Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review: Murder in Italy

Summary: 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. -- Berkley True Crime

When I was in high school and college, I couldn't get enough true crime books -- it was probably my favorite genre. I read all of Ann Rule's, Thomas Thompson's, and Joe McGinniss' books (as well as many others); and I'm guessing that I had some hidden desire to be a prosecutor! Through the years, my reading tastes have changed quite a bit, but I still read books from the true crime genre every so often. The latest one I picked up was MURDER IN ITALY: THE SHOCKING SLAYING OF A BRITISH STUDENT, THE ACCUSED AMERICAN GIRL, AND AN INTERNATIONAL SCANDAL by Candace Dempsey.

I'm pretty sure that most of you are familiar with the Amanda Knox story (although I admit that I wasn't quite as "up" on it as my husband.) Here's the very quick and dirty version: Amanda Knox was a young college student studying in Italy when her roommate was violently killed. Amanda and her boyfriend come under suspicion and are eventually arrested for her murder. They were both found guilty and are currently serving time.

So when the author asked me if I was interested in reading her book about Amanda Knox, I immediately said yes and quickly began researching this amazing story. It didn't take me long to realize that this case was very complex and I became very interested in reading a behind-the-scenes account. I'm not sure that this book answered all of my questions, and if I'm being honest, I actually had even a few new ones after reading it. One thing I can say for sure is that truth is definitely stranger than fiction, and this case really hits home that point!

I found that I enjoyed MURDER IN ITALY -- if enjoyed is the right word for a book like this one; and I found the entire Amanda Knox case to be incredibly interesting. I appreciated the background information that the author provided on both Amanda and the victim Meredith Kercher. And I was definitely affected by this horrific crime against a girl who seemingly had a wonderful life ahead of her. As I read this book, I definitely began to question whether Amanda Knox actually could have killed her roommate, and I even wondered how she was found guilty based on the evidence that was presented. There were quite a few questions posed in this book as to the quality of the forensic evidence as well as the initial police investigation.

Bottom line: I'm not sure what I think about the entire Amanda Knox case.  If I were to believe everything in this book, then I would definitely think she was falsely accused and wrongly incarcerated. Or at the very least, that she was found guilty on questionable evidence. While I did find this book to be fascinating, I don't think it will be my final "look" at this crime. That's not to say that I didn't think it was a very worthwhile read. I did feel as if the author did a fantastic job of showing all of the reasons why Amanda Knox is innocent. I just think my curiosity about the case wasn't entirely satisfied with this one source.

The story of Amanda Knox is extremely intriguing and one that is certain to appear in the headlines many more times. (In fact, I just saw a story a few days ago about another appeal where they are questioning an eyewitness's testimony.) Mu curiosity has definitely been piqued and I am now going to be following this case more closely in an effort to learn even more! I have tivoed the Lifetime Original Movie "Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy," staring Hayden Panettiere and Marcia Gay Harden as well as a news channel's documentary; and I hope to find time to watch them in the very near future.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book.


bermudaonion said...

I used to read tons of true crime back in the day too! I wonder what that says about us. I've been curious about the Amanda Knox case too - I'm sure the differences in the Italian justice system and ours made it frustrating for Americans.

Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

I used to be majorly into True Crime in high school, now I mostly just read Ann Rule. I am interested in the Knox case though. I don't know if Amanda Knox is guilty, but from what I've read of the evidence against her there certainly doesn't seem to be enough to have gotten her convicted. There are lots of flaws in the Us court systems, but everything I've read on the Italian courts and what they've put the Knox family through has made me truly appreciate what we have.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I read a big long report in People or somewhere that made me think she was guilty. Interesting that even after a whole book one doesn't know for sure!

Anonymous said...

What is it about youth and a fascination with true crime? I read everything Ann Rule wrote for a very long time. I only half followed the Amanda Knox case when it first happened. After hearing what her family has been through since then, I think I'd like to know more about it.

Harry Rag said...

The evidence against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito is overwhelming. They gave completely different accounts of where they were, who they were with and what they were doing on the night of the murder. Neither Knox nor Sollecito have credible alibis despite three attempts each. All the other people who were questioned had one credible alibi that could be verified. Innocent people don't give multiple conflicting alibis and lie repeatedly to the police. 

The DNA didn't miraculously deposit itself in the most incriminating of places. 

An abundant amount of Raffaele Sollecito's DNA was found on Meredith's bra clasp. His DNA was identified by two separate DNA tests. Of the 17 loci tested in the sample, Sollecito’s profile matched 17 out of 17.

According to Sollecito's forensic expert, Professor Vinci, Knox's DNA was on Meredith's bra. 

