Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston, New York: Grand Central Pub, 2008.
I’m not usually a reader of non-fiction, so it may not be obvious why, of all the hot new non-fiction, I picked a true crime book – when I hate true crime. The reason? Agent Pendergast. Or, more accurately, the series of books featuring that character by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Pendergast is one of my little literary crushes (he’s smart! he’s weird! he dresses like an undertaker! he solves mysteries!), and I regularly tune in for his adventures, so when I heard that Preston had a new book, and it was non-fiction, I thought, why not give it a try?
Turns out, “non-fiction” means no cameo from Agent Pendergast. Which is also probably why (SPOILER) they don’t catch the bad guy in the end. Just saying.
But if you like true crime (and you don’t mind the lack of Pendergast), this book will definitely hit the spot. The book is about an Italian serial killer who operated mostly in the late eighties. When Preston moved to Florence to research a book (ultimately never written), he unwittingly moved into a house that was adjacent to one of the crime scenes. When he finds out about it, his curiosity is whetted, and partnering up with Mario Spezi, an Italian journalist who covered the crimes for years, he attempts to solve the mystery. But their investigation is unexpectedly put on hold when they themselves fall under suspicion for the crimes.
The prose is light, pleasant, and readable, very similar to Preston’s fiction style, which should not really be a surprise, a mix of journalistic prose, reproduced dialogue and description. Don’t worry that the subject matter is too heavy, there’s plenty of humor, both in the irony of the situation itself, and in the reproduced conversations of some clearly witty and intelligent people, particularly Spezi. For instance, at one point, the Italian police mistake a doorstop found at one of the crime scenes for an arcane satanic object – and on finding one in Spezi’s home, (holding open a door,) take it as conclusive proof of his guilt. But serial killers being serial killers, I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone who is easily disturbed, or has a weak stomach (although it’s not as bad as, say, Breaking Dawn).
I recommend this book for anyone who likes non-fiction, true crime, mysteries, or Agent Pendergast.
Dea’s Random Awesomeness Count:
Satanic Doorstops: 2