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Reviews

Dr. Joel Blatt, University of Connecticut, Stamford Campus

  • Essay Article: Joel Blatt, "A Forgotten Murder, A Neglected French Fascism,” French Politics, Culture & Society, Vol. 31, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 96-104.

This article devotes an entire nine-page review to Murder in the Métro. "Finley-Croswhite and Brunelle present a well-researched portrait of the murder victim [Laetitia Toureaux] through the prisms of gender, class, and ethnicity….They analyze Laetitia’s ‘identities’ as part of a discussion of changing identities of women in 1930s France….Although they deny writing a history of the Cagoule, Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite have produced at least a mini-history of it….I share the authors’ conviction that the Cagoule’s significance has been seriously underestimated. Although not their primary objective, Finley-Croswhite and Brunelle challenge ‘the immunity thesis,’ the idea that France avoided fascism during the 1930s for reasons embedded deeply in its historical development (206-207). Indeed, Jean Filliol led a fascist squad, which resembled the Italian squadristi, perhaps even more a group called the Italian Ceka, established by Mussolini soon after h e attained power to kill his primary political opponents. Of all the extreme right French groups, the Cagoule came the closest to attempting a coup d’état…. Murder in the Métro is a serious book that contributes to our understanding of interwar France. It offers rich insight into the culture, society, and politics of the polarized 1930s. It presents with sensitivity the struggles of an Italian immigrant woman ‘to make something of herself’ while faced with limited options. The authors give a detailed account, gleaned from intensive research in primary and secondary sources, of a much neglected aspect of 1930s France. Indeed, the Cagoule was a significant French fascist movement that attempted to launch a coup d’état at one of the moments of greatest political division in twentieth-century France. Although I disagree in part with their conclusion, Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite have elaborated the context in which the murder occurred and clearly identified the two possible perpetrators. Finally, they successfully breathe historical life back into Laetitia Yolande Nourrisat Toureaux.” (Full Review)

Dr. Kevin Passmore, Cardiff University, Wales

  • American Historical Review, Vol. 116, no. 5 (December 2012): 1580-81.

"From a scholarly point of view, this is also a fine work of history. In perhaps the most impressive part of the book, the authors use Toureaux’s story as a way into the relationship between class, ethnicity, and gender in interwar France. They show the rather predictable stereotypes mobilized in press accounts, depicting her initially as a lamb to the slaughter, and then as a "modern woman” of dubious morals. Toureaux was conscious that as a women and working-class immigrant, she had few opportunities to change her status, but nevertheless she sought to create her own identity and excitement in the bals musettes and detective agency, without giving up the probably hopeless quest for bourgeois respect- ability. Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite conclude, perhaps controversially, that Toureaux perceived her gender as less of an obstacle to self-creation than her class and ethnic origin…. The second part of the book tells the story of the Ca- goule and argues that the organization was rather more important than historians have hitherto allowed. It certainly had many friends in high places, including the army, and secured lavish funds from industrialists, including Louis Renault and the founder of L’Oréal, Eugéne Schueller. It accumulated weaponry on a fright- ening scale. The least one can say is that armed resistance to the Popular Front was on the agenda in 1936–1937, even if many of the Cagoule’s backers also had other irons in the fire…. [T]his is a great book: a gripping read and a fascinating insight into 1930s France. It will be assigned to my students.” (Full Review)

Dr. Sean Kennedy, University of New Brunswick, Canada

  • H-France Vol. 12 (August 2012): No. 110

"[T]he authors have written an engaging study which draws the reader in with the murder mystery, while making an important argument about the perils of French politics in the 1930s. They evoke the chaos and uncertainty of the country’s protracted interwar crisis while engaging with broader issues pertaining to social trends, the role of the media, the destabilizing impact of the Spanish Civil War, the evolution of political terrorism and the wavering attitudes of elements of the French elite regarding the survival of the Republic. This is a book which can appeal to wide audience.” (Full Review)

Dr. Angela Kershaw, Department of Modern Languages: French Studies, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

  • French Studies, vol. 66, no. 2 (April 2012): 269

"This book really is a very good narrative: were it to be televised it would resemble a combination of The World at War and New Tricks. Its structure is cleverly conceived: the intercalation of the historical material with the tale of Toureaux’s murder heightens the suspense and allows for a denouement worthy of a Poirot mystery. And, like Agatha Christie, the authors manage to tie up all the loose ends while leaving the reader curious to know more….Their main argument is that the political significance of the Cagoule has been conspicuously underestimated by both scholarly and popular commentators, partly because of the difficulty in consulting the archives, which were sealed for 101 years (until 2038) with access subject to a derogation. The authors believe that the Toureaux file has been deliberately suppressed, possibly even decimated, not least because the story of the Cagoule implicates members of the L’Oréal dynasty, the father of leading French journalist Pierre Jeantet, and François Mitterrand. Previous researchers have therefore been either unwilling or unable to tell the full story. The attempt to research Toureaux and the Cagoule reveals the ongoing sensitivities around the memory of the Second World War, particularly as regards the roots of Vichy and collaboration in French fascist organizations between the wars.” (Full Review)

