390 di 406 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
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Formato: Copertina rigida
In the annals of crime, the case of the "Monster of Florence" (the name Italian journalist Mario Spezi, one of the co-authors, and one of the key players in the case and this book, gave the killer) is truly one of the strangest. Starting in 1974, and continuing through 1985, seven couples were brutally murdered in the secluded lovers' lanes located in the hills surrounding the city of Florence, Italy. Still unsolved to this day, the crimes captured the horrified attention and imagination of the Italian people, and consumed enormous resources--nearly one hundred thousand men were investigated and more than a dozen arrested during the course of various inquiries into the crimes. Per Douglas Preston's introduction, the investigation "has been like a malignancy, spreading backward in time and outward in space, metastasizing into different cities and swelling into new investigations, with new judges, police, and prosecutors, more suspects, more arrests, and many more lives ruined."
Not merely a recounting of those grisly crimes and endless investigations, The Monster of Florence (hereafter TMOF) is also an engrossing biographical piece, detailing the toll the case took on both its authors, who, in one of the stranger twists in a case replete with strange twists, become the focus of the ongoing police investigation. Thus, in a plot complication worthy of Alfred Hitchcock, the reporters became part of the very story they are covering--after his home is ransacked in a search, Spezi is subsequently arrested, and his collaborator, American crime novelist Preston, is harshly interrogated by the authorities. In a movie, the protagonists would have been able to clear their names by dramatically unmasking the real killer, unearthing a piece of key evidence at the last moment. Real life, however, proves to a bit more complicated, and certainly more bizarre.
The back cover copy of the advance reading copy of TMOF compares it to John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City. The comparison is apt, but only to a point, as both these non-fiction works feel more like novels. TMOF, on the other hand, feels more like the product of journalists than novelists (certainly not surprising, given the backgrounds of its respective creators), calling to mind books like Jimmy Breslin's outstanding .44, or Vincent Bugliosi's memorable Helter Skelter. That's not to say it's any less gripping because of that tendency; in fact, in might have made the book all the more immediate and enthralling, because, in this instance, the strange facts in this case alone are enough to capture and hold any reader's attention.
147 di 153 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
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Formato: Copertina rigida
Recently, I seem to be reading a lot of books centered in and around the Italian city of Florence, treasured for centuries as the birthplace of the Renaissance. Everywhere there is art to behold, from paintings, sculpture and to architecture, and tourists crowding the city for the galleries and shopping. To the casual observer, it may just seem like a slice of heaven on earth.
But long-term residents know better. Between 1968 and 1985 eight double murders occurred, all of young lovers, with the female member of the pair brutally mutilated. One of the first reporters to hear of the crime was Mario Spezi, and through the years, he followed the crimes and the many stories of just who the Monster could be. He carefully assembled his notes, and wondered along with everyone else as to just who the killer was, dubbed The Monster by the press and the authorities.
American author Douglas Preston traveled to Italy with his wife and two of his children in 2000, living in a farmhouse near Florence. He was busy working on a new mystery novel, but kept getting sidetracked by the mystery of the Monster. A mutual friend introduced him to Mario Spezi, and very soon both men were good friends and investigating the riddle of the murders. Over the years they kept at the mystery, and soon they were discovering that the truth was very different than what the police and the carabinieri were saying what happened...
The narrative is broken up into two parts, the first half of the book centered around Spezi, and the general investigation, and the trials and suspects that well, weren't that credible. Spezi kept writing about the case, but the public and the press all seemed to want the more sensationalistic approach -- including rumours of a satanic cult being responsible, and a common sort of doorstop found in Tuscan homes actually being a 'device to communicate with the infernal regions.' Even a report from the FBI that contradicted the notions that were being reported did nothing to slow down the fantastic, and rather crackpot ideas.
The second half of the book, told from Douglas Preston's point of view, detailing his meeting with Spezi, and with a notable aristocrat of Florence, and his own story. Unlike the first half, this one does have a bit of humour here and there to lighten things up, mostly centered around being a very naive American and trying to learn the language.
About page two hundred or so, the story starts to run off the rails. Spezi has been sparring with the local investigator in the case, Michele Giuttari and Judge Guiliano Mignini, and in a very weird twist, have both Spezi and Preston indicted in the case.
Here is where my blood ran cold, as the reader gets to find out that not only the Italian judicial system impossibly corrupt but that many of the rights that Americans take for granted -- a fair and honest hearing, the right to have an attorney present, to know what you're being charged with and having access to the same evidence that the police and prosecutors do -- well, they simply don't exist in Italy. You can simply be denounced, the police can toss you into jail and there you can rot until they decide to speak to you.
