The Monster of Florence

The Monster of Florence

3.8 246
by Douglas Preston
     
 

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In 2000, Douglas Preston and his family moved to Florence, Italy, fulfilling a long-held dream. They put their children in Italian schools and settled into a 14th century farmhouse in the green hills of Florence, where they devoted themselves to living la dolce vita while Preston wrote his best-selling suspense novels. All that changes when he discovers that

Overview

In 2000, Douglas Preston and his family moved to Florence, Italy, fulfilling a long-held dream. They put their children in Italian schools and settled into a 14th century farmhouse in the green hills of Florence, where they devoted themselves to living la dolce vita while Preston wrote his best-selling suspense novels. All that changes when he discovers that the lovely olive grove in front of their house had been the scene of the most infamous double-murders in Italian history, committed by a serial killer known only as the Monster of Florence. Preston, intrigued, joins up with the crack Italian investigative journalist Mario Spezi to solve the case. THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE tells the true story of their search for--and identification of--a likely suspect, and their chilling interview with that man. And then, in a strange twist of fate, Preston and Spezi themselves become targets of the police investigation into the murders. Preston has his phone tapped and is interrogated by the police, accused of perjury, planting false evidence and being an accessory to murder--and told to leave the country. Spezi fares worse: he is thrown into Italy's grim Capanne prison, accused of being the Monster of Florence himself. THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE, which reads like one of Preston's thrillers, tells a remarkable and harrowing story involving murder, mutilation, suicide, carnival trials, voyeurism, princes and palaces, body parts sent by post, séances, devil worship and Satanic sects, poisonings and exhumations, Florentine high fashion houses and drunken peasants--and at the center of it, Preston and Spezi, caught in the crossfire of a bizarre prosecutorial vendetta.

Editorial Reviews

USA Today
"Remarkable true-crime story...passionately describes the investigations gone wrong....Preston knows how to load his storytelling with intriguing evidence and damning details. His feverish style keeps the reader turning with the hope of uncovering the killer's identity."
Time Magazine
"Preston's account of the crimes is lucid and mesmerizing.
Dallas Morning News
"As taut and tense as any of the author's bestselling thrillers...fascinating, stomach-churning...nerve-tingling action and vivid writing...The Monster of Florence is a gripping tale, filled with shocking crimes, boldly drawn characters, and the careening suspense of the ultimate whodunit."
Washington Post
"The co-authors expertly and entertainingly guide the reader though an epic, colorful cast of characters and the stranger-than-fiction machinations of a Byzantine Italian judicial system."
TIME Magazine
"Preston's account of the crimes is lucid and mesmerizing."
Publishers Weekly

In an interview on the final disc, Preston describes his and Spezi's journalistic search for the still-at-large infamous serial killer of the title as "the dark side of Under the Tuscan Sun." It's that and more: a chilling personal account of their investigation and how the authors incurred the wrath of bungling members of the Italian judiciary and were themselves accused of the crimes. Told from Preston's point of view, Dennis Boutsikaris's crisp, intelligent vocal rendition reflects the various stages of the author's life in Italy: his delight in arriving with wife and young son at a lovely villa in Florence, his surprise in hearing that a grisly double murder was committed in the villa's olive grove, his fascination with Spezi's stories of The Monster, and eventually his astonishment, frustration, anger and fear upon discovering that he and Spezi are suspects in the murders. Boutsikaris is particularly effective in giving voice to the author's rueful and yet wistful final thoughts. A Grand Central hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 7). (June)

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Library Journal

In 2000, Preston, the best-selling coauthor of thrillers with Lincoln Child (e.g., The Relic) moved to Florence, Italy, to research a new mystery and fell headlong into the case of the Monster of Florence. Between 1968 and 1985, seven couples had been murdered in their cars in secluded lovers' lanes in and around Florence. (The murders took place near Preston's 14th-century farmhouse.) Intrigued, Preston teamed up with Italian journalist and "Monsterologist" Spezi to write an article-and became part of the story. The investigation of these serial murders had taken on a surreal edge, with wild conspiracy theories involving satanic cults being seriously considered by desperate investigators. At one point, Spezi himself was accused of the murders, while Preston was accused of planting evidence and even suspected of being an American spy. Eventually, the authors came to believe they knew the identity of the Monster, but nothing has been proven. Truth is truly stranger than fiction, as lives are destroyed, reputations are ruined, and evidence is manufactured to fit the suspect-of-the-month. Preston fans and true-crime fans are sure to be riveted. Recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/15/08.]
—Deirdre Bray Root