The Virginian-Pilot:Decem­ber 26, 2010

  • - Keith Mon­roe, Correspondant
    • "Grip­ping tale unveils mur­der, fascism"

This tale con­cerns an attrac­tive dance hall girl in ‘30s Paris, her entan­gle­ment with a fas­cist ter­ror­ist group nick­named the Cagoule — the Hooded Ones — and her sen­sa­tional mur­der on May 16, 1937. It has all the hall­marks of the noir thrillers of an Alan Furst as well as the enigma of a locked-room mys­tery, since Laeti­tia Toureaux was appar­ently alone on a first-class Metro car when her assailant plunged a slim knife into her neck, sev­er­ing her jugu­lar. The killer left the knife in the vic­tim as a sig­na­ture, and has never been found.  Yet this is not a lurid fic­tion but an account of a case famous at the time in France, and writ­ten by two his­tory pro­fes­sors — Annette Fin­ley– Croswhite of Old Domin­ion Uni­ver­sity and Gayle Brunelle of Cal State-Fullerton. They begin by recount­ing the life of the vic­tim and the results of the police inves­ti­ga­tion into her death.  Toureaux was the daugh­ter of Ital­ians whose mother brought her to France when she was 13. She was bilin­gual and mar­ried the scion of a wealthy fam­ily who kept their mar­riage secret from his par­ents. When he died young, they refused to rec­og­nize the mar­riage. She became a fac­tory worker by day and a habitue of the bals musette scene by night — the era’s pop­u­lar, if louche, dance halls.  But the inves­ti­ga­tion soon revealed another, secret, life that inter­sected with a dan­ger­ous under­world. Not only did Toureaux work peri­od­i­cally for a pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor, she was also con­nected to the Cagoule — the Comite Secret d’Action Rev­o­lu­tion­naire . This was an anti-communist, anti-Semitic, home­grown fas­cist orga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to the over­throw of the left-leaning Blum gov­ern­ment. The Cagoule was respon­si­ble for sev­eral polit­i­cal assas­si­na­tions and the bomb­ing of syn­a­gogues, and was amass­ing a huge cache of arms for a right­ist coup. (Full Review)

Times Lit­er­ary Sup­ple­ment:Decem­ber 17, 2010.

  • Cam­bridge his­to­rian Sarah Howard fives "Mur­der in the Metro”
    • She notes "Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite have pro­duced a grip­ping his­tor­i­cal who­dun­nit with chill­ing impli­ca­tions for our under­stand­ing of post-war France.”(Full Review)

His­tory Today:Decem­ber 9, 2010

  • "British his­to­rian Nigel Jones picks "Mur­der in the Metro” as his favorite of 2010.” (Full Review)

The Wash­ing­ton Times:July 23, 2010

  • by Stephanie Deutsch (Wash­ing­ton writer and critic)

    The rau­cous, ran­corous strug­gle between left and right in con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can polit­i­cal dis­course and pub­lic life, alarm­ing to some, is child’s play com­pared with what went on in 1930s France. Like its neigh­bors Spain, Italy and Ger­many, France became a bat­tle­ground dur­ing those years as ide­olo­gies com­peted for the soul of Europe. Suc­cumb­ing to nei­ther bloody civil war nor total­i­tar­ian takeover, France nonethe­less expe­ri­enced, in the years lead­ing up to World WarII, a period of extra­or­di­nary tur­moil, vio­lence and intrigue.  The social, cul­tural and polit­i­cal upheaval of this time is more than the back­ground for the crime that is at the cen­ter of "Mur­der in the Metro,” a new book by his­tory pro­fes­sors Gayle Brunelle (Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity at Fuller­ton) and Annette Finley-Croswhite (Old Domin­ion Uni­ver­sity).  It is the book’s real and extremely inter­est­ing subject.

