ous as he.  Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite will tell the story of how the bril­liant Delon­cle, a con­sum­mate plot­ter with polit­i­cal ambi­tions, ended up dying in a hail of bul­lets in the wan­ing days of World War II.

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