Arguably one of the most fascinating unsolved mysteries of the 20th century (ala the American Zodiac Killer), the Monster of Florence has never been caught and the investigation is ongoing to this day. Douglas Preston, alongside the Italian, Mario Spezi, attempt to identify and understand the various investigative tracks of the Italian police. Eventually they conclude that the Italian police are very much on the wrong track, but it gets worse; the two leaders of the investigation are intentionally sticking to an improbable theory about satanic sects, rituals of the underworld, and a large conspiracy involving some of the most prominent members of Florentine society. Why? As one prominent Italian tells Douglas, it is to “save face,” which Italians are notorious for.
Douglas and Spezi begin to try and rake some coals over this fire in an attempt to steer investigators in what they believe is the right direction (following the .22 Beretta that the Monster used in every crime), but instead it seems like they’ve dumped gasoline over it. Spezi is eventually thrown in prison by the lead investigators and Preston himself, an American, is given the third degree in interrogation and is actually indicted on charges and told to leave Italy.
This book, written by Preston but with clear insight from Spezi, is a fascinating look not only into one of those few unsolved serial killer mysteries, but also a comprehensive overview of what can happen to reason and evidence-based thinking during a time period of hysteria and fear (the Monster’s murders took place during the summer months of the 80s). It reads very much like a mystery novel, but in this case, Preston has shed his identity as a mystery and thriller writer and is documenting events that have actually taken place.
Preston and Spezi believe they know who the Monster is in this book and they provide very compelling evidence that this may be the man. They reveal his identity near the end, but to this day this man has never been questioned or arrested.