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The Monster of Florence

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  30,683 ratings  ·  2,970 reviews
In the nonfiction tradition of John Berendt (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) and Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City), New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston presents a gripping account of crime and punishment in the lush hills surrounding Florence, Italy.

In 2000, Douglas Preston fulfilled a dream to move his family to Italy. Then he discovered tha
Hardcover, 322 pages
Published June 12th 2008 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
”This is the nature of the evil of the Monster of Florence. And this is the nature of the evil in each and every one of us. We all have a Monster within; the difference is in degree, not in kind.”

 photo Victims_zpsrzmkg8o0.jpg
The number of victims involving the Monster of Florence are staggering, those murdered and those accused.

We are all potential killers. Each and every one of us is capable of killing someone, usually that would be while protecting ourselves or protecting someone we love. Then there are those who live
Jul 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008, non-fiction
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 bestse
Dan Schwent
Apr 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Dan by: The Great and Powerful Emily
Thriller writer Douglas Preston moved to Italy, only to find out the nearby olive grove was the scene of a ghasty double murder. Preston and the journalist originally covering the investigation, Mario Spezi, dig into the case of the Monster of Florence, even winding up being investigated themselves...

I know I made the synopsis sound like a thriller but this is non-fiction, the account of an Italian serial killer and his murders. It's a fascinating journey into a reign of terror that lasted decad
Dec 24, 2011 rated it really liked it

From the late 1960’s to the 1980’s a serial killer sporadically stalked the countryside around Florence, murdering young couples and mutilating the female victims.

Victims of 'the monster of Florence'

Over the years, numerous men became suspects, many were jailed, and some were put on trial. To this day, however, the true killer, dubbed “the monster of Florence” has not been identified.

Sketch of 'the monster of Florence'

Douglas Preston, an author of crime novels, moved to Florence with his fami
Preston: Well, my New Yorker article about the Monster of Florence won't be published now thanks to 9/11, so I think I should write a book instead.

Editor: But will Americans really be that interested in unsolved lovers lane murders in Italy? We already have the Zodiac Killer and the Son of Sam. Let's make this book about you instead.

Preston: You're right. I am, after all, a Bestselling Author.

Editor: And don't let your readers forget it! I want at least one reminder per page that you're not ju
Karlyflower *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)*
You know you are a bookaholic when you find yourself in a quaint little bookshop in Venice staring at a copy of The Monster of Florence... CQ convinced me, by way of saying he would pack it in his own luggage, that I was not leaving the shop without this book.

My boyfriend is better than your boyfriend :P. ♥

Nick Pageant
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: True crime enthusiasts
Shelves: nonfiction
Dolci colline di sangue. That's a corruption of an Italian phrase about the rolling hills of Florence; it means Rolling hills of blood. It's also the title of an Italian version of this book and probably a better one.

This book details the investigation into a series of murders that began in 1968 and finally ended in 1985. 16 people were shot to death in the hills surrounding Florence, Italy during that time. All the victims were killed with the same gun.

I do not, as a rule, go in for true crime
LeAnne: GeezerMom
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Im leaving in the morning for Italy and dare not say a negative word about the Italian police and judicial system! Great nonfiction account of a journalism project that went haywire and nearly had its authors locked away for murder. Thomas Harris based Hannibal Lecter on the monster of Florence, but at least he didnt end up arrested. Really good read. No chianti required.
Mrs. Kristin
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am stunned by how much I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Serial Podcast invoked an old and underlying interest in me that has now become an obsession; unsolved mysteries. It is a morbid confession to say how much I enjoy reading about serial killers and spooky mysteries because not only are serial killers the most disappointed and tortured souls to walk the Earth, they usually torment and torture their victims, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. However, their tragic tales sure do tell ...more
Jennie Damron
Jul 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am amazed how awful the justice system is in Italy. It's not that the Monster of Florence case is unsolved. That happens a lot. It's the clear dysfunction of how the case was handled. The innocent people who were falsely accused. The criminal acts done by the very people who were supposed to honoring the law itself. I was gripped from start to finish pausing only to calm the blood that was boiling in me from the shear stupidity of it all. The case was fascinating and horrific. Innocent lives t ...more
Jeff Dickison
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good true crime story that shows how really terribly wrong an investigation can go when an idiot is put in charge of it. If anything, Preston was too nice in describing the Italian justice system. Recommended to true crime lovers.
John Wiswell
Jul 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Crime readers, culture readers
The Monster of Florence is amongst the most disturbing cases I've heard of, much less read a full book detailing, but if you're like me you can't help but want insight into what would make people do such things, or at least know how a town would deal with them. The Monster was a serial killer who stalked, murdered and mutilated young couples in Florence, Italy. He had the disturbing habit of jamming items into the female victims, and cutting off parts of their erogenous zones as souvenirs. Seria ...more
The Dark Side of Italy or An Innocent Abroad