Kirkus Reviews
Meticulous account of the collaboration between American thriller author Preston (Blasphemy, 2008, etc.) and Italian journalist Spezi to plumb a long-unsolved series of murders. Between 1974 and 1985, seven couples were killed while having sex in parked cars in the hills around Florence, Preston learned shortly after he moved to Italy in August 2000. One of those double homicides occurred in an olive grove next to the stone farmhouse he had just moved into with his family. Preston's informant was Spezi, who had covered the serial killings and dubbed their perpetrator "the Monster of Florence." Italian authorities had charged various men with one or more of the murders. Some had been brought to trial; one had been convicted but acquitted on appeal. Looking back to a seemingly unrelated killing in 1968, Spezi believed he had determined the identity of the actual killer, and Preston bought his theory. The pair began to write a book outlining their ideas, and the Italian authorities retaliated by harassing them. In February 2006, Preston was interrogated by a police captain who accused him and Spezi of planting false evidence, then essentially told the American to get out of Italy and not come back. Spezi was arrested on April 7, 12 days before Dolci Colline di Sangue was slated to be published, accused not only of obstructing justice but of somehow being involved in the Monster of Florence murders. Three weeks later, a judicial tribunal exonerated him of all charges and he was released. The police detective and prosecutor responsible for Preston's interrogation and Spezi's arrest, as well as mishandling the serial-killing investigation, are awaiting trial on charges of abuse of office. Withso many characters and so many theories about the case, the book is sometimes difficult to follow, and Preston's flat prose does little to help. He is a likable narrator, however, and his commitment to untrammeled press freedom is inspiring. A cautionary saga about how the criminal-justice system can spin out of control.
USA TODAY
"Remarkable true-crime story...passionately describes the investigations gone wrong....Preston knows how to load his storytelling with intriguing evidence and damning details. His feverish style keeps the reader turning with the hope of uncovering the killer's identity."
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
"As taut and tense as any of the author's bestselling thrillers...fascinating, stomach-churning...nerve-tingling action and vivid writing...The Monster of Florence is a gripping tale, filled with shocking crimes, boldly drawn characters, and the careening suspense of the ultimate whodunit."
From the Publisher
"In an interview on the final disc, Preston describes his and Spezi's journalistic search for the still-at-large infamous serial killer of the title as "the dark side of Under the Tuscan Sun." It's that and more: a chilling personal account of their investigation and how the authors incurred the wrath of bungling members of the Italian judiciary and were themselves accused of the crimes. Told from Preston's point of view, Dennis Boutsikaris's crisp, intelligent vocal rendition reflects the various stages of the author's life in Italy: his delight in arriving with wife and young son at a lovely villa in Florence, his surprise in hearing that a grisly double murder was committed in the villa's olive grove, his fascination with Spezi's stories of The Monster, and eventually his astonishment, frustration, anger and fear upon discovering that he and Spezi are suspects in the murders. Boutsikaris is particularly effective in giving voice to the author's rueful and yet wistful final thoughts."—Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781455573820
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
04/23/2013
Pages:
348
Sales rank:
116,955
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

DOUGLAS PRESTON worked as a writer and editor for the American Museum of Natural History and taught writing at Princeton University. He has written for The New Yorker, Natural History, National Geographic, Harper's, Smithsonian, and The Atlantic. The author of several acclaimed nonfiction books, Preston is also the co-author with Lincoln Child of the bestselling series of novels featuring FBI agent Pendergast.

MARIO SPEZI, a highly decorated journalist, has covered many of the most important criminal cases in Italy, including those involving terrorism and the Mafia, and has been investigating the Monster of Florence case since its beginning. He has also published both fiction and nonfiction books in Italy and several other countries.

Brief Biography

Place of Birth:
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Education:
B.A., Pomona College, 1978
Website:
http://www.prestonchild.com

