The Monster of Florence – Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

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We had a very lively meeting about this book.  We were so excited to actually read a book that we liked!  A few new people joined us, as did a few people we hadn’t seen in a while (Les!  Kunthea, with baby Christopher!).

Douglas Preston, an American mystery writer, and Mario Spezi, an Italian journalist, got together and wrote this non-fiction book about a series of mass murders in Italy.

The first thing people mentioned was disappointment in the fact that the crimes continue to remain unsolved, though we all had opinions about who dunnit.  But aside from that, the group thought this book was great and that led to lively discussions about who did it, politics, forensics, the weirdness of Italian police work, and how it all seems to tie into the Amanda Knox case.  The Amanda Knox case is currently being tried in the same area, using the same prosecutors, and using some of the same arguments and similar circumstantial evidence.  You think the Italians would have learned!  And of course, the Italian police’s use of the press made us all look at our opinions as to whether or not Amanda Knox is guilty.  We also completely understand, now, why she didn’t go back to Italy for the trial.  Yikes!

We liked the two perspectives of Preston and Spezi, and how the case impacted the Florentine culture and changed people’s behaviors.  How the Italians look at power and “saving face” was also interesting.  There was a discussion how this case has been used as a springboard for many careers.  And the investigation details where truly horrifying.  What is accepted as the norm in America is not how the Italians do things.  And their willingness to accept and even embrace completely outlandish theories is truly mind-boggling.  But much disbelief concerned the investigation, the Italian politics, and the “picnic friends”.  We were completely amazed at how the investigation was handled, especially when compared to so many of the television shows we see involving forensics.

Someone reminded us, though, that we’re looking back at old crimes and today’s modern ways have not always been the case.  And someone else brought up the O.J. Simpson investigation and reminded us that in many ways, it was just as slapdash as the Italian investigation.

Favorite character – Joan really liked Spezi.  Such dedication.  But even then, his and Preston’s naivete was still amazing.

Least favorite – That crazy website woman.  Antonio Vinci.  Salvatore Vinci.

We have quite a few copies of our next book, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in the library system and it is also widely available electronically.

4 stars

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Cat in a Sapphire Slipper – Carole Nelson Douglas

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book cover of </p><br /><br /><p>Cat in a Sapphire Slipper </p><br /><br /><p>

This was Carole Nelson Douglas‘s 20th Midnight Louie book and not many in our group liked it.  Someone didn’t like cats, others found the story confusing, while others just couldn’t finish the thing.

Joan had to miss the meeting, but got 50 pages into it and couldn’t go on.  She was turned off right from the snarky prologue, she found the cat’s point of view annoying, and she couldn’t keep the cast of characters straight.

The group gave it two stars because they REALLY didn’t like the cat, the story was confusing, and it didn’t get the point.

2 stars