Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book Review: Murder in Italy by Candace Dempsey

Due to the release today of Amanda Knox, I decided to post up my review of a book I was lucky enough to read which details every aspect of her case and seeks to make the reader think critically about the events surrounding her conviction and sentencing.

Format: Paperback
Pages: 352 pages

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb (from Goodreads):

"The real, the true, the definitive book on the Amanda Knox case. Best True Crime Book 2010 Editor's & Reader's Choice Awards. Library Journal Bestseller .

In Perugia, Italy, on November 2, 2007, police discovered the body of a British college student stabbed to death in her bedroom. The prosecutor alleged that the brutal murder had occurred during a drug-fueled sex game gone wrong. Her housemate, American honor student Amanda Knox, quickly became the prime suspect and soon found herself the star of a sensational international story, both vilified and eroticized by the tabloids and the Internet.

Award-winning journalist Candace Dempsey gives readers a front-row seat at the trial and reveals the real story behind the media frenzy."

My Thoughts:

I received this book from goodreads in a firstreads giveaway and I'm grateful to the author, Candace Dempsey, for hosting an international giveaway and to the goodreads team for providing me with the opportunity to enjoy such an engaging piece of work.

I have never before read a true crime novel and it never crossed my mind to actually ever try one, since I’m the type of reader who prefers to escape reality and enter exotic and fantastical worlds, far away from the harsh reality and nitty-gritty of life. I tend to ignore newspaper headlines and newspapers in general, but for some reason (perhaps the mention of my favourite social networking site- facebook), I sat up and paid attention when I came across the headline of an article about the murder of a British student in Italy. This tragic tale stayed with me and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I’d won a copy of a book based on the mysterious circumstances surrounding this case.

Throughout the reading of this book, I was struck by the injustice of it all. The harsh allegations made against American student Amanda Knox, who was the prime suspect and later went on to be sentenced for the murder of her roommate, were without sufficient evidence and I believe that her arrest and sentencing were as a result of prejudice (due to her nationality) and the need for a speedy conclusion to the case. Amanda’s bubbly, free-spirited and somewhat eccentric personality worked against her by serving to confirm suspicions held by authorities that she was unstable and capable of murder. While I have to admit that certain aspects of her behaviour may indicate an underlying layer of pathology, especially in a country where behaviour tends to lean towards the conservative, the fact that psychological assessments conducted on both Amanda and her boyfriend, the co-accused Raffaele Sollecito, did not come up with any results indicative of pathology serves to work against this theory. It is understandable, though, how Amanda could appear unstable after hearing accounts of an episode in a restaurant when she met her roommate’s British friends for the first time at a restaurant and randomly burst out singing at the table- an action which would create a lasting negative impression among the more reserved British students. However, it is quite obvious from descriptions of Amanda in the Italian media and from statements made by police officials, that she was often judged by her loud and assertive personality as they kept making mention of the fact that she would loudly complain of tiredness, hunger and thirst. One thing I found particularly irrelevant and confusing was why they would view Amanda’s and Raffaele’s lovebird-like behaviour with suspicion. They were often referred to as co-conspirators because they were always together and when one of them was called in for questioning, the other would naturally follow.

I enjoyed the descriptions of the quaint little hilltop town of Perugia with it's buzzing student life and party scene which provided an insider's view into the social customs and general attitude of Italians to foreigners. I particularly enjoyed getting to know each character involved in this case on a more personal level and found it funny how Raffaele was often described as an Italian Harry Potter. After viewing the photographs captured by the author of the accused and deceased as well as their families, I can see why Raffaele was described in that manner and why Amanda was described as having sweet, innocent features that could easily lead lower-ranking officers to lose objectivity in her presence. The fact that both Amanda and Raffaele could not accurately remember their alibis for the night of the murder due to drug use serves as a strong argument against the use of drugs and has taught Raffaele a lesson that will remain with him, I am sure, for the rest of his life. Reading about their time spent in isolation in prison made me imagine myself in their shoes and I realised the full import of the judgement that would be made.

I found it appalling how manipulative the wardens were by encouraging Amanda and Raffaele to keep journals in prison only to later turn around and use their written words against them. The pulling of information, pictures and videos off their facebook, myspace and blog pages to prove that they were capable of murder was one aspect of this tale that just scared the crap out of me. It shocked and disgusted me to see how the media twisted their words and used statements (even those made in e-mails, text messages and diary entries) as well as videos and pictures out of context and presented them as ‘evidence’. The fact that the public unquestioningly bought it all and were just relieved to return to a sense of safety angered me.

I believe that that Italian police made a hasty decision after coming under pressure to crack the case as soon as possible or risk being regarded as incompetent and that, in serving their own interests, they may have ruined innocent lives.

What do YOU think?



This case has been one that I've found very interesting from the beginning but really know very little about. I imagine I'll be watching documentaries in the future now that she's been released but this book might be one I should think about reading. I would definitely like to know more about everything! Great review! Thanks for explaining things well!

Post a Comment