Douglas Preston and co-author Mario Spezi undertook their own investigation into an unsolved string of serial killings -- seven couples brutally murdered in near-identical fashion in a period beginning in 1968 and stretching up to 1985. Spezi, a journalist who first caught wind of the case, is its most noted chronicler and was responsible for the appellation, "The Monster of Florence" to describe the killer.

The first half of the book reads like a stra
Jul 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Wow... I had to actually force myself to read the last half (at least) of this book. It started really well, and the story about the Monster was really interesting. The story on the investigation I found kinda tiresome. It just went on and on and on and there are only so many times I can roll my eyes without bringing on a migraine: the ridiculous antics of the tinfoil hat wearing Italian Police and their legal counterparts got extremely old very fast. Ditto the Preston & Spezi show. The entire l ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I listened to this book on audio.

It was a fairly interesting listen, the narrator had a nice Italian accent that contributed a lot to my enjoyment of this novel. It's the horrible story of a serial killer in Florence, Italy. One whose identity remains a mystery to this day.

I learned that Italian police procedures are not reliable and they are unlike anything that we hear about in the U.S. I also learned that the Italian police and investigators do not require the same types of evidence that w
Jonathan Ashleigh
Because this book was written by a fiction writer, it was a breath of fresh air to true crime literature. I liked the pace and the history of the murders interspersed with the history of Florence and the surrounding area. The first two thirds of this book tell a gruesome and interesting story about a serial killer most Americans know little about. I would have given it four stars had the book stopped there. The last third is about freedom of the press in Italy and, while important to democracy a ...more
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Erik Larson's Devil in the White City, serial killers, cold cases
I'm a bit behind on my thoughts on what I've read so am going to give this a quick get-go. If you're a fan of true crime then this is a must read.

I've read a few of the Preston/Child Pendergast books and love that character. I'm appreciative of the detail he can provide to his novels from his background with the Natural History Museum of New York.

Somehow I missed Monster of Florence but I'm so glad I picked it up on audio for a recent road trip with my husband. We were both mesmerized by this
Glenn Sumi
Jun 15, 2015 marked it as unfinished
Perhaps I'll come back to it later. After a great beginning, Preston lost me. Didn't have the tension or storytelling verve of an Erik Larson book, which I was expecting. ...more
Book Concierge
Book on CD narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris.

In the early 1980s the residents of Tuscany were terrorized by a serial killer every bit as brutal as Jack the Ripper. Known as the Monster of Florence, the psychopath was never caught. In August 2000, Douglas Preston moved his family to Florence; he intended to write a murder mystery. As part of his research he met with Mario Spezi a local crime reporter and celebrated journalist. Spezi regaled Preston with various stories and then commented that
Nov 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book - especially the second half - is a primary source in the investigation of an unsolved serial murder case and the odd behavior of an Italian prosecutor in the decades following. It's irreplaceable if it's a case you find interesting, and it's an account which has direct bearing on the Amanda Knox case from a few years ago.