Amanda Knox's DNA was found on the handle of the double DNA knife and a number of independent forensic experts - Dr. Patrizia Stefanoni, Dr. Renato Biondo and Professor Francesca Torricelli - categorically stated that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade. Sollecito knew that Meredith’s DNA was on the blade which is why he twice lied about accidentally pricking her hand whilst cooking.

There were five instances of Knox's DNA mixed with Meredith's blood in three different locations in the cottage.

Knox tracked Meredith's blood into the bathroom, the hallway, her room and Filomena's room, where the break-in was staged. Knox's DNA and Meredith's blood was found mixed together in Filomena's room, in a bare bloody footprint in the hallway and in three places in the bathroom. 

Rudy Guede's bloody footprints led straight out of Meredith's room and out of the house. This means that he didn't stage the break-in in Filomena's room or go into the blood-spattered bathroom after Meredith had been stabbed.

The bloody footprint on the blue bathmat in the bathroom matched the precise characteristics of Sollecito’s foot, but couldn’t possibly belong to Guede. Knox's and Sollecito's bare bloody footprints were revealed by luminol in the hallway. 

It's not a coincidence that the three people - Knox, Sollecito and Guede - who kept telling the police a pack of lies are all implicated by the DNA and forensic evidence.

Amanda Knox voluntarily admitted that she was involved in Meredith's murder in her handwritten note to the police on 6 November 2007. After she was informed that Sollecito was no longer providing her with an alibi, she stated on at least four separate occasions that she was at the cottage when Meredith was killed. At the trial, Sollecito refused to corroborate Knox's alibi that she was at his apartment.

Knox accused an innocent man, Diya Lumumba, of murdering Meredith despite the fact she knew he was completely innocent. She didn't recant her false and malicious allegation against Lumumba the whole time he was in prison. She admitted that it was her fault that Lumumba was in prison in an intercepted conversation with her mother on 10 November 2007.

The English translation of the Massei report can be downloaded from here:

Unknown said...

This an excellent book--intelligent, humane, beautifully researched. By all means buy and read it if you are interested in the Knox-Sollecito case. What you can get here that you can get nowhere else is a detailed understanding of events surrounding the murder and initial results.

Please pay no attention to the infamous troll who calls himself Harry Rag. He has posted verbatim the same comments made here something like 1,000 times in the last year. Everything he says is foolish and has been thorough discredited, as has the website he tried to link.

The important online discussion of the case these days is taking place at:

Candace Dempsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SailorSam said...

Candace Dempsey is very very inexact. Her book is full of falsehoods and innuendo, along with some nice facts. It's not all bad but it's surely not all ACCURATE. Beware of Dempsey.

Her nemesis Harry Rag gives pure facts, true facts. They indicate Amanda's major involvement in the murder.

You should consider Harry Rag a much better thinker than novelista Dempsey. She is trying to stay cozy with the Knox family.

SailorSam said...

The Italian investigators sprayed a lot of Luminol on the floors of the murder cottage and found Amanda's footprints and also her Italian boyfriend's.

The Friends of Amanda tried to claim these prints were made in fruit juice or turnip juice or some chemicals from soaps and cleaning products! As if the police and forensics team know nothing about Luminol.

Amanda is the biggest liar in the world.

SailorSam said...

Don't listen to this Dempsey woman. She is on Amanda's side and has slanted everything in her book to show the vague possibility that Miss Knox did not kill Meredith. She is catering to the prurient interest and formula for success.

Perugia Murder File is a website that tells a whole different story, namely the truth. Harry Rag posts the facts not crazy reasoning like "Luminol must have picked up something besides blood when it lit up bright blue." The Knox crowd is desperate and lies have been their only stronghold. The facts destroy all Amanda's credibility.

SailorSam said...

Julie you mention the true crime book by Joe McGinniss, "Fatal Vision". I read that one, too, because we were stationed at Ft. Bragg for awhile and the Green Beret who flipped out and stabbed his pregnant wife and 2 very young daughters kept the narcissistic lie going that he is innocent. He's still in jail, still churning out appeals using pro bono lawyers to help him and an idiot of a wife who married the creep behind bars. He is a marvelous medical doctor and teacher and has a lot going for him, good looks too, sorta like Amanda Knox. He just snapped, Anger is real. Rage is real. He had been using diet pills for a few weeks to drop pounds for the Army post wrestling or boxing team, plus he worked horrendous long hours and moonlighted everywhere, he had no sleep. It is so wrong to get yourself debilitated and then go ape on others. Drugs and alcohol cause this often.

Amanda had her "fatal vision" in which she told Perugian police she saw or "imagined" a black man raping and killing her roommate while Amanda (perhaps, it was all a vague vision and later she took it all back) was in the kitchen hearing Meredith's screams. Amanda said she covered her ears to block out the roommate's screams. Later she tried to say the police had forced this image on her and tricked her into "what if I was there" discussion.

MacDonald the Army captain claimed 3 hippie intruders on a rainy February night entered his home at Ft. Bragg like the Sharon Tate murders ('acid is groovy, kill the pigs'). He said he was overpowered and knocked out, when he woke up his wife and children were dead. He had been reading a 1970's Esquire magazine about the Sharon Tate slaughter and it was a very dark magazine, somewhat reminds me of the bad vibes from Harry Potter witchcraft and wizardry and the Manga comics Amanda's boyfriend loved. So this evil reading got in his mind. In Amanda's case it was Halloween also. She attacked her roommate when all the other occupants of the cottage, both upstairs and down, had gone away for the holiday and Meredith was completely alone. Amanda is no dummy. But she is a tremendous risk taker and got whacked out on drugs and alcohol and then got ticked at her roomie, KABOOM.

SailorSam said...

Candace Dempsey is not accurate. Go to True Justice for Meredith Kercher website for an alternative view of Foxy Knoxy.

Candace Dempsey said...

LOL, somebody could write a book on the Internet trolls who operate two hate sites attached to the Amanda Knox case, including Harry Rag (aka The Machine) and Sailor Sam, who we've heard from here. Injustice in Perugia did a delicious skewering of them.

I'd like to invite readers to follow the case on my blog, which has been featured on Anderson Cooper 360 and

I'm an award-winning, Italian-American journalist based in Seattle, Amanda's hometown, and you can verify my credentials on my Website I have a master's degree in journalism, speak Italian, and flew often to Italy to cover this spell-binding case. Love to hear from readers anytime.
You can also get my updates on Twitter @Candace_Dempsey and leave comments on Murder in Italy's Facebook

Booking Mama, you rock! Thanks again for this perceptive review of my book.

SailorSam said...

Keep it simple: Foxy's boyfriend left his bloody bare footprint in Meredith's blood on a little blue bathmat at the crime scene.

Her boyfriend!

Don't tell me Miss Foxy was not with her main squeeze when all this happened.

You can bet if her boyfriend (Raffaele Sollecito) was there, so was Foxy right along with him. They were new lovers, only met up 10 days before. They were tight.

They were seen outside the cottage standing with a bucket and mop when some police showed up about the small matter of two lost phones. These police stumbled onto two people in the last throes of cleaning up a murder site, and boy did they look nervous. Oh, but they are fast, excellent liars, sharp as razors. They started lying and play acting immediately, deserved an Oscar.

Patrick King said...

I've got to point out that Candace Dempsey writes and posts under her own name. I'll bet Harry Rag and Sailor Sam have different names on their drivers licenses, if they're allowed to drive. So who you gonna believe, anonymous trolls or an award winning author?

Unknown said...

Sailor if you were any more stupid people would be watering you twice a day. What kind of abject cretin posts five times in a row?

People who are not close to the case will notice that Harry Rag and Sailor barge into conversations and try to overwhelm you with rhetoric. They seem to think that stamina and repetition is a substitute for brains.

Think for yourself. Don't listen to these idiots. To give you an idea of how nuts Harry Rag is, a fine writer named Olen Steinhauer once mentioned in passing that the prosecutor in this case seemed a bit bizarre. Harry Rag then wrote him about a 10 page paper.

It is a fascinating case and Murder in Italy is the best place to start reading about it. It is the best selling book on the case and has won a prestigious award.

Look for 20 more pages by Harry and Sailor.

Grace Moore said...

We spent thousands of hours researching this case so you don't have to. Google injusticeinperugia for some truth for a change. Harry Rag and his disciples are blowing smoke.

Chris Halkides said...


If the prints were made in blood, then tetramethylbenzidine (TMB) should have reacted, and it did not. If Meredith's blood were present, then her DNA should have been present, but it was not observed. Luminol can react with certain varnishes that have cobalt in them. It can react with iron or copper ions. Luminol is a presumptive test for blood that should be followed by a confirmatory test, such as a crystal test for example.

Chris Halkides said...


The print on the bathmat looks more like Guede's print than Sollecito's. There was no cleanup; there could not have been a selective cleanup to remove their traces and not Guede's.

Chris Halkides said...

