Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Monster Of Florence - Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi


The Monster of Florence
A True Story
Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi
Grand Central

Nonfiction/True Crime

Beginning in 1968, Florence, Italy, point of origin for the Renaissance, was also ground zero for a serial killer dubbed ‘The Monster of Venice.’ This killer targeted lovers in parked cars, killing the male first, then the female. In later killings, the Monster would cut the women’s sex organs from the bodies with curious precision, and take them from the scene. Other than the cutting, there was no sign of sexual attack. These killings stymied the police and prosecutors for years.

The last documented Monster killing occurred in the mid-80s. Ballistics and comparisons of the knife wounds proved that the same gun and knife was used in each and every crime. For years, the people of Florence lived in terror. The investigation was byzantine, often incompetent, incredible, fantastical, and, in the end, ineffectual. Several men were arrested, charged, and a few even tried and convicted as the Monster. (The authors helpfully provide a timetable of major events.) Several prosecutors made their careers on cases that were later proved to be without merit. Along the way, many lives were utterly destroyed.

Mario Spezi is an Italian journalist who became famous for his coverage of the Monster killings. Because of his stories, often critical of the investigators, he was eventually arrested and imprisoned. Douglas Preston, an American writer of thrillers, became interested in the case and agreed to write a book with Spezi. For his trouble, he was brought in for interrogation and told that he’d be better off outside of Italy. Their stories are entwined with later events, and their personal experiences make it nearly impossible to stop turning pages.

In the end, this book is not so much about the crimes or the killer, but about the investigation itself and the men who used it for their own ends. Years after the killings ended, the investigators requested a profile from her FBI’s behavioral sciences group. This profile was promptly buried when it didn’t match up to the current suspect. For some time, those in charge of the investigation claimed that the killer was part of a demonic cult, who killed and used the body parts for unexplained ‘ritual’ reasons. It sounds so far-fetched as to be almost comical, but the authors make it clear that any humor is truly tragic. The cost of lives was far higher than the unfortunate victims; their loved ones, those falsely accused, those tarred by the very wide brush of association, all paid the price for the ambitions of a few unscrupulous people in positions of power.

Rating: 8
June 2008
ISBN# 978-0-446-28119-6 (hardcover)

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