Watching, listening, reading, and a bit of Brit trivia.
Citizen Reading: Getting away from it all.

Maybe nonfiction's not his thang.

This has been a real stinker week for nonfiction.  Either I've just had a run of reading bad luck or I'm getting pickier.  Hard to tell.

So what do you do when a book that has been advertised as a "page-turner" fails to make you want to turn the pages?  This has been the case throughout Douglas Preston's and Mario Spezi's true crime thriller about serial murders in the Italian city of Florence, The Monster of Florence.  Yes, I'm on page 116, but it's been a struggle to get there, and I'm about five pages away from skipping to the end and reading the last couple of chapters. 

So what's the problem?  Sure, it's a true crime book, but I've read a lot of true crime and find most of it interesting (I'll admit, it doesn't feel quite right to type, "I enjoy true crime").  The story is certainly salacious enough: from 1968 through the mid-1980s, there were a rash of killings around Florence wherein the killer(s) hunted young couples, passing the time amorously, who were parked in country lanes.  The killer then shot the couples, and removed "trophies" from the female victims after they were dead.

The writing's not terrible, with Preston relating the history of the investigation with the aid of Spezi, who was the longtime crime reporter who wrote about the case from the beginning.  There's also plenty of history and cultural information, not only about Florence but also about the island of Sardinia.  And it's got a beautiful, beautiful cover.  I fully expected this to be a fascinating book based on the cover alone. 

So what's the problem?

Preston is, of course, better known as the author of fiction thrillers, particularly those he co-wrote with Lincoln Child, starting with Relic and Reliquary.  Perhaps I should try those instead.  Maybe I'm just harboring a secret antipathy toward a novelist-turned-nonfiction-writer? (I don't think so; I am aware that Preston has written other nonfiction.) One thing I'm not enjoying is the three- to five-page chapters in this book, which I'm sure were set up to increase the "thriller" feel, but are just making it feel choppier; I'll have to double-check some true crime titles, but I don't think they're particularly known for such short chapters.

In short?  It's a book that fails.  If you want to read a book about Italy (Venice, in particular), read John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels.  If you want to read some true crime about a long-running investigation, read Ann Rule's Green River, Running Red.  Life's too short to read page-turners that aren't all that page-turney.