Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review of "The Monster of Florence" by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi




From the late 1960’s to the 1980’s a serial killer sporadically stalked the countryside around Florence, murdering young couples and mutilating the female victims. Over the years, numerous men became suspects, many were jailed, and some were put on trial. To this day, however, the true killer, dubbed “the monster of Florence” has not been identified.

Douglas Preston, an author of crime novels, moved to Florence with his family to write a novel. Once there he decided to write a non-fiction book about the monster in collaboration with Mario Spezi, a journalist who had been writing about the subject for years. The result is this book, a fascinating tale about both the serial killer and the culture around Florence at the time.

Apparently a major recreational activity among the general public in Florence (at least the male half) was spying on young couples making love in cars. This activity included staking out the “best spots” to watch and even paying off the “regulars” to snag their places. Of course, this is very creepy.

Other parts of the story depict the macho culture in Italy, in which some men mistreated, starved, and beat their wives...and even murdered them – often with few consequences.

According to Preston there are probably many reasons the monster of Florence wasn’t caught. Firstly, there was a lot of shoddy police work in which crime scenes weren’t secured and people wandered around at will. Second, there was an inept judicial system in which the major players cared more about advancing their careers than convicting the right person. In fact the judges actually closed the investigation on the most likely suspects, forcing police to look elsewhere.

A fascinating part of the book depicts the harassment of Preston and Spezi by the police and the judiciary. In fact, at one point Spezi was accused of being the murderer and put in jail – perhaps in an attempt to stop the publication of this book - which casts officials in a decidedly unflattering light.

Preston and Spezi believe they know the identity of the monster and present a convincing case – but perhaps it’s too late for justice to prevail.

This is a well-written and engaging book. Both mystery fans and true crime aficionados would enjoy it.

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