The Monster of Florence
Doug Preston and Mario Spezi
Nonfiction, 406 pages
I love Florence, I love to experience the Tuscan sun. If I ever have to visit Italy, I want it to be Florence! The painted landscape of Florence in my mind is idyllic, with the sunny hills lined with olive trees, vis-a-vis the proofs of Renaissance from the genius creations of Botticelli, Michaelangelo and Da vinci to Medici's creation of first currency system.
As for Italians, I have no painted faces of them yet except that they are Catholics and as they were portrayed in the decade-old film Under the Tuscan Sun (perhaps, this influenced me to love the Tuscan skies!). This want, the book supplanted.
And why in the world, I have to pick up The Monster of Florence? Am I ready to discover the monster before I enjoy my longed-for Tuscan vacation someday? I am no fan of thriller novels but I am a fan of nonfiction. I am no fan of crime novels but I am a fan of true crime stories and CSI. I am no fan of murder or monsters but I am a long-time suitor of Florence. And because of these varied reasons, I picked up this book.
After reading the book, I seemed not to know how to start this book review. I loved the glimpses from the past which occupied the beginning of the book, I loved the details of the places as described from the harvest of the grapes to descriptions of age-old villas, I loved the sporadic drops of Italian in the book, I loved the cunning but also almost charming Italian habits told, and most of all, I loved the friendships and emotional connections forged between authors, and some other Italian friends as the story moves.
However, while the story moves on, I was beginning to get appalled by how the investigation on the Monster of Florence took direction. How the lead people in the case made this single case spanning from 1974 to 1985 as the springboard of their careers and their book sales made me cringe. Moreover, my heart sank as I follow how the officially sanctioned investigations involving different theories and personalities caused ruined lives, suicides and a lot of intrigues. And as I was nearing the end of the book, I was deeply saddened when Spezi was jailed despite the evidence against him were mere conjectures. The very fact that Preston was "charged" inorder to stop him from coming back to Florence make me want to scream foul. This must be the feeling effectively aroused by the authors from me.
The authors deftly skimmed the necessary details off from what-i-can-just-imagine thousands of pages from official and unofficial sources to hold the interest of their readers, and to persuade their readers into following their own analysis of the case. Is the monster still around? Go, read the book.
Surely, seldom can a book offer a delightful and dreadful read at the same time. After reading this book, I will never see Florence nor Italians the same again. But this does not mean I am dropping my dream Tuscan vacation someday. In fact, Florence has a lot of shares of visitors each year according to wikipedia. I will just be very keen on not entangling with the Italian justice system or go on camping on any Tuscan hills and under the olive trees.