Ah, summer! The hazy days of June are upon us, and with them, all those little aural extras that come with the warm weather: the constant song of the ice cream truck, the laughter of children playing in sprinklers, the sweet chirp-chirp of little bluebirds as they flit from tree to tree.
And above it all, the ecstatic moans of teenagers getting it on in cars.
Since the invention of the automobile, summer has brought with it the time-honored tradition of Cruising With The Top Down, closely followed by the even more time-honored tradition of Parking With Your Pants Off. And ever since the first intrepid couple drove off to a secluded spot for a little vehicular nookie, stories have sprung up alongside the practice – the most familiar of which are urban legends. We’ve all heard the story by now; the characters and setting may vary, but in all of them, a parking couple is punished for their slutty behavior after being discovered and eviscerated by a homicidal maniac (who, as we all know, are always strolling by at exactly the right time for this sort of thing.)
Of course, the nice thing about urban legends is that you never had to take them seriously. Why bother? I mean, they’re obviously fake.
Or rather, I thought they were, until I heard about the Monster of Florence.
In August 1968 – exactly 40 years ago this summer – a man and a woman were found shot to death in their car, which was parked in the rolling hills surrounding Florence, Italy. They were the first victims of the Monster, a serial killer who murdered and mutilated at least 8 parking couples between 1968 and 1985.
The killings were gruesome, terrifying, and – most importantly – remain essentially unsolved. They’ve also inspired several movies and books, including Thomas Harris’ Hannibal. But most importantly, they captured the interest of Mr. Douglas Preston (you know him as the co-author of all those nail-biting, airport newsstand books in which people keep getting murdered inside the Museum of Natural History), who teamed up with Nazione reporter and “Monster” expert Mario Spezi to pen a non-fiction account of the murders and their aftermath. In the process, Preston and Spezi uncovered some frightening evidence: that the murderer is likely still at large and still alive, the result of a spectacularly botched police investigation.
The two paid a hell of a price for their digging around – at the hands of the embarrassed and angry police force, Preston was interrogated and forced to flee Italy while Spezi was jailed under accusations that he had committed the Monster murders. (He didn’t.)
Fortunately, the book wasn’t derailed: It’s out this month, and it’s fantastic.
Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, The Monster of Florence