The Monster of Florence
Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi
|7/6/2008 and 7/21/2008||Rating:|
Review is by Molly
Just inside the front cover is a timeline, I found it most useful for those, including myself, who may not have an awareness of the events set down on the pages of The Monster of Florence. The timeline helped me keep everything in order as I read the work.
Subsequent to the timeline is a cast of names for those the reader will meet in the book. I like the system. Again, because I had no awareness of the serial murderer who was killing in Florence, Italy the list helped me keep the times, places and people straight. This serial killer, the events, or the people involved is not one I was aware of prior to reading The Monster of Florence.
While the facts surrounding the killings are factual,The Monster of Florence is not so much a sensational recounting of an appalling set of murders as it is a recounting of the men who have spent years investigating, researching, and trying to put the murders into perspective before beginning to write their findings into a book.
Part 1 is The Story of Mario Spezi. In 1981 Spezi, an Italian, was a young member of the press in Florence where he worked for La Nazione. He had held the post for several years. Spezi had no realization how his life might transform when he noticed a fellow reporter approaching his desk one Sunday. It was the journalist who usually handled the crime desk. The man was a phenomenon having worked and survived two decades covering the Mafia.
Spezi was asked to cover the crime desk for his coworker who had a family matter to take care of that day. His parting words would linger often in Spezi's memory: " nothing ever happens in Florence on a Sunday morning."
And, Spezi did hang around the paper until just about noon, his co-worker was correct, it was quiet as could be. Then, he determined to go and check out the local police station. While there he learned something indeed had happened. And, from that day onward Spezi's life was never the same. He was continually searching for answers regarding the subject of a most ghastly murder which quickly became murders in short order.
For 165 pages we follow Spezi in his pursuit to determine who The Monster of Florence really is.
Part 2 is The Story of Douglas Preston. Preston, an American writer, had long wanted to compose a murder mystery set in the period of the 1966 Florentine flood when the Arno River overflown its banks following forty days of rain.
Arriving in Florence in 2000 were Preston, his wife and two young children. It was not long before Preston learned that he had come right into to the heart of Monster country. He as Spezi was quickly caught up in a search for the truth. And he and Spezi soon joined forces and their investigation spanned years.
Near Florence, for over a decade the executioner killed and disfigured fourteen people. His killings included both members of seven couples he found in parked cars late at night. He was a serial killer who ritually murdered fourteen young lovers before he stopped. He is known as the Monster of Florence. And he has never been caught.
The Monster of Florence is a particularly alarming book for the reason that it gives an account of definite horrendous crimes and is not a work of fiction.
Thomas Harris, an American novelist of crime narratives, even studied Florentine Monster data for some of Hannibal Lecter's more outrageous moments in his book featuring Hannibal. Most conspicuously Harris wrote The Silence of the Lambs.
One of the most interesting of elements found on the pages of The Monster of Florence is the twist of irony that has also faced more than one reporter or researcher of true crime; Preston and Spezi themselves became targets of a out of the ordinary police investigation.
The murders, which continue to be unsolved even to today, caught the dismayed notice and thoughts of the Italian people, especially those who lived in and around Florence. The Monster of Florence is a captivating peek into the management and mis management of one of the largest investigations into a series of grisly killings which stunned and concerned the populace of Italy as well as the situation continues to cause worry and shock today.
The Monster of Florence is the explanation of the investigation undertaken by Spezi and Preston for--and identification of--the man Spezi and Preston are persuaded did in fact commit the unspeakable crimes. Included in the book is a recounting of the chilling interview Spezi and Preston conducted with him.
Well written, factual, The Monster of Florence is not a true crime account in the strictest sense because the books centers more the writers and what their research shows than it does on the murders themselves.
Spelling binding read, Happy to recommend for readers who have an interest in true crime and how the investigation into it can go awry.
Review 7/21/08 by Jandy
Between June, 1981, and September, 1985, six young couples were found dead in the Florence, Italy area. The men in each couple had been murdered and the women had been violated or mutilated as well. Mario Spezi was a young reporter who just happened to be working the news desk the morning after the first murders. From then on he was drawn into the investigation of the person nicknamed the Monster of Florence.
Italy's justice system is different than here in the United States. It has not worked well for the investigation of these murders. Many people were drug down as the police formed a task force with almost limitless power. Two other murders, one solved and convicted, from 1968 and 1974 are also related. The same gun was used in all the killing, although the gun has yet to be found. A man confessed to the 1968 murder, but doesn't know where the gun is now.
Spezi believes there is an obvious murderer, but it hasn't been proved, and the man doesn't completely fit the police profile. He stayed with the case throughout the years, writing articles and books about the cases.
The police took the investigation a different direction, linking Satanic cults and rituals to the murders. They had witnesses to suspicious activities that may have related to the murders. Under Italy's laws, a person can be arrested and held using information that they may keep secret. They can search and seize under these same laws of secret information.
The first part of The Monster of Florence was written by Mario Spezi. It is 20 years of reporting what happened from the first discovery up through a few trials, convictions, and acquittals. Spezi, who has become known as the Monstrologer, present the facts as he knows them during the case. Often he disagrees with the police actions.
In 2000 Douglas Preston travelled to Italy to write a novel that had been swirling in his head. While there, he met Spezi and became fascinated with the Monster case. His novel fell to the wayside and the Monster gained all his interest while there.
Preston takes over the narrative at this time. Here the story turns from the focus of the Monster and centers on the journalists instead. They are blocked time and again from the research they are trying to obtain to prove or discredit their theories. But the police aren't happy with their involvement (including finding potential clues). Eventually the police turn on the two.
This book covers two stories - 1) the one about the serial killings and the hunt for the murderer(s) (who still has not been found) and 2) Italy and it's culture and police structure. Much of what has happened is due to the culture, like the sense of retaining face towards one's counterparts.
Spezi and Preston skillfully portray the people and attitudes involved in the case of The Monster of Florence. With Preston writing the second half, we get Spezi's reactions to his arrest and imprisonment filtered through Preston - which is probably a good thing. The man had gone to being the Monstrologer who knew more than anyone about the Monster of Florence to a suspect, illegally tapped and bugged, and arrest. Preston also has an outstanding warrant should he return to Italy.
The Monster of Florence has no tidy solution like a suspense novel. It is an account of true events and how matters can get out of hand. Preston says at the end the only way the Monster will be found is probably through a confession. This is a fascinating read.
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