Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Monster of Florence: A True Story by Douglas Preston and mario Spezi

For long I have wanted to go to Florence, but I have never considered camping outside the city in the Tuscan countryside. Of course, the hills and fields are beautiful, as anyone who has seen Merchant Ivory's Room with a View will remember. When the sun sets, however, it is a dark and dangerous place, with many people who hide in the woods. Between 1974 and 1985, it was the setting for seven brutal double murders by a serial killer dubbed "The Monster of Florence." On Saturday nights of a full moon, he attacked couples involved in sexual intercourse, shooting them and taking body parts, perhaps for ritual ceremonies. His weapon has never been found and he has never been caught.

In The Monster of Florence: A True Story, Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi recount how several men have been arrested and charged as the serial murderer, but all were eventually released - many because the Monster would strike again while they were awaiting trial. Italian investigators have followed many leads. As the years have passed, they have turned to unreliable sources in desperation. As Preston and Spezi show, Italian police officials have used the case for their political advancement with little regard for truth and justice.

I listened to The Monster of Florence read by Dennis Boutsikaris, who had many distinct voices for the characters. The book has two distinct halves. In the first, the authors describe the cases up to the point at which the murders stop. In the second, they tell about their efforts to write this book, which annoys Italian officials so much that they are on several occasions arrested (without any evidence) for obstructing criminal investigations. Spezi is even charged as either being the Monster or his accomplice. In view of the conflict, readers cannot expect dispassionate reporting in this book. The authors vividly depict some Italian investigators and prosecutors are corrupt and moronic.

The case of the Monster of Florence is equal to those of the Boston Strangler and Jack the Ripper in gory fascination. This book should enjoy a long shelf life.

Preston, Douglas and Spezi, Mario. The Monster of Florence: A True Story. Hachette Audio, 2008. ISBN 9781600242090

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