Unfortunately, it's not a very good book, partly because it doesn't know what it wants to be - a thriller about the murders? An exploration of the Italian legal syste
Oct 17, 2008 rated it liked it
I found this book good at the start, but slightly dry and disappointing. The story is compelling enough be then it meanders off into nowhere, really, and ends with the investigation stalling. So, basically they went through all of that for nothing. Sometimes, real life is stranger than fiction - but in this case, it's probably more boring than fiction would be. At the end of a fictional novel, the killer would have been unmasked and good will have triumphed over evil. In this version, the evil w ...more
Caidyn (he/him/his)
Aug 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: true-crime

This felt like The Devil in the White City all over again. I'm here for the crime, not to find out random facts about people tangentially involved in the case or the various towns/cities that the crimes took place in. My experience of this book puts the actual crimes as a footnote. I didn't feel like Preston really explained them to me. His focus was on the things that came way later. I found it very boring and hard to read. I came for the crimes, not for random little things that barely had

No matter what I read this year, I seem to notice at least one of a few common threads. Perhaps it's just my imagination; but in the case of this book, the themes include the witch hunt mentality, the danger of conspiracy theories, and the general inability of human beings to think critically and question their own beliefs.

This is a story about madness. I don't mean the killings themselves, although they qualify, but the mental imbalances necessary for Giutarri and Mignini to convince themselves
Patrick Collins
Sep 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: true crime lovers
Boy, did I waste money on this best seller. Other than finding out where Thomas Harris stole his story for Hannibal, and who Lector's crimes in Florence were based on, you really have to like true crime police procedurals for this to be as entertaining as advertised. But I worry for that American college student in Perugia (an honor student from Seattle) who's accused of murdering her British roommate after reading the duplicitous nature of Perugia public prosecutor and his reliance on the occul ...more
Aug 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
A lot of this book centered around Mario Spezi, not so much The Monster. I grew bored when the author went into detail about Italy and the people of Italy and his own personal narrative. And jeez Louise the incompetence of the Italian criminal justice system (and police) was getting on my nerves.

Not enough meat in this book, and if I hear the word 'carabinieri' one more time I'M gonna kill somebody.

A very disappointing read, I was expecting information about the Monster and the crimes committed, instead this read more like a biography of Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi and how they became involved with the police investigation. Also the writing was really bad, haven't read any of Preston other books (and probably won’t) but you can tell non-fiction is not his strong suit. Meh
Katherine Addison

Okay, so I'm going to start with something catty, for which I apologize, but it also serves as a pretty good tl;dr:

This book would be greatly improved by about 80% less Douglas Preston and a concomitant 80% more Mario Spezi.

I am NOT INTERESTED in Preston's story of the American naif whose romantic vision of Florence is ripped apart by his investigation of the Monster of Florence. This is a tired old plot--John Clute dissects it in The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror--and I d
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't read a lot of non-fiction and when I do it's usually either biographies or travel. This may be the first true crime book I've ever read. It was fascinating and riveting; a real page turner. Kudos to Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi for presenting it in such a highly readable manner. ...more
This book started out really well but became pretty tedious around the 40% mark. It followed a bit of an odd format, beginning with descriptions of all of the murders and then going into VERY DEEP descriptions of the investigations.

In case you were wondering, that was Douglas Preston burying me under mountians of information.

This book had ridiculously in-depth explanations of inconsequential people and places. Preston has a very...chaotic way of writing. That sounds like an insult. Let me reel
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Krissy by: Nick Pageant
What a freaking ride. This story is so fantastical it's difficult to believe this actually happened! I was sucked in from the very first word spoken by the narrator. Because the narrator (Dennis Boutsikaris) happens to be the narrator of Child 44 which was one of my favorite reads of 2015. So it was like being squeezed into the best kind of hug by a favorite family member you haven't seen in a long time. So that added to such an engrossing tale equaled one happy Krissy. The only reason I rated i ...more
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Douglas Preston was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1956, and grew up in the deadly boring suburb of Wellesley. Following a distinguished career at a private nursery school--he was almost immediately expelled--he attended public schools and the Cambridge School of Weston. Notable events in his early life included the loss of a fingertip at the age of three to a bicycle; the loss of his two fr ...more

Articles featuring this book

Are you new to reading mysteries and thrillers and feeling overwhelmed by where to start? As all good detectives know, narrowing down the list...
123 likes · 21 comments
“We all have a Monster within; the difference is in degree, not in kind.” 1773 likes
“You cannot stare evil in the face; it has no face. It has no body, no bones, no blood. Any attempt to describe it ends in glibness and self-delusion.” 16 likes
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