There are several degrees of reading about Crime. If you are susceptible to nightmares (like me), you may try the cosy mysteries. Then there is the regular crime fiction, which most of us would read; and if you want to scare the wit out of it, then try true crime, it never fails to chill me.
The only true crime stories I have read before this is The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, which I found to be enjoyable and chilling as well and in normal days I wouldn’t want to read any true crime than it is ‘necessary’. I read Death in Perugia because for many years few crimes have captured the imagination as much as the murder of Meredith Kercher. The beauty and kindness of the victim, the fresh faces of her alleged assassins, the murky world of sex and drugs, set against the backdrop of Italy. Now that both Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have been acquitted of Kercher’s murder, the story becomes more murky, as no one knows quite what to believe any more. Many people remain convinced that the two are guilty, including my librarian. 😉
I don’t have the patient to read newspaper and follow-ups. So a book is ideal for me to trace the case (and the evidence) from the beginning till the end. When I saw this at WH Smith bookstore, the first thing I thought is that I will check it out from the library.
John Follain is the Rome correspondent for the Sunday Times and has been following the case for 4 years. His book is a neutral reportage of events, from the excitement of the young girls from both side of the Atlantic, Meredith and Amanda to the night of the murder on 1 November 2007, the investigation, the witnesses accounts of suspects, friends and anyone who saw them on the night of the murder (from the tramp to a young couple and the next morning, the grocer); the court trial and prison’s priests conversation with Amanda up to the acquittal in 3 October 2011.
I’ll present a summary of findings quoted from the Guardian review of the book, in which if you followed the case previously you may already know:
“As investigators looked more closely at Knox, she emerged as a narcissistic attention-seeker who was sexually adventurous but also jealous of Meredith Kercher’s cheerful contentment. Knox knew, it seemed, no boundaries, leaving a vibrator in a transparent washbag and enjoying one-night stands. Detectives thought she was both sly and naive.
These character traits, however, were as nothing compared with the contradictions she got caught up in. At first she said she was there that fateful night; then that she wasn’t. Pages of her diary were ripped out. Her phone, always on, had been switched off early that evening. She had used drugs. Most incredible of all, Knox claimed to have entered the flat the following morning, having found the front door open and blood in the bathroom, and rather than running outside and calling the police had gone straight ahead and had a shower without a second thought. (Judge Messi was suspicious of Amanda of showering in her cottage that morning with no heating)
Her DNA was found on the handle of a knife that also had Kercher’s DNA on its blade. That knife came from the kitchen of Knox’s boyfriend, Sollecito. He, it emerged, was a habitual drug-user who collects knives and hardcore porn. His DNA was found on Kercher’s bra clasp. He had lied about when he had used his computer, about the time of certain phone calls, and also about the time he’d eaten dinner.
A third man emerged as a suspect. Rudy Guede alleged that he had merely been making out with Meredith and was in the bathroom when he heard her screams from the other room. He tried, he said, to save her. Prosecutors didn’t believe his story, especially when DNA evidence indicated a sexual encounter with Kercher – with, detectives thought, Knox and Sollecito involved as coercers. Various eyewitnesses came forward to place Guede, Knox and Sollecito at the scene of the crime, and the fact that the young lovers had bought bleach the following morning suggested they were trying to cover their tracks.”
Not only that, Amanda wrongly accused an innocent man of murder. The man was her ex-employer, Patrick Lumumba, the Congolese barman. Amanda’s account of the night was inconsistent. If you ever watch the movie called Run, Lola, Run, Amanda’s account was as unreliable and as varied a version as what happens to Lola the day she went out running and encounter different people which presents all different scenarios of that day. Amidst all these suspicions and DNA evidences surrounding the suspects, the first verdict sent both suspects to life sentence. The second appeal however, with backings of powerful lawyers for Amanda and Rafaelle, the jury’s concluded that none of the evidences were reliable due to contamination, such as uncovering a key evidence as old as 46 days, and they were acquitted after 4 years of imprisonment. I read with aghast at strange display of behaviours by Amanda before and after the murder, some of which is so bizarre I thought the girl must be really mental.
The book was well researched and from the reviews, one of the best out there. The new evidence and witness’s account were revealed gradually instead of at one go. It reads like a crime thriller that sends me turning the pages swiftly. Death in Perugia do not contain any authorial speculations nor opinions and because of this objectivity, you will find repetition of illustrations of what happen to them presented in many guises and in many conversations that the suspects may have with the priest, family members, with the police, her secret journal, prison letters and in court. It can be quite repetitive and tedious, but if you want to uncover the hidden clues yourself, then you must read on and make your mind about the question: did they or didn’t they?
Amidst all these talk about whether Amanda did or didn’t, Meredith’s brutal death had been long forgotten. Meredith suffered 27 wounds, 7 of which were knife wounds, she was strangled, raped and bled to death. There were many nights reading the book and looking at pictures of Meredith smiling faces, I went to bed with nightmares. The book contain graphic images and written descriptions that can be distressing. I was spooked. I was intrigued, no crime writing can get any better than this.
Did they or didn’t they? No one will ever know.
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death – Bible reading by John Kercher Jr, Meredith’s brother, at her funeral
If you want to read a summary of the case, yet not losing the gist of it, click on: Wikipedia: Murder_of_Meredith_Kercher. I hate to think some movie director will pay big money to have this re-enact in the big screen in the future.
Paperback. Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton 2011; Length: 435 pages; Setting: Nov 2007 to October 2011, Perugia Italy Source: Reading Borough Library. Finished reading at: 15th December 2011.
About the writer:
John Follain was born in 1966. He studied at Oxford before joining Reuters, for which he worked as a correspondent in Rome and Paris. He has covered Italy for The Sunday Times since 1998. His previous books include THE LAST GODFATHERS and ZOYA’S STORY on an Afghan resistance fighter, which was translated into fourteen languages. He was voted runner-up for the 2006 Paul Foot Award for Campaigning Journalism, and nominated for the 2008 Magazine Journalism Awards for his interview with the Knox family.