The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi
I’m currently in the process of moving my collection of books from my spare bedroom to the family room in my basement. This is taking longer than I originally anticipated and so when I recently wanted a book to read before bed to keep me from scrolling TikTok endlessly, the options close at hand were limited. And I grabbed The Monster of Florence as the best of the available options.
I bought this book at a used bookstore for about $2 at some point over the past decade. I honestly don’t remember even picking it up, but there it was on my shelf. As a millenial woman, I am, of course, interested in true crime and so I decided to give this a whirl. Especially considering I had visited Florence, Italy (where the book is primarily set) in 2019.
The book is meant to be a deep dive into a series of murders over fifteen years in the 60s, 70s, and 80s that took place in the environs of Florence. However, the book is more a memoir of the author’s experience in researching the cases. And that is unfortunate. The narrative voice is pompous and overly self-assured. Instead of coming off as impartial or objective, like you would expect for a non-fiction crime book, it’s very personal and almost myopic in its focus. The author becomes the protagonist of the story, though he is not truly involved in the story itself.
And at the end, there’s no closure. The author has his idea of who the killer is, but he has no proof and the police don’t agree with his conclusions. No one has been officially charged in the case (or at least the charges haven’t stuck). Most of the second half of the book is the author telling of his troubles with the Italian justice system rather than discussing the case itself. Which is not what I signed up for when I started the book.
I can only give this book 2/5 stars and I feel that’s being generous. A terrific opportunity was wasted. With the backdrop of Florence, a city with a rich history of both murder and art, it could have been an incredibly compelling read. But, instead, it became a treatise on the author’s intellect and his grievances against the Italian government. If you ever come across this book in the wild, I recommend moving very quickly away from it.