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The Monster of Florence Hardcover – June 10, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (June 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446581194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446581196
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (394 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, June 2008: When author Douglas Preston moved his family to Florence he never expected he would soon become obsessed and entwined in a horrific crime story whose true-life details rivaled the plots of his own bestselling thrillers. While researching his next book, Preston met Mario Spezi, an Italian journalist who told him about the Monster of Florence, Italy's answer to Jack the Ripper, a terror who stalked lovers' lanes in the Italian countryside. The killer would strike at the most intimate time, leaving mutilated corpses in his bloody wake over a period from 1968 to 1985. One of these crimes had taken place in an olive grove on the property of Preston's new home. That was enough for him to join "Monsterologist" Spezi on a quest to name the killer, or killers, and bring closure to these unsolved crimes. Local theories and accusations flourished: the killer was a cuckolded husband; a local aristocrat; a physician or butcher, someone well-versed with knives; a satanic cult. Thomas Harris even dipped into "Monster" lore for some of Hannibal Lecter's more Grand Guignol moments in Hannibal. Add to this a paranoid police force more concerned with saving face and naming a suspect (any suspect) than with assessing the often conflicting evidence on hand, and an unbelievable twist that finds both authors charged with obstructing justice, with Spezi jailed on suspicion of being the Monster himself. The Monster of Florence is split into two sections: the first half is Spezi's story, with the latter bringing in Preston's updated involvement on the case. Together these two parts create a dark and fascinating descent into a landscape of horror that deserves to be shelved between In Cold Blood and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. --Brad Thomas Parsons

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. United in their obsession with a grisly Italian serial murder case almost three decades old, thriller writer Preston (coauthor, Brimstone) and Italian crime reporter Spezi seek to uncover the identity of the killer in this chilling true crime saga. From 1974 to 1985, seven pairs of lovers parked in their cars in secluded areas outside of Florence were gruesomely murdered. When Preston and his family moved into a farmhouse near the murder sites, he and Spezi began to snoop around, although witnesses had died and evidence was missing. With all of the chief suspects acquitted or released from prison on appeal, Preston and Spezi's sleuthing continued until ruthless prosecutors turned on the nosy pair, jailing Spezi and grilling Preston for obstructing justice. Only when Dateline NBC became involved in the maze of mutilated bodies and police miscues was the authors' hard work rewarded. This suspenseful procedural reveals much about the dogged writing team as well as the motives of the killers. Better than some overheated noir mysteries, this bit of real-life Florence bloodletting makes you sweat and think, and presses relentlessly on the nerves. (June 11)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

A very interesting book.
marti deadrick
Would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading historical true crime.
S. Romo
He then expanded the article into this book.
John A. Lefcourte

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

390 of 406 people found the following review helpful By Henry W. Wagner VINE VOICE on June 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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.
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147 of 153 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on June 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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96 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Christina Lockstein on June 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi is a non-fiction book with more twists and turns that most suspense novels. When Preston moved to Florence, Italy in 2000 he met journalist Spezi and learned about a series of murders from the 1970s and 80s that Spezi covered for his newspaper. Young couples were murdered while parking in their cars in the picturesque countryside by a vicious killer. The authorities had been spinning their wheels for over 30 years and the investigation was caught up in political machinations. When Preston started investigating the crimes himself for a newspaper article, the spotlight suddenly shone on him, as well as Spezi, who soon became accused of committing the murders himself. Preston lays the foundation for his case carefully, brick by brick leading the reader to the same conclusion that he and Spezi reached about the identity of the killer whom the local police refuse to consider as a suspect. The book is a dark look into the twisted maneuverings of Italian politics and how they tried to muzzle freedom of speech. It's a true crime book with a twist that makes it impossible to put down. Add this title to your summer must read list!
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63 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
...be either the victim or perpetrator a crime in Italy, particularly in Tuscany.

I'll leave others to judge the writing of the book. I thought it was good, not great. What I WAS left with was the notion of the complete insanity of the Italian police and judicial systems.

Preston moved to Tuscany in the early 00's with his family to write and enjoy living abroad. Under the Tuscan Sun, and all that. While there, he learned about a series of killings that took place in and around Florence. They were all double homicides of couples parked in Lovers' Lanes in the hills near the city. One killing a year, usually during the summer months, beginning in the late 1960's and ending in the mid-1980's.

Preston and a newspaper reporter friend, Mario, teamed up to write a book about the killings. These murders had been investigated by various branches of the Florence police and the Italian government police and a whole bunch of suspects, ranging from village idiots to Sardinian bandits to physicians and pharmacists had been arrested and tried over the years for these murders. Most of those who were brought to trial were victims themselves, victims of the ineptness of the police system and feuds between branches of the Italian judicial system.

If lives hadn't been lost and ruined in the years since the murders began, the book would read as an amusing farce, reminiscent of an Inspector Clouseau movie.
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