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The Monster of Florence 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 246 reviews.
TomT4828 More than 1 year ago
Douglas Preston is a great writer of mysteries and brings all his skills to this true story. Such great descriptions of the beauty of Italy and the people involved in this fiasco. A serial killer on the loose and the Italian police go in so many directions that it's crazy. And some of those directions will surprise you. Sure makes you wonder about the Amanda Knox case.....and that is even brought up at the end of the book. I think this a great read.
KrissyKat More than 1 year ago
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I like books involving crimes and mysteries and this book incorporated both. I also found myself wanting to look up additional information regarding these serial killings in florence. The only issue I had with the book was that it was a little lengthy in some sections. Nonentheleess, I would recommend this book.
Smiley-in-the-Sunshine More than 1 year ago
read this, initially, due to Douglas Preston's name as co-author-- came to appreciate it at another level as the story behind the story, the cover-up, international intrigue, Italian politics, culture relative to Florence, press involvement, etc. unspiraled in an incredible fashion-- thought it would all be too much detail and I would forget key elements due to the sheer volume of information, but Preston and Spezi presented it artfully-- I found it to be a page-turner I was willing to lose sleep for in order to extend reading opportunities!-- thank you, authors: your expertise and integrity shine
suzyd More than 1 year ago
I saw someone reading this book for two days poolside on vacation and she could not put it down. After she finished it on the second day, I asked her about it and she recommeded it. I had seen the cover and assumed that it was a novel. The is the most amazing non-fiction book I have read in a long time. The story starts out with elements that bring to mind the David Berkowitz case of the 70's. This serial killer strikes in the Tuscan countryside, so the setting is beautiful, contrasted with the violence of the crimes. The story is spellbinding. There are so many twists and turns and the fact that both authors become involved with the investigation, adds to the intrigue. I think the authors have done an incredible job both researching and writing this book. I will be recommending it to everyone. One look at the cover also intrigues you. I think the cover is probably what hooked me originally as I watched someone devour the book in two days.
DayDreamer44 More than 1 year ago
INCREDIBLE BOOK!! ONE OF THE BEST IVE READ!
prrple21 More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. I didn't even know that there was a Monster of Florence. It was great fun to speculate who could have done it. I wish that I had the time and money to go and investigate it a bit myself! The book was well written and researched. Preston went to one of the greatest sources of the story and was right to include him; Spezi was awesome.
S_L_D More than 1 year ago
I found The Monster to be very interesting reading. The crimes, though horrible, are a small part of the book. The main story is about how the authorities handled it...and it is unbelievable. What a string of events. It shows a lot about human nature.
lovetoreadNJ More than 1 year ago
Great book! Hard to put down.
mandersj More than 1 year ago
When best-selling murder mystery writer Douglas Preston decided to move to Italy to write a book he'd been planning for years, he got far more than he bargained for. The true story of what happened to Preston, his family, and his newfound friend and colleague Italian journalist Mario Spezi is detailed in "The Monster of Florence: A True Story." Preston, his wife and his two small children move to a villa in beautiful Florence so Preston can begin to properly research a book he's had brewing in his head for a long time. He comes across the story of a murder that happened long ago on the land near where he is living, and his mind is suddenly tuned in to this story more than the one he was originally there to write. Italy has had a serial killer named The Monster of Florence, whose identity has never been revealed, whose case is still open. The Monster first struck in the 1960s and last struck in the 1980s, aiming his horrific hatred towards young couples having sex in parked vehicles at night. Apparently most Italians live at home with their parents until they are married, so having sex in parked cars is the Italian national pastime. The Monster kills the male first, then kills the female, drags her body away from the car to a more open locale, then mutilates her body, taking with him a trophy from each female victim­. There is no mistaking his signature. The Italian police, through the years, arrested and imprisoned numerous suspects. The investigation is still ongoing, although the Monster has not been active in a long time. Preston and Spezi offer their opinion on who the real Monster is. Spezi caught the story when the first murder occurred and has covered it for decades, pretty much consuming his life. Spezi spins a tale of the corrupt police system in Italy, the unfair trials, how the police don't seem to care who is really the guilty party, and how they seem to cover up and ignore evidence that points to the real killer. When the police get word that Spezi and Preston are writing a book about the Monster and the investigation into the case, they target both writers to the full extent of Italian law. Spezi suffers much more than Preston, who is allowed to leave the country, but forbidden to ever return. This story is mired down in too many details of a very confusing investigation. The ending is more interesting because it talks about the cover-up and consequences of the writers' actions, but it doesn't make up for the beginning where all the dozens of suspects' lives are explained in too many details to keep track of. This is definitely not a light read, and because there is no resolution to the story, nor in real life, not necessarily worth the time it takes to muddle through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book and thought it was well written. I liked the information got about the murders that were committed and the ideas of who committed these murders. I did not know much about these crimes when I started to read this book and I think it's a good read for people interested in this case.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book and could not put it down it is based off a true story MUST READ
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just could not get into this book. The basic plot is decent, but it just drags on and on. I had to force myself to finish. I wouldn't even categorize it as true crime really. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not what I thought it would be. It was good, but hard to get into.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From the first page, I HAD to keep reading. This was an absolute page-turner and the contrast between the quiet, romantic country side and the demented crimes within was marvelously presented. 
sydneymccoy1 More than 1 year ago
A truly fantastic read! The culture and life of Italy only make this real story of the never-caught serial killer "stalking the Florentine hills." This case remains a mystery to this day, the killer never being brought to justice. The entire book was fascinating, from beginning to end! What a unique way to bring this infamous case to light in the US.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always trust Douglas Preston for his fictional murder mysteries - so, it was not a big leap for me to try this book. I was not disappointed! Very intriguing story, especially with the insight into the Italian legal system and cultural differences. Definitely a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An eye opening expose' on the inherent corruption and incompetence that pervades the Italian justice system.
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