Nina Burleigh’s seductive new book, The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox (Broadway Books), details the murder of Meredith Kercher, a twenty-one-year-old British student in Perugia, Italy on November 1, 2007.
The author paints a noirish portrait of Perugia, an ancient town”…filled with relics of medieval sorcery, with many dark nooks, dead-end-lanes, shadows, and streets named after the witch, the moon, the cross, the thorn.” Its dark pagan roots and deep Catholicism make it an ideal backdrop for an Umberto Eco-esque danse macabre.
Burleigh captures the cast of characters with deft brush strokes, while weaving history and myth through her narrative of the crime and it’s slipshod investigation. The police procedures bring to mind the O.J. Simpson investigation. But unlike that case, the evidence and motives here are far more illusive. While the behavior of Amanda Knox was bizarre in the aftermath of her roommate’s murder, there is no physical evidence linking her to the crime scene. There are, instead, vibrations and superstitions, rumors, resentments, and innuendoes suggesting this Madonna-like beauty masks the face of a maniacal witch…a “she-devil.” This proved enough to convict her, along with her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito,. [A third man, Rudy Hermann Guede, was also convicted in separate proceedings.]
Fitting, I suppose, that the prosecutor in the case is a man obsessed with conspiracy theories.
The Fatal Gift of Beauty is destined to be a “true crime” classic.