Saturday, December 26, 2009

199 - The Monster of Florence; Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi







The Monster of Florence; Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi.




In 2000, American author Douglas Preston moved with his wife and two children to Italy (just outside of Florence). His plan was to write a new mystery novel.  While interviewing an Italian newspaper reporter (Mario Spezi) about the Italian judicial system, Preston learned that the house that he and his family were renting was near a murder site that was connected to a series of related murders in which the serial killer was never caught. In fact, between 1974 and 1985, eight double murders of lover's lane couple occurred. In each of the cases the female victim was badly mutilated. Fascinated by this information, Preston decided to abandon his plans for a mystery novel, and instead, he and Spezi became friends and decided to write about the elusive murderer dubbed the "Monster of Florence" instead.

The story is told in two parts: in the first half Spezi describes the murders, the suspects and the botched investigations. The cases turned cold, some of the witnesses died off after 30 years. The Italian judicial system and authorities are portrayed as down right incompetent and laughable.  In Italy, you are guilty until proven innocent. In the second half of the book, Preston tells about how he and Spezi met, and about their decision to write this book.  You learn that the Italian officials were so annoyed by Preston and Spezi's  research and investigation of these unsolved murders, that they arrested Spezi, and indited him initially as a suspect in the murders. They told Preston that he would be charged with aiding and abetting, and he was advised to leave the country. The authors vividly depict the Italian investigators, prosecutors, and corruption and mismanagement of evidence etc.

MY THOUGHTS - The Monster of Florence is a fascinating true crime story. The audio version was read by  Dennis Boutsikaris (a favorite audio book reader of mine). He had many distinct voices for the various characters, however the Italian annunciation, became a bit annoying for me after a while. For that reason, I almost wish I read the print version of this book.  If you enjoy true crime novels, and are not afraid to hear about some very graphic details of the murder and mutilations, then give this book a try. It's not perfect by any means, the killer is never caught, but despite that it is an interesting read.

21 comments:

  1. Sounds intriguing! I have become more interested in the Italian judicial system after the whole Amanda Knox trial so I may have to check this out!

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  2. Wow--this is based on a true story! Like you, I'm not sure if listening to this would be easy for me. Thanks for your review.

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  3. Sounds promising; thanks for the tip.

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  4. I'm always a bit reluctant when it comes to true crime for some reason...but this sounds SO interesting!

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  5. Sounds interesting! I would do better with the print version - hearing or seeing gruesome details bother me, but I can read them for some odd reason.

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  6. Great review but I know I'd be a little to squeamish for this one.

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  7. Two excellent novelists make it clear that the Italian police and judicial system virtually do not exist. Donna Leon has a series that takes place in Venice, and Magdalen Nabb, who passed in 2002, a series in Florence.

    I am not all surprised, then, that their writings are true. I'm going to opt for the print version.

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  8. This sounds fascinating! I'm adding it to my TBR list. Thank you.

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  9. I stopped by your blog today. If you like detective mysteries Donna Leon writes about a Detective Brunetti in Venice. I have enjoyed her series.
    Ann
    cozyintexas.blogspot.com
    www.annsummerville.com

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  10. I really enjoy true crime reads - always have. This one sounds fascinating.

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  11. I've seen this one around. It sounds intriguing. I don't relaly listen to audio books much. I'm always drawn to the ol print version.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  12. I would really like to read this one. Great review, Diane!

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  13. I've been really curious about this one so am glad to hear you enjoyed it, Diane! Thanks for your great review.

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  14. I loved this book. It not only kept me intrigued throughout, I liked the theory they came to at its conclusion. (I don't want to leave a spoiler, here.) It was also fascinating to see how the Italian procedures worked: not very well. Much as I've heard buying a house in Italy is. They seem to be a bit overcome by their bureaucracy.

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  15. Sounds interesting ... and now what I would have expected from a move to Italy but I guess he found the mystery novel he was looking for ... just not in quite the package he was expecting.

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  16. I haven't read one of these books in a long time because they scare me!!!

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  17. I can't do true crime. It freaks me out too much! I'm such a coward.

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  18. I have seen this book all over the bookstores so I am glad to hear that you liked it so much! It sounds like a very interesting story.

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  19. At first I was thinking that this might work better as an audio book, but your mention of the Italian pronunciations hit a chord with me. I think that would bother me too, plus there are so many characters it's nice to be able to flip back and forth in the book for reference.

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