Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"The Monster of Florence: A True Story" by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

I first noticed this book while browsing at my beloved home away from home, Target. References to Florence always get my attention, and I recognized the scuplture on the cover as Giambologna's Rape of the Sabine Women. In reading the blurb on the back of the book, I at first assumed this would be a novel about a centuries-old crime, but this idea was dispelled when I came to the end of the synopsis and saw that the authors "themselves became targets of a bizarre police investigation," which to me (correctly) suggested that the crimes involved must have been much more recent.

I found it surprising that other countries have serial killers. I kind of assumed (though regrettably, and with embarrassment) that that sort of evil is limited to Americans. It was funny (in an odd, not humorous, way) that this idea is echoed in the book. In fact, many Italians were surprised at having a serial killer in their midst. This, to them, seemed like a British or German thing, or especially American.

The details of the murders were certainly gruesome. Whenever I've read fiction that contains such lurid information, I wonder to myself, Now, was it really necessary to include that? But here it is just the truth. Not that being true makes it any less horrifying, but it at least seems much more excusable to include the horrifying truth in a book as opposed to horrifying fiction.

On a lighter note, I loved how the novel was interspersed with depictions of the beautiful countryside, or rare brief descriptions of delicious Italian meals. It made this novel seem, at times, to be kind of like Under the Tuscan Sun, but interesting. And it was always nice to actually recognize a location as I place I've had the good fortune to see for myself.

It was somewhat frustrating to come to the end and find, although I am as convinced of Antonio Vinci's guilt as Preston and Spezi are, it seems this will never be proven. On the other hand, I do kind of wonder if the Monster might not have been the drowned doctor, Narducci. No Monster killings occurred after his death. I just don't believe such a Monster would have ever quit killing except at his own death or incarceration. It seems pretty likely that Narducci may have committed suicide at the threat of being exposed. I can't explain how he could have gotten ahold of the Sardinians' gun, but neither can I explain how Antonio Vinci could suddenly stop killing more than two decades ago.

Apparently quite a few books have been written on the subject of the Monster of Florence. It would be interesting to see how logical and straightforward the others seem (this book has convinced me--would the others, in turn, also convince me?) but I'm not quite interested enough to actually search out these other books. I do wonder if Mignini is really as misguided as he is portrayed in this book. He seemed to be painted black with such broad strokes that I wondered if he is really such an idiot or if Preston exaggerated as a means of revenge.

Part two was all about the justified outrage concerning the restriction of journalistic freedom and abuses of Italy's justice system, and the very interesting Afterword extended this idea, dealing with the trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. I actually remember reading about that case in some magazine (probably People) in my husband's chiropractor's waiting room. From the magazine article, I was convinced of Amanda Knox's guilt, but in reading what Preston has to say about it, it's pretty clear that she had nothing to do with the murder. Apparently she couldn't prove this, however, because I looked it up on the Internet just now, and I see she was just recently sentenced to 26 years in prison.

A final note on the sculputure shown on the book's cover: you can see the loggia where it is housed here, (about halfway down the page). Although you won't see a photo of this specific sculpture on that blog, I did take my own picture of it:

Pretty cool, huh? I mean, not the photography so much, but that I had the opportunity to be right there. Of course, I don't mean to brag or anything. I'm just sayin'.

No comments: