Douglas Preston's latest book, The Monster of Florence, is not his typical fiction thriller. Preston tries his hand at nonfiction, with this true account of a serial killer who preyed on couples at lovers' lanes outside of Florence from 1974 to 1985. Preston moved to Italy in 2000, where he met Italian investigative journalist, Mario Spezi. Preston learns from Spezi that the property he purchased is the site of one of the killings of the Monster of Florence. Unfamiliar with the story, Preston pressed Spezi for details. Spezi, who has been investigating the Monster from the beginning, has seen the bodies of the murdered couples and seen numerous men arrested and released, but the crimes have never been solved. Preston and Spezi begin their own investigation together and eventually identify and interview a man they believe to be the killer. In a strange twist, the Italian prosecutors get bent out of shape with Preston and Spezi's investigation and charge the two with obstruction and jail Spezi, accusing him of being the Monster.
Preston's ability to craft a great thriller has helped him create a nonfiction book that reads like a fiction thriller. The story is captivating and pulls you in from the very beginning. Spezi's familiarity with the case provides great detail and insight into the crimes and the lives of the people who have been affected by these murders (both family members of the victims and the men who were publicly accused of the crimes). The strong setting and detailed "characters" remind me of John Berendt's excellent book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. A very satisfying read for fans of narrative nonfiction and true crime. Tom Cruise has purchased the movie rights, which he will produce and possibly star.