The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

Preston, Douglas with Mario Spezi. Monster of Florence. New York: Hachette Audio. 2008. (Read by Dennis Boutsikaris)

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

How is everyone beating the horrible, horrible heat these days? I’m doing so by looking for books that might send chills up my spine. This one certainly fits that bill, for those of you looking for the same.

My friend Linda was the one who told me about this one, and I was interested (especially since, a few years back,  I’d read Preston’s Tyrannosaur Canyon, which was a really good thriller). It took me a while to get around to reading it (she told me about it last summer), but once I did, I wasn’t disappointed. Talk about a book that’s terrifying on many levels: first you have the scary serial killer; then you have the truly Kafkaesque twists that turn it into one of those “I-could-be-completely-innocent-and-still-find-myself-locked-away-for-life” horror stories, full of police and government corruption. The book is almost like two different books in one, and not just because it’s written in two parts, one of which is Spezi’s story and one of which is Preston’s.

The first part of the book reads very much like a book about our own Zodiac Killer (in fact, at one point, I found myself thinking, “Did the Zodiac Killer move from California to Florence?” But the dates don’t work for that theory. Also, the Monster of Florence brutalized the victims’ bodies in a way the Zodiac Killer didn’t). Here was a madman who went around killing couples as they made out in their cars. The killings began in the late 1960s and continued until the mid 1980s. The Monster’s true identity remains a mystery, although plenty have been accused and tried, and you will come away from this book quite convinced that you know who the killer is.

Douglas Preston moved his family to Italy, where he planned to write one of his thrillers, and he soon discovered he was living right on top of one of the places the Monster struck. (At this point, I think I would have moved, but Preston didn’t.) Like most Americans, he’d never heard of the Monster — a fact that amazes me.  How come we’ve never heard of this “Jack the Ripper of Florence,” a killer who made that city unsafe for so long?

Anyway, Preston didn’t move to safer quarters. He joined forces with well-known and well-respected Italian journalist Spezi, and this is when the second part of the book begins. The two investigative journalists soon found evidence of all sorts of police corruption and odd shenanigans within the court system. People, apparently, were very unhappy about these two amateur sleuths trying to uncover the Monster’s identity, and Spezi and Preston soon were accused of crimes they never committed.

A “page-turner” this one most definitely is, as the story begins to resemble some sort of Cohen Brother’s movie or something. First, I worried about potential victims of the Monster. Then I worried about people being falsely accused. Finally, I was worried for Spezi and Preston (mostly for Spezi, since he couldn’t escape to a home in Maine, like Preston could). Not a book for those of you who like nothing but “cozy reads,” but if you like a good thriller, this one’s for you, all the more so for being true.