Rut­land Her­ald:July 11, 2010

  • Rut­land native Gayle K. Brunelle’s new book sounds like a clas­sic Agatha Christie plot: A Paris Metro train leaves a sta­tion with a beau­ti­ful 29-year-old Ital­ian woman in a tai­lored green suit seated alone in first-class car­riage. Forty-five sec­onds later it arrives at the Porte Dorée sta­tion, where six pas­sen­gers enter her car and find her slumped by a win­dow with an 8-inch stiletto buried in her neck.   But this is a true story that enthralled pre-war Paris. In "Mur­der in the Metro: Laeti­tia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France,” Brunelle and co-author Annette Finley-Croswhite unravel Toureaux’s com­pli­cated life, in which she worked by day in a fac­tory and by night as a spy in the Parisian under­world. And they trace the mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion to its dead-end in the secret right-wing polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion known as the Cagoule, or "hooded ones.”   The authors met in the 1980s as grad­u­ate stu­dents at Emory Uni­ver­sity and began a friend­ship that saw them explor­ing all over France as they pur­sued their schol­ar­ship. Brunelle, who grad­u­ated from Mount St. Joseph Acad­emy in 1977 and St. Michael’s Col­lege, now teaches his­tory at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity, Fuller­ton. In 1997 the women hap­pened upon a brief men­tion of the Toureaux case in a Paris guide­book and embarked on years of research.  They see the book as par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant for a gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­cans who have lived in the shad­ows of Sept. 11, for the Cagoule com­prised some of the first iden­ti­fi­able ter­ror­ists of the mod­ern world.  The case offi­cially remains unsolved.

Fuller­ton Observer:July 2010

  • Look No Fur­ther for a Great Sum­mer Read!  Mur­der in the Métro by local author Gayle Brunelle (also aCSUF pro­fes­sor), and co-author Annette Finley-Croswhite is in the genre of his­tor­i­cal true crime. The book tells the story of the 1937 mur­der of under­cover agent and spy Laeti­tia Toureaux, one of the great­est unsolved mys­ter­ies. Toureaux became embroiled in the nefar­i­ous "Cagoule,” an ultra-right ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion aim­ing to over­throw the French gov­ern­ment and install an author­i­tar­ian regime.  Promi­nent cor­po­rate and polit­i­cal elite funded the effort. Doc­u­ments from the case were sealed for 101 years but Brunelle & Croswhite were able to obtain them.

Bertram Gor­don (Pro­fes­sor of French his­tory at Mills College)

  • Gor­don notes of the book, "In a well-documented and fast-moving account that reads like a novel, the authors tell of a seri­ous threat to a major demo­c­ra­tic power that should fas­ci­nate read­ers inter­ested in ter­ror­ism today.”

British Lit­er­ary Monthly,Lit­er­ary Review: July, 2010

  • Allan Massie notes that Brunelle an Finley-Croswhite "have done much detailed research and writ­ten a book that will fas­ci­nate every­one inter­ested in these murky years [1930s] of French History.”

Steve Goddard’s His­tory Wire:(show­cased via The New York Times ‘Blo­grun­ner’) June 23, 2010

  • Mur­der in the Metro — Laeti­tia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France: by Gayle K. Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite, Louisiana UP ’10, $39.95, 266 pages, ISBN #0807136166. Index, bib­li­og­ra­phy, source notes, group­ing of b&w images.

In a non­fic­tion nar­ra­tive that grips the reader like a novel, the authors revisit Paris of the 1930s, when polit­i­cal fer­ment of the left and right was per­co­lat­ing towards an inevitable, all-out war. The pro­tag­o­nist is lovely Laeti­tia Toureaux, whose life as a spy ends with a knife in her throat on the Paris Metro. The offi­cially unsolved crime was linked to a semi-secret orga­ni­za­tion named the "Cagoule,” mean­ing hood or cowl. This right-wing cult’s role was to pro­voke a Com­mu­nist insur­rec­tion, which it planned to counter and install a monar­chial or Mussolini-style dic­ta­tor­ship in France. Gayle K. Brunelle is pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity at Fuller­ton. Annette Finley-Croswhite is pro­fes­sor of his­tory and depart­ment chair at Old Domin­ion Uni­ver­sity in Nor­folk, VA.

