The Monster of Florence: A True Story
Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi
Grand Central Publishing

To give them credit, I likely would have paid more attention to the second half of the book if I were still on summer vacation.

The Monster of Florence is a collaboration between American thriller author Douglas Preston and Italian journalist Mario Spezi. The involvement of an American with this Tuscan tale of murder is only appropriate, because the book examines, and in part undermines, the idea that serial killers are a uniquely American, or at least Anglophone, phenomenon.

Starting in the late sixties, young couples who had driven out of Florence to the countryside were attacked when they were at their most vulnerable–naked and unafraid. The killer’s method was savage; his treatment of the female victims post mortem indicates he hated women.

Here’s a thought to keep you up at night, ladies: they never caught him.

After a fairly gripping account of the crimes, the early investigation, and the socioeconomic trends in Italy that may have brought the killer to Florence, this story ends and is substituted with another. The second half of the book accounts the entanglement of the authors in the case. At one point, the desperate Italian prosecutors try to implicate Spezi. Because, you know, he asked hard questions about the case.

The legal nightmare that was the investigation will sound familiar to anyone familiar with the Amanda Knox double-jeopardy spectacular.

2/5 stars: a valiant effort, with a promising start, but it loses the plot.
3/5 ‘fraidy cats: seems distant in time and location, unless you live in Italy
4/5 ick-factor: The “calling card” of this killer is horrifying.




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