True Crime: The Monster of Florence, by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

3.0 out of 5 stars The darker side of Tuscany

The Monster of Florence is co-authored by an Italian journalist and an American novelist. Accordingly, this serial killer saga is told in two sections, the first with a focus on the activities of Mario Spezi, and the second, those of Douglas Preston. Spezzi is arguably the Italian expert on the murders, which occurred sporadically, during summers in the late 1960’s to the mid 1980’s. When Preston moved to Italy for a prolonged stay, he became drawn into Spezi’s obsession with finding the real killer. Their collaboration would lead to the publication of a chronicle of botched investigations, planted evidence, corrupt judicial officials, and a gruesome crime spree which has never been solved. Along the way, Spezi was imprisoned in isolation as the prime suspect, and Preston forced to leave Italy accused of abetting Spezi. Although the authors believe they know the identity of the Monster, he has never been brought to justice, while others have been convicted, probably unjustly.

Thomas Harris based his portrayal of Hannibal Lechter upon this Italian serial killer. To his credit, Douglas Preston cautioned readers to avoid holding up the American model of justice model as superior to the Italian, as both exhibit serious flaws. His story can be taken as a stellar example of the dangers of meddling in the affairs of a society with which one is unfamiliar.

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