In Florence, Italy, sixteen murders were committed between 1968 and 1985 with the same gun. The victims were couples and they weren’t just shot in cold blood, but often times mutilated as well. In the years since the first killings, suspects have come and gone, and innocent people have been implicated as the killer or as accomplices. One such individual that was threatened for investigating the murders was American author Douglas Preston. For co-authoring a book with his friend, the noted Italian journalist, and Monster expert, Mario Spezi, Preston was kicked out of Italy.
Mario Spezi was a reporter for La Nazione, and just happened to be working the crime desk by chance on the morning of June 7th, 1981. He got a tip from police about a double homicide; it broke up his boring morning because “nothing ever happens in Florence on a Sunday morning.” The victims were Carmela De Nuccio and Giovanni Foggi. They were not the first. But Spezi would discover that later, doing better police work than the actual investigators themselves. Although the investigation would be hampered, and brought to dead ends, by people in power far above the detectives.
In August of 2000, Douglas Preston (co-author of The Relic, and many others, with Lincoln Child) moved to Florence. It was dream come true for him; he fell in love with Italy at the age of thirteen while on a family vacation. Thirty years later he moved his own family there. While researching a novel, he met Spezi who told him the story of the Monster of Florence. In fact, one of the killings took place just next to where Preston lived at the time.
Of course, Preston was fascinated by the story, and couldn’t shake it. He had to know more. And that is this book: You have to keep reading it. It’s shocking in the audacity at the actions the police take (at times committing crimes of their own), and the lengths at which government officials exploit the murders for their own personal gain. It’s mind blowing. The innocent are often persecuted while the guilty party (or parties) seemingly roam free.
The Monster of Florence is a riveting book; light on suspense but revealing in how modern law enforcement can botch an investigation and how people can be led astray by opportunists. The book reveals a long list of suspects and whittles that list down considerably with detailed evidence. Preston and Spezi aren’t afraid to name names, and neither are they afraid of a confrontation. And seeing as the Monster has yet to be caught, that’s reason enough to read this book.
4 out of 5