Sunday, March 02, 2014

The Monster of Florence: A True Story (2008)

I was mostly disappointed by the report of this true-crime case, not so much because it hasn't been solved yet as because such an extraordinary level of seeming ineptitude has been associated with it. "The Monster of Florence" was a serial killer who operated in and around Florence, Italy, starting as early as 1961 or as late as 1974 (depending on various theories) and stopping in 1985. The killer preyed on couples in isolated lovers'-lane settings, killing quickly with the same gun, and then taking time for horrific mutilations of the women victims. There was never evidence of his own sexual gratification in any of the murders. It's something of Italy's Zodiac killer. Who he was, why he did it, and why he stopped—even whether it was a man—are largely unknown. For this book, American writer Douglas Preston, who has authored a good many fiction and nonfiction books, teamed with veteran Italian crime journalist Mario Spezi, one of Europe's foremost "Monstrologists," to get to the bottom of it, 15 years after the last murders. It's a case full of dead ends. More than that, it's a case full of good old-fashioned official corruption. And as soon as that becomes evident the whole story becomes at once more important to tell and considerably less interesting, just more bad-faith government actors. As events proceed, both Preston and Spezi, who have naturally enough been critical of the maze that the official investigation amounts to, come to find themselves subject to investigation, and jail. By the time we are at the second half of the book the original case is all but lost in the confusion. Italian authorities attempt to get away with more than one Baghdad Bob type of stunt. Preston, again naturally enough, loses interest in much of anything else after he has been indicted on various trumped-up charges, and Spezi is actually incarcerated. There was one interesting detail, but it has nothing to do with the Monster of Florence. One of the worst of the Italian officials in this case was also involved in bringing murder charges against Amanda Knox, which helped clarify my take on that case a little. Otherwise all you really learn here, sadly, is that official corruption exists, and it scares the hell out of writers with comfortable lives. Speaking strictly for myself, I already knew that much.

In case it's not at the library.

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