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Monday, November 9, 2009

Book Review: The Monster of Florence

So, if you've stopped by the blog recently (I'm assuming that most people read via rss feed, like I do -- and if you don't, then you should try it out), you'll notice that I've made some changes.  Mainly, I changed the look of the blog, finished the nip/tuck, and added a new box to the left... it's "My  Current Bookshelf Selection," or more commonly known as, what I'm reading right now.  I just finished up The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston, and I really enjoyed it. 

 image from here.

I will admit that this book isn't for everyone.  I think that I enjoyed it mostly because it was about two of my most favorite things: Italy and serial killers.  Yikes, I know.  I won't go into too much detail, just in case someone might want to read it, but the book is about an American author, Preston, who decides to live in Florence, hoping to glean inspiration for a new novel.  While there, he meets Mario Spezi, a journalist who has been covering the case from the very beginning, fills him in on the Monster of Florence case. 

The Monster of Florence was a serial killer that terrorized the hills of Tuscany from the late sixties through the mid eighties.  You can read more about Il Mostro here.  The Italian authorities could never find enough evidence to pin the crime on a single person, or even a group of people, so the crimes still remain unsolved.  This case was studied emphatically by Thomas Harris, and shows up in his novel Hannibal, which was partially set in Florence as a result of his interest in the case.  (Aside: "Hannibal," and all of the Hannibal Lecter books are among the greatest books I've ever read... read them if you haven't already done so!)  Preston and Spezi also find the case fascinating and begin doing some of their own research, which eventually lands them in a gigantic storm of trouble, and ends up becoming the focus of the second half of this non-fiction page-turner. 

While I found most of the contents to be very interesting, I was shocked to see how much Italian law enforcement and its judicial system differ from ours.  They tend to believe that the convicted is guilty until proven innocent, which is in direct to the tenants that the US judicial system are built upon.  It seemed as though some of the detectives & prosecutors on the case would make up theories, then find evidence to support these theories.  Many times, this "evidence" wasn't even physical evidence, just random items that fit into the theory.  Also, their crime scene investigation techniques were laughable (actually really sad considering that the investigation is at a dead-end as a result).  I will admit that I have done no real research into the background of the case, and cannot say that this is what happened, but I'm leaning toward believing what Preston wrote...  The book drags on a bit in the middle, when all you're reading is about the investigation, but ends up turning into an unbelievable story in the end.  I still have to remind myself that it's non-fiction.  In any case, if this kind of thing interests you, I suggest reading it. 

My next Bookshelf Selection is My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud-homme.  I haven't gotten very far, but I think I'm going to like it, since I loved the movie

that's all for now.
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