Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Monster of Florence

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi was originally published in 2008. My hardcover copy has 322 pages. This is the nonfiction account of a serial killer, the Monster of Florence, and the investigation into his identity. Part One, "the Story of Mario Spezi," covers the details of the murders and investigation up to 2000. Part Two, "The Story of Douglas Preston," covers events after Douglas Preston and his family moved to Florence. While the murders are chilling, what becomes quite evident, and even more chilling in many ways, is the corruption, incompetence, of the officials involved with the case and the complete lack of rights that we as Americans take for granted.

A particularly disturbing person who inserted herself into the investigation was Gabriella Carlizzi, a completely delusional whack job who published her theories, accusations, and speculations online, maliciously slandering people left and right. And what is even more disturbing is that she had the prosecutors and police listening to her. I've actually met a woman like this and it's always amazing to see the people who can get sucked into their alternate universe because they don't have the backbone to fight her influence.

While this is a true crime novel, it isn't one in the sense of simply retelling the crimes, the trial, and the conclusion. If you want a true crime story, you will likely be disappointed in The Monster of Florence. While the crimes are covered, there is no resolution and the identity of the Monster of Florence has not been settled. This account goes well beyond being a simple true crime story. It is also most assuredly a chilling indictment of the Italian legal system and the officials who abused their power. It clearly shows how the lack of freedoms that we take for granted, like freedom of the press, and basic personal rights (to a fair trial, to know your accusers, etc.) protect us. It is also the story of two journalists who were going to write a book about the Monster of Florence, but ended up standing accused of crimes and became part of the story. Very highly recommended. Rating:5

Synopsis from cover:
Douglas Preston fulfilled a long-held dream when he moved with his family to a villa in Florence, Italy. Upon meeting celebrated journalist Mario Spezi, Preston was stunned to learn that the olive grove next to his home had been the scene of a horrific double-murder committed one of the most infamous figures in Italian History. A serial killer who ritually murdered fourteen young lovers, he has never been caught. He is known as the Monster of Florence.
Fascinated by the tale, Preston began to work with Spezi on the case. Here is the true story of their search to uncover and confront the man they believe is the Monster. In an ironic twist of fate that echoes the dark traditions of the city's bloody history, Preston and Spezi themselves become targets of a bizarre police investigation.
"In 1969, the year men landed on the moon, I spent an unforgettable summer in Italy." first sentence

"We moved to Italy. We arrived on August 1, 2000, Christine and I, with out two children, Isaac and Aletheia, aged five and six." pg. 2

"Spezi was a journalist of the old school, dry, witty, and cynical, with a highly developed sense of the absurd. There was absolutely nothing a human being could do, no matter how depraved, that would surprise him." pg. 2

" 'There's nothing outside our door but an olive grove.'
'Precisely. And in that grove one of the most horrific murders in Italian history took place. A double homicide committed by our very own Jack the Ripper.' " pg. 4

"It seems... an almost American story. And your own FBI was involved - that group Thomas Harris made so famous, the Behavioral Science Unit. I saw Thomas Harris at one of the trials, taking notes on a yellow legal pad. They say he based Hannibal Lecter on the Monster of Florence." pg. 4

"Between 1974 and 1985, seven couples - fourteen people in all - were murder while making love in parked cars in the beautiful hills surrounding Florence. The case had become the longest and most expensive criminal investigation in Italian history. Close to a hundred thousand men were investigated and more than a dozen were arrested, many lives were ruined by rumor and false accusations.....The investigation has been like a malignancy, spreading backward in time and outward in space, metastasizing to different cities and swelling into new investigations, with new judges, police, prosecutors, more suspect, more arrests, and many more lives ruined.
Despite the longest manhunt in Modern Italian history, the Monster of Florence has never been found.....
Along the way, Spezi and I fell into the story. I was accused of being an accessory to murder, planting false evidence, perjury and obstruction of justice, and threatened with arrest if I ever set foot on Italian soil again. Spezi fared worse: he was accused of being the Monster of Florence himself." pg. 5

"Many countries have a serial killer who defines his culture by a process of negation, who exemplifies his era not by exalting its values, but by exposing its black underbelly." pg. 24

"When the Monster of Florence arrived, Florentines faced the killings with disbelief, anguish, terror; and a sick kind of fascination. They simply could not accept that their exquisitely beautiful city, the physical expression of the Renaissance, the very cradle of Western Civilization, could harbor such a monster." pg. 30


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I've heard mixed reviews on this book. I have it on my IPOD for the future. BTW I love your blog.

Lori L said...

Thanks for the compliment! I've heard people didn't enjoy The Monster of Florence when they were expecting a true crime story. This transcends a simple classification in that genre.