17 May 2011

Review: "The Monster of Florence"

Another book with a lame title... Sorry to authors Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi but this title (even though it is very describing and fits the subject well) is just not good... It hints at something sordid, it is a tabloid title. The headline of one of those newspapers that you'd never read in the bus for fear of being seen with it... You know what I mean?

This book, "The Monster of Florence", deserves a better title because it is very far from the tabloid style. In order to explain, let me first give you a quick summary of the plot of this non-fiction tale where truth is so strange that it has inspired the novel (and movie) Hannibal by Thomas Harris.
The case of the monster of Florence takes its beginning in Florence (obviously...) in the 1970's and 1980's where a serial killer targets young couples making love in cars in the hills around the beautiful renaissance city. The crimes are ruthless and barbaric, the victims young and the motives unclear. And the murderer turns out to hide his tracks very very well.
Mario Spezi is the journalist who becomes known as the monstrologer, the man who follows the case and investigation closely and who knows as much if not more about the case than the police. In 2000 the case is still unsolved as thriller author Douglas Preston moves to Florence to write a novel about something completely different but ends up becoming fascinated with the monster and friends with Mario Spezi.

As the police struggles to explain the unsolved case and as the possible theories become more and more impossible and unreal, Preston and Spezi get dragged further and further into the investigation until one day, they are under suspiscion.

You shouldn't read this book if you main interest is the gory details of the murder because that is not what this book is about. This is a book about the importance of the freedom of the press and about the power of false accusations. As the people of Florence become more and more scared, they also begin to suspect each other of being the monster and innocent lives are ruined by false accusations. The authors cling to the importance of the principle of innocent until proven guilty and sometimes they seem to be the only sane persons in the entire city...
The most scary part of this book is not the murders though they are gruesome, it is the fact that the police are seemingly willing to ignore all facts if they can get someone, anyone, convicted as the monster of Florence.

Read this if: you liked "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher" by Kate Summerscale


  1. I cannot tell you how many times I have almost picked up this book but didn't because of the title. As you mention, it indicates something sordid, and that isn't really my thing.

    I just need to pick it up already, though, because it sounds so so fascinating.

  2. This book sounds great, but if I had just seen the cover and title in the book shop, I would have put it back down on the shelf.

  3. @Picky Girl: it is really interesting and the way that the juridical system works - or doesn't work - is fascinating.

    @Tiny Library: I know! I only read it because it was recommended by another blogger.