Candace Dempsey has written a fact-filled and insightful book. She treats all of the principals with sympathy and understanding. She presents facts that refute many of the misconceptions that still surround this case. For example, she describes how the kitchen knife could have been contaminated outside of the laboratory. Her discussion of how the totally false rumor that Amanda brought “strange men” to the cottage got started alone is worth the price of the book. This is a hard book to put down.

Athira said...

Goodness, this looks like another Columbine (considering all the response in the comments).

I love true crime and I would love to read this one. (Mental note to self: add moderation). I've only vaguely heard about this case, but there is sufficient mystery attached to this case. I did read about Amanda being found guilty and also that it was a complicated(?) decision.

Candace Dempsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Candace Dempsey said...

Hi Julie,
Thank you for the elegant review of my book, Murder in Italy, on the Amanda Knox case. I'm happy to say it's won Best True Crime Editor's and Reader's Choice awards, is a Library Journal Bestseller and a Top Ten in Amazon True Crime.

Like one of your readers, I am a major Ann Rule fan and I've interviewed her several times for various magazines. I tried to make my book as factual and vivid as Stranger Beside Me. I had a spectacular story to tell and I looked to that book for a way to tell it. I also used techniques from Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air and Sebastian Junger's Perfect Storm, two of my all-time favorite books.

To clear up a few of Harry Rag's fabrications, posted here: There were no bloody footprints left at the crime scene, except one on a bathmat, most likely Rudy Guede's. Amanda is allowed to leave DNA anywhere in her own house, so that is meaningless. She never admitted to participating in Meredith's murder. The "abundant" DNA on the bra clasp is mixed--Raffaele's with at least 3 other people, none of whom have been arrested. Both the knife DNA and the bra DNA are under independent review for the first time. Amanda has the same alibi as her Italian roommate, Filomena, "I was at my boyfriend's house that night." Amanda and Raffaele changed their alibis only once--during their controversial, lawyer-less, all night interrogations--and immediately changed them back. None of the other roommates was questioned in this way. In fact, Amanda's two Italian roommates hired lawyers the moment they heard about the murder, as did the victim's Italian boyfriend. Amanda wrote a letter on Nov. 9, 2007 to her lawyers, questioning the Patrick Lumumba story--only a few days after her arrest. She has apologized to him in court on more than one occasion.

Here's the real evidence as described by the investigative reporter Maria D'Elia of Oggi. Like me, she pulls her facts from the case file of evidence. I recommend her excellent book: The Crime of Perugia: The Other Truth.

Traces Found on the Murder Scene
1. Rudy Guede
His Y chromosome found on a vaginal tampon inserted (Note: by investigators) into the body of the victim.
His DNA on the left sleeve of the blue Adidas jacket worn by the victim.
His DNA on a brown, fake leather purse, discovered on Meredith’s bed, from which her cell phones were stolen.
His DNA on the straps of Meredith’s bra.
The imprint of his bloody hand on a pillowcase.
The bloody print made by his Nike Outbreak 2 shoes on the floor of the room.

2. Raffaele Sollecito
A mixed trace of his DNA on Meredith’s bra clasp (collected 46 days after the primary investigation).

3. Amanda Knox
No trace.

Grace Moore said...

The authorities did not find bloody footprints belonging to Amanda or Raffaele anywhere on Earth. The bloody footprints were bloody lies. This is documented on page 256-257 of judge Massei's motivation report. It's time for the guilters to shut up about bloody footprints and find another lie to post all over the net.

Chris Halkides said...

Harry Rag wrote, "According to Sollecito's forensic expert, Professor Vinci, Knox's DNA was on Meredith's bra." This is absolute nonsense. I have examined the electropherogram of the bra clasp myself, and anyone who claims that Ms. Knox's DNA is there knows nothing of what he speaks. In addition, the claim that Sollecito matched 17 out of 17 ioci is extremely misleading.

Chris Halkides said...

Harry Rag wrote, "An abundant amount of Raffaele Sollecito's DNA was found on Meredith's bra clasp." This is a blatant falsehood. Sollecito's DNA is on the borderline of being low template in quantity. More importantly, there are other individuals who contributed to the DNA on the clasp. If their DNA got onto the clasp innocently, then Sollecito's might also have gotten there innocently.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this post certainly generated a lot of discussion! I don't know much about this case, but it certainly sounds interesting. I'm not big on true crime books, though I read a couple many years ago...can't even remember which ones that's how long ago it was.

Michelle Moore said...

I strongly suggest you guys (well, besides
to check out a simple blog that had a wealth of stuff to say in the comment section!
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You've GOTTA check this out: Sorry it looks like you have to copy and paste in browser. Well worth it though. :)