14 murders. Serial killer. Florence. True-detective-story. Can’t go wrong!

March 14, 2012

Bobz Book Reviews

If you’ve ever wanted a reason to be glad you’re an American, read “The Monster of Florence.”

Italy has the judicial system from hell, and Doug Preston and Mario Spezi describe it the way Dante did — only this time it’s a true story.

The best-selling American novelist and the hard-working Italian reporter found out just how devilish that corrupt, ethics-barren system could be when they began investigating what appears to be serial killings in the hills around Florence.

Over the course of 14 years seven couples were found slain after parking in “lovers’ lane” types of spots in the scenic Tuscan hills. The males were shot with the same Beretta, the females pulled from the cars, killed, stripped and their sexual parts cut out with a knife and taken.

When I get to that latter part of a book, that’s when I usually toss it aside. But the misogyny here is not what “The Monster of Florence” is about.

It’s a page-turner

This is a nonfiction crime story told as well as any of the novels by Doug Preston (“Relic,” for example) that have sold millions. Once the authors start on the trail to see the murder cases solved and justice done, the tale is can’t-put-it-down reading.

Along with being a compelling story — who doesn’t want to find out who The Monster of Florence is ? — the ineptness and unprofessionalism of Italian police, investigators, judicial administrators and judges all turn the story on its head to the point where the reporters covering the story become accused of involvement in covering up the crime, and Spezi is suspected himself as being the Monster and gets thrown in jail.

But listen to this: He isn’t told what he’s being charged with.

In Italy, you can be arrested and the charges “sealed” because they are a “secret.”

And investigators can prevent you from talking with an attorney. In the meantime, the investigators leak the charges to the media, making up whatever they want without any evidence. The salacious Italian media eat it up with a spoon, not checking the statements, not demanding evidence.

Ever hear of Amanda Knox?

This book has been out for more than two years, so no, it’s not new. But there is a coincidence that makes this story fresh and worth reading.

Remember Amanda Knox? Spent four years in jail waiting for her murder trial to be held, was convicted, then the conviction thrown out on appeal?

The same investigator who jailed “The Monster of Florence” authors handled the Amanda Knox case.

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About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 40-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

View all posts by Bob Zyskowski