Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi: The Monster of Florence

by Rachel Baker on July 19, 2008

The Monster of Florence is a true story about a series of murders that took place in Florence and the subsequent investigation process over several decades. At first glance, this book appears to be a gruesome tale of ritual murders of fourteen couples, including the mutilation of the female victim.  Upon completion, its more about the bizarre police investigation and how it affected so many innocent people.  The botched investigation is indicative of a quest for power and prestige and what people will do to further their careers. The book also shows how influential the media can be in swaying public opinion.

There are two very distinct sections of this book. The first is about Mario Spezi and his involvement in the investigations as a crime journalist.  The second is about Douglas Preston and his involvement with writing the book.  Mario Spezi has covered the Monster of Florence case from the beginning.  He is a highly decorated journalist, and has published both fiction and non-fiction books in Europe.  Douglas Preston was a writer and editor for the American Museum of Natural History, as well as taught writing at Princeton University. He’s written for various periodicals and authored several acclaimed non-fiction books. Preston also co-wrote a bestselling series of novels with Lincoln Child.

The collaboration of these two men adds a unique prospective to the book and the writing.

I can see The Monster… appealing to both those that love true life crime stories and the group of readers that are drawn to murder-mystery novels. I don’t normally read either, but this one was well worth my time.  “The Monster…” is one of those uniquely written books that tells a true story in fictional way.  Several times during the book, I had to remind myself this really happened.  If the book were fictional, the murders would be gory and the investigation would have a Pink Panther kind of feel to it.  As non-fiction, the murders don’t seem near as tragic as the investigation was.

The Monster of Florence is easy reading.  There’s not a lot of investigative or courtroom jargon at all.  There is an interesting contrast for American readers by way of first amendment rights and innocent until proven guilty concepts.  The descriptions of Florence and the Florentine way of life was fascinating and very detailed, and helps to add further contrast between the beautiful Florence, Italy of the Renaissance and the underground of Florentine culture.

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