Tuesday, July 22, 2008
weekly book review: the monster of florence, by douglas preston with mario spezi
From 1968 to 1985 a serial killer is suspected to have roamed the gorgeous Tuscan landscape, killing as many as eight couples while they made love in cars parked in the rolling countryside. The killer's (or killers') viciousness rivaled that of London's Jack the Ripper, and his crimes inspired Thomas Harris's infamous Hannibal Lecter. And although the slayings would come to an abrupt stop in 1985, the Monster of Florence still enjoys a formidable presence amongst the inhabitants of Florence and its outlying areas, as his identity remains undetermined to this day.

Author Douglas Preston moved to Florence with the intention of writing a work of fiction, but after learning that his front yard was the scene of one of the Monster's gruesome murders, he became fascinated with the unsolved case and found he could focus on little else. With the help of journalist Mario Spezi - nicknamed the "Monstrologer" for his expertise in the case - Preston discovered an unbelievable story, one involving real-life monsters, a cast of degenerates, an Internet nutcase, and even a suspected satanic cult. 

But the story of the investigation would prove to be as fascinating as the story of the murders themselves, as time and time again the authorities proved they were more interested in using the case for their own personal gain than in justice; thus, they made false accusations, wrongfully imprisoned several innocent people, possibly planted evidence, illegally spied on dissidents, and even went so far as to accuse Mario Spezi of being the Monster after his investigative work and forthcoming book threatened to paint them in an unflattering light.  It's as hard to imagine such acts of brutality taking place in the breathtakingly beautiful home of The Renaissance as it is to imagine such investigative incompetence in a supposedly civilized country, however every bit of it is true.  

The Monster of Florence is divided into two parts: the first detailing the investigation into the Monster's crimes and identify, and the second chronicling Preston's collaborative work with Spezi and their subsequent indictments for obstruction of justice.  Both parts are of equal interest, and, in the vein of In Cold Blood and The Devil in the White City, the whole piece reads like a work of fiction.  My biggest criticism (aside from the difficulties I had keeping all the Italian names straight) was that the ending disappoints somewhat, but there's not much else the authors could have done seeing as the crime remains unsolved.

Bottom line: Preston and Spezi have created a meticulously researched, well-written and wholly absorbing book, and it's a must-read if you are at all interested in the true crime genre.

Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi
2008, 304 pages

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Blogger Mary said...

ok I'm adding another book to my seriously long list. I love these book reviews!

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