Quest, Old Domin­ion Uni­ver­sity: Sum­mer 2010

  • His­tor­i­cal Mur­der Mys­tery by Finley-Croswhite Off To A Fast Start

Old Domin­ion Uni­ver­sity his­to­rian Annette Finley-Croswhite’s (Quest, Vol. 9, Issue 1) new book about an unsolved mur­der that took place in 1937 on the Paris metro sub­way has been praised by crit­ics, includ­ing one who called it "well-researched and …con­sis­tently com­pelling.”   "Mur­der in the Metro: Laeti­tia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France” is a polit­i­cally charged story uncov­ered by Finley-Croswhite and co-author Gayle Brunelle. It was pub­lished in early April by Louisiana State Uni­ver­sity Press.  Finley-Croswhite is a pro­fes­sor of his­tory and chair of the ODU Depart­ment of His­tory. Brunelle is a pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity at Fuller­ton.  The book was cho­sen by Cana­dian Dis­trib­u­tors of Schol­arly Books as their "best bet” in crime and media for sum­mer 2010. A Pub­lish­ers Weekly reviewer wrote that the authors "pro­vide a spec­u­la­tive but strong plau­si­ble case for who mur­dered Toureaux and why.  Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite have pro­duced an excep­tion­ally fine work that is well-researched and doc­u­mented and con­sis­tently com­pelling.”  Toureaux, an Ital­ian immi­grant, was the first per­son ever killed in the Paris metro. "She was a fas­ci­nat­ing woman whose life reflected many of the com­plex­i­ties of inter-war France,” Finley-Croswhite said in an inter­view.  A fac­tory worker and young widow, Toureaux loved to fre­quent music halls in some of Paris’ shab­bier neigh­bor­hoods. She called her­self "Yolande” and worked as a pri­vate detec­tive for the Agence Rouff as well as for the Paris Police and agents of the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment.  "As some­thing of a triple-agent, Yolande infil­trated a far-right ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, the Comité Secret d’Action Révo­lu­tion­naire, which went by the pop­u­lar name of the Cagoule, and she took their gun-running expert as her lover,” the ODU pro­fes­sor said.  The authors’ research looked into why the Paris police shelved the mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion and left the case unsolved to this day. They build a con­vinc­ing case for her hav­ing known too much about the plans of French and Ital­ian fas­cists, and for the inevitable sup­pres­sion of the mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion by men who would become post-war lead­ers of France.

Pub­lish­ers Weekly:March 8, 2010

  • Mur­der in the Métro: Laeti­tia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s -  France Gayle K. Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite. Louisiana State Univ., $39.95 (304p)ISBN 978–0-8071–3616-4

On May 16, 1937, Laeti­tia Toureaux, a 29-year-old Italian-born fac­tory worker, was mur­dered in an oth­er­wise empty first-class com­part­ment on a Paris métro train. The case has never been solved, and the case files were ordered sealed for 101 years. In this fas­ci­nat­ing book, his­to­ri­ans Brunelle (Cal­i­for­nia State, Fuller­ton) and Finley-Croswhite (Old Domin­ion) reveal that Toureaux was no mere fac­tory worker. Ambi­tious but naïve, she was involved, both per­son­ally and polit­i­cally, with a secret, extrem­ist fas­cist group known as the Cagoule; she also worked for a detec­tive agency and was an informer for both the French police and the Ital­ian secret ser­vice. The authors look at the bit­terly frac­tious world of 1930s French pol­i­tics and explore in depth both Toureaux’s enig­matic life and the press’s por­trayal of her as a loose woman and "social climber.” The authors also delve into the vio­lent his­tory of the Cagoule, which broke away from the better-known Action Française. Finally, they pro­vide a "spec­u­la­tive” but "strong plau­si­ble case” for who mur­dered Toureaux and why. Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite have pro­duced an excep­tion­ally fine work that is well-researched and doc­u­mented and con­sis­tently com­pelling. (May)

Best Bets for Spring/Summer 2010 (S. Book Scan)

  • Mur­der in the Metro — Laeti­tia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France: by Gayle K. Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite.

Unrav­el­ing Toureaux’s com­pli­cated and mys­te­ri­ous life and fol­low­ing the trail of her mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion to the Comite Secret d’Action Rev­o­lu­tion­naire, a secret right-wing polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion pop­u­larly known as the Cagoule, or "hooded ones”. Offers a fas­ci­nat­ing look at the dark and dan­ger­ous streets of pre-World WarII Paris.

Emory Mag­a­zine,Emory Uni­ver­sity: Spring 2010

  • Mur­der, They Wrote: Mur­der in the Metro (Louisiana State Uni­ver­sity Press, 2010).

The story of Laeti­tia Toureaux, an Ital­ian immi­grant and fac­tory worker who was the first per­son ever killed in the Paris Metro. Annette Finley-Croswhite ’91 PhD and Gayle Brunelle ’88 PhD present a his­tor­i­cal study of this unsolved mur­der of 1937.  The story’s back­drop is the polit­i­cal tur­bu­lence of France in the years lead­ing up to World War II.