Mario Spezi would go through the worry and humiliation of a prison stay and trial. Douglas Preston would be questioned and threatened with prison, and when he was freed, decided that the best thing to do would be to leave Italy with his family as soon as possible.
What finally happened is a shocker. For Americans, secure in the thought that we have the right to know, to be able to face our accusers openly, this is a very rude awakening. As to the real identity of the Monster, there are hints as to who he might be, but I fear that the truth will never be known.
A collection of black and white photos give faces to the principal players in the story, along with a map of Florence, with the sites of the murders marked. An index is included as well.
A warning -- the descriptions of the murders are brief, but very graphic, so this story is not for the faint of heart. What I came away with from this story was a sense of sorrow for the victim's families, a great deal of anger at the level of incompetence of the Italian officials, and thanking god that I live in a country where law at least has a fighting chance. Sometimes.
Four stars overall, and recommended, but only for those who enjoy true crime stories. Not for the squeamish.
18 di 19 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
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Formato: Copertina rigida
When novelist Douglas Preston moved his family to the Florence countryside he expected to immerse himself in the very culture he planned to feature in his next thriller. Early on, however, Preston's research brought him into contact with Mario Spezi, an Italian crime reporter who was expert in the ways of Italian police investigations, and Preston's life was changed forever.
Spezi mentioned that Preston's new home was within a stone's throw of one of the more infamous murder scenes in recent Florence history and that the double murder was almost certainly the work of a serial killer yet to be identified. Spezi, as it turned out, had made his reputation as a journalist by becoming an expert on the murders and was obsessed with finally determining the killer's identity. As the two talked, Preston became more and more taken with Spezi's story and decided to postpone his new thriller until after he and Spezi had written a book together about "The Monster of Florence."
By the time Preston and Spezi teamed up to investigate the crimes for their book, it had been more than ten years since the last murders. The Monster, between 1968 and 1985, had killed seven couples as they made love in their cars or campers while parked in out-of-the-way sites around Florence. In a fashion similar to England's Jack the Ripper, he mutilated the bodies of his female victims, even carrying away body parts as trophies or reminders of his crimes.
Unfortunately for Preston and Spezi, they soon found themselves in conflict with various members of the Italian crime investigation establishment, some of whose members had used the murders to make their reputations and advance their own careers. More than one person had been charged with the murders over the years as diverse theories, ranging from satanic cults to medically trained or aristocratic killers, were trotted out for the benefit of the public. Sadly, according to Preston and Spezi, those responsible for solving the crimes were so anxious to pin them on any likely suspect that they were willing to create evidence as needed, ignore any conflicting real evidence, coerce testimony from known informants, and ruin the lives of anyone who fell into their path if that would help close the case.
Preston and Spezi could hardly believe what they discovered about Italian criminal investigators, prosecutors and judges. Successive investigators built case after case against men who fit their preconceived ideas of how and why the murders occurred. It was all so ludicrous and, most importantly, so corrupt, that the two pushed on with their own investigation long enough to place themselves squarely in opposition to official investigators. As a result, Spezi himself was eventually charged with, and tried for, the very crime he had a spent a lifetime investigating and Preston was threatened with arrest if he ever returned to Italy. Italian authorities knowing how many lives had been ruined and how many reputations built on false investigations greatly feared the publication of Preston and Spezi's book and seem to have charged Spezi with murder mainly in order to suppress it.
"The Monster of Florence" should have been a horrifying and fascinating true crime thriller because of the nature of the crimes, how long they went on, how difficult it has been to identify the killer, and the inept, fraudulent, and almost comical investigation so terribly bungled by Italian authorities. But, because of the dry style in which the book is written (more the style of a newspaper article than a book), even a story filled with as many horrifying elements as this one becomes more boring than thrilling. The second part of the book, in which Preston and Spezi recount what happens when they themselves become suspects rather than reporters moves at a more lively pace but it leads to an ending that likely will disappoint most readers.
The audio version of "The Monster of Florence" is competently read for the most part but one aspect of the audio book quickly grows into a distracting annoyance. Much of the book is written in conversational form encompassing direct quotes from those involved and, although these quotes are naturally reproduced in English rather than in Italian, they are delivered in such an atrocious (and stereotypical) Italian accent that they are sometimes difficult to understand even in English. The result is that every Italian character begins to sound like every other Italian character in a book already filled with names that, for the non-Italian speaker, can already be difficult to distinguish one from the other. This makes listening to the audio version of "The Monster of Florence" into a tedious experience that might possibly be avoided by reading the book the old fashioned way.
Regardless, this one is not quite what it could have been.