Brooke's Reviews > The Monster of Florence

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston
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Jul 12, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: 2008, non-fiction
Read in July, 2008

Despite my criminal justice background, I'm not a huge fan of true crime books. It's not that I dislike them, but unless the author has a personal connection to the case (ie: The Stranger Beside Me, Helter Skelter) they often just end up being a recitation of the facts without much more going for them.

When I first caught wind of Douglas Preston's debacle with an Italian serial killer, The Monster of Florence, I couldn't wait to read the resulting book. How often does one of my favorite bestselling authors end up in the middle of a serial killer investigation, being threatened with arrest on secret charges? His novels about serial killers are outstanding, and I was looking forward to reading his non-fictional account.

While the first half of the book is pretty typical of true crime books as Preston catches the reader up with the history of the killings, the second half is just unbelievable. Above everything else, the logic that the public prosecutor and chief inspector use to put together theories on the case are just so out of this world, it's impossible to believe that they're working in a civilized country in the present era. In what was likely a string of murders perpetrated by a lone psychopath who fit a typical FBI profile, these two men strung together a vast conspiracy involving a satanic cult, body switching, instruments that let people communicate with Hell, and an ever widening circle of suspects. At the forefront of it all is, amazingly, a blogger whose insane conspiracy theorist ramblings are taken as gospel (in the legal pleadings and arguments, the prosecutor quoted her verbatim).

The maxim "truth is stranger than fiction" has never been more accurate than it is here. The fascination for me is not the serial killer himself (as far as serial killers go, he's nothing out of the ordinary - I know this sounds bizarre, but I spent a whole semester studying them), but the Italian criminal justice system. Definitely recommended.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Shea I agree. The second half of the book had me completely enthralled (I also come from a CRJ background). I like well-written true crime books, but it's rare that one like this will come out.


Kate In the case, not just truth is stranger than fiction. If a novelist had written this story as fiction no one would have published it. It's too absurd. Even fictional crime novels have to be rational. The fact that's it's too ridiculous to even be accepted as a novel makes the fact that it's true all the more frightening.


message 3: by Helene (new)

Helene Wilson This book is especially poignant now with the third trial of Amanda Knox and Raphael just having taken place. It'll give you more perspective on mindset of those in law enforcement and the judicial system in Italy, the ad hoc theories acceptable to the Italian system. It was a great read!


Brooke Definitely, Helene. From what I've read online, it sounds like some of the people involved with the Monster of Florence case were also involved with Amanda Knox's case? Every country's system has its flaws and people willfully miscarrying justice, but Italy's just seems more and more bizarre every time I hear about it.


Neeka you should read nobody walks: bringing my brother's killers to justice by Dennis Walsh. extremely interesting.


Jennie I think now, after reading this book so long ago, it puts the conviction of Amanda into petspective.


Daniel Seymour Preston now has two e-books, on Kindle, about the Knox case. She faced the same prosecutor as the authors of Monster.

Having read Monster, as soon as I heard that the same prosecutor was involved I knew Amanda was innocent.

This story was as compelling, if not more, than Preston's fiction. Amazingly rich with detail with a tight narrative, this books reads like a top-notch thriller.


David I don't know if it's necessarily the personal connecting that makes some true crime worthwhile because I have really enjoyed the books I have read by Bugliosi & Rule that they had no personal connection with. I just think that there are very few writers who treat crime with the necessary respect and refuse to sensationalize while still remaining focused on the victims. I have to say that I agree with you re: true crime in general, though. Some of my favorite non-fiction books are true crime, but I have to say that I rarely finish a true crime book.


David You may have a point regarding personal connection and true crime, though. Another one of my favorites is Zodiac...


Deborah Pickstone The police activity was truly mindblowing. Made Surrealism look like Constable :)


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