The Monster of Florence.
The Monster of Florence was a suitably creepy, grisly serial killer book- based on real life!- that proved to be a rather fast, enthralling read. I took it on two plane flights, and it was an improvement over flying while reading Home, the book that made me cry for the last 50 pages, which caused the guy next to me to look a bit alarmed. So this time around I was just that disturbing person who is reading about dead bodies. My parents will be so proud.
The book is interesting in that it’s told in two halves: the first by the Italian journalist who covered the serial murders of summertime lovers caught in the act in their cars (apparently, this is what you do in Italy because everyone lives with their parents until they get married). Mario Spezi is often one of the first on the crime scenes, which are rather closed off to journalists. He follows the Monster for years as the police arrest and imprison one wrong person after another, each of whom is proved innocent after another attack while the accused is in prison and therefore incapable of being the serial killer. The second half of the book is by Douglas Preston, an American author, who planned to set one of his novels in Florence. However, once he’s moved his family to Italy, he is told the story of a pair of murders that took place in his front yard, and sidetracked by the Monster. Eventually, he meets up with Spezi and the two work to uncover the identity of the serial killer, an independent investigation that seems a bit Hardy Boy-esque, except for the fact that Spezi ticks off the cops and is himself accused of being the killer. Good times.
The writing of this book is fairly brisk, and the murders themselves are fascinating (the Monster inspired the creation of Hannibal Lector), although I do wish fewer of the chapter ended with “Name was the Monster of Florence” only to be followed by a chapter depicting another pair of murders that ended with “Name could not have been the Monster.” There wasn’t a better “dun dun da” line to close some of these chapters with? Also frustrating, though understandable, is that there’s no conclusion to the story. The Monster of Florence has never been caught, so the book ends only with the authors’ hunch of who he may be. This isn’t the most awesome serial killer book ever, but it gets the job done fairly well, and I’d give it 3 1/2 to 4 stars.
Fascinating, chilling stuff though. For a list of the dead, see here and a bit more about the book here. As an interesting sidenote, the same somewhat incompetent Italian prosecutor worked on the recent Meredith Kercher murder trial: “The lead prosecutor in the case, Giuliano Mignini, has been the subject of abuse-of-office charges that have been investigated at the same time as the Knox and Sollecito trial. These charges stem from “unauthorized wiretapping of journalists and others” conducted by Mignini and his law enforcement colleagues during the investigation of the Monster of Florence serial killings in the 1970s and 1980s.” It’s good to know ours isn’t the only justice system that could stand some improvement among first world nations. Or maybe it’s just sad. Either way, I won’t be having sex in a car if I visit Italy, and I probably won’t investigate any murders there.