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on 4 December 2013
Russell and Johnson's account begins with salacious descriptions which have turned off other reviewers. I didn't mind the intimate description of the crime scene and autopsy because it's vital information if you have a serious interest in this fascinating case. The fact is that obviously the autopsy report is not in the public domain and publically available photos of the crime scene sensitively blur Meredith's body. This is obviously to respect her family and her memory. However, it does leave a hole in the evidence for amateur sleuths that Darkness Descending manages to fill. What I found more distasteful was the sexualised descriptions of all involved: Amanda's strong athletic thighs; Rudy's rippling six-pack; Meredith's puppy fat cuteness to her cheeks. It all seemed horribly inappropriate given the context.

So the book begins with a lurid, sensationalist style but gets a lot better and is a real page-turner for the second half. As it was released in Feb 2010, just after Knox and Sollecito were sentenced, the account is a bit dated now and throws around theories which have since been discounted. The authors couldn't make use of Judge Massei's 400+ page motivational report justifying the verdict (a legal requirement for Italian cases). This is really the key text for all those interested in the murder (and is available online translated into English by a team of volunteers).

The playing down of Rudy's role is probably in line with most keen observers today. But `Darkness Descending' goes too far in giving his almost verbatim version of a developing relationship with Meredith prior to the night of her murder. The authors do note a few contradictions to his claims of having met Meredith several times but leave the reader with the impression that Rudy was let down by friends who could have backed him up but didn't want to get involved in the case. In fact Rudy's claims of previous flirting with Meredith were demolished in his own trial and appeal by multiple witnesses, not least Meredith's friends to whom she mentioned nothing of a rendezvous with a man on the night of her murder.

The book is worth reading for the evaluation of Colonel Luciano Garofano, a leading forensic expert in the Carabinieri, one of the multiple police forces in Italy. Garofano would have headed the Meredith murder investigation if the Carabinieri had arrived first on the scene. He describes over two chapters his interpretation of crime scene evidence and what likely happened that night, which differs from the Perugia Police and prosecution.

Reviewers will note that you're still left asking questions at the end. Unfortunately, that's the nature of the case: it has many mysteries and contradictions. Of the four pillars of a prosecution case, behaviour and circumstantial evidence condemn Knox and Sollecito pretty unambiguously. If they were innocent, you'd have to accept that they behaved very abnormally and told numerous lies to police for reasons unconnected to the murder. Witness evidence is weaker because the defence can raise reasonable doubts about the exact date, why they took so long to contact the police, and being socially discredited for drug use. Forensic evidence would be crushing but is problematic because its poor collection gives the chance for contamination (only chance though). Readers should note though the inherent contradiction of the pro-Knox camp: forensic evidence collected by the same team, at the same time, in the same location, by the same methods is contamination when it's Knox and Sollecito's but perfectly valid when it belongs to Rudy.

If you're interested in the case, `Darkness Descending' is a valuable contribution (particularly to Rudy's background) but don't start with it if you're new to the murder. John Follain's `Death in Perugia' remains the definite account but Russell and Johnson's work provides better depth on the forensics and more of an opinion than Follain's strictly neutral tome.
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on 4 July 2011
...In fact I wasn't sure what the authors actual opinion was until I saw Johnson interviewed on TV a few weeks ago. I agree with other reviewers comments on the flowery writing style in the opening chapters, it was out of place and unnecessary and the repeated description of her neck wound as a 'mouth' was tasteless. In fact had it been the first book I'd read I would've stopped reading at that point and that would've be a pity. For this reason I have awarded four stars instead of five.

However, the authors came into their own as the book progressed. At the outset they go through the days leading up to the fateful night and for the first time we get a glimpse of what Meredith was like as a person, we get to know and like her which is what makes the rest of the book so harrowing. The attention to detail around the investigation and trial was excellent, I've read the Massei report as well as Nadeau's 'Angel Face' and Savive's 'A Study Abroad Murder' and there was nothing left out,In fact they went the extra mile with Garafano's analysis of the forensics. The authors were absolutely fair in their assessment of every aspect of case, the sloppy work of the detectives was laid bare beside the contradictions in the testimony of the two accused.

If you want an objective read this book is for you, Knox and Sollecito supporters will not like how the accused are portrayed and detractors will not be happy with how the forensic teams shortcomings are highlighted.

I hope justice prevails and that the conclusion of this appeal will give the Kercher's some peace. RIP Meredith
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on 13 January 2010
I managed to miss most of the coverage of the Meredith Kercher case in the British papers, meaning I came to this book pretty much partisan and uninformed. I like True Crime to a degree but tend only to read those recommended to me by a friend - as this one was. And I'm so glad she did! This is an absolutely riveting account of the massively complex events of that night in Perugia, expertly drawn and structured in such a way as to make even the most complicated of theories understandable. The intricacies of DNA profiling is explored, along with the different accounts from each of the alledged murderers as they try to explain away their actions that night. It's one of the best true crime books about and I can't recommend it enough.
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on 8 March 2014
The book has too much unecessary gruesome detail which is disrespectful of Meredith. It has too much detail of Merediths Autopsy, which I found over the top and out of place in a factual story. It felt to me that it was put in for shock factor and was very disrespectful of Meredith and her family as it added nothing at all whatsoever to the story or the facts. This book also embellished how people felt when it is impossible for the authors to have known how Meredith was feeling on that night, but they have added it to the story. This book starts like a horror story that feels like a Movie or work of fiction and that second part of the book is more fact. I regret buying it.
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on 1 February 2010
...or how the poor Kercher family feel about them. The one positive could, if they are done well, be that they can contribute to making US discussion of the case - a lot of which has been extravagantly biased towards Knox - more balanced. It's a shame that authors Paul Russell (a TV producer) and Graham Johnson (crime writer) don't concentrate more on the victim who tragically lost her life at 21, dying alone abroad and in terrible pain. So much of the talk about her murder and subsequent trial seemed to almost forget her amid widespread fascination with the deeply ambiguous Knox.

Russell and Johnson blur the boundaries between fact and fantasy by couching their discussion in the language (and sometimes the clichés) of crime fiction. Some parts come across as tastelessly handled and senationalist. The prose gets better as their discussion of the trial progresses.

It's a very detailed analysis that doesn't go too heavy on the scientific intricacies of the crime scene investigation. Strangely they leave out one piece of incriminating evidence, however: Not only - as they note - was Knox spotted outside the local grocery store early on Nov. 2 2007 where she bought bleach (the investigators were certain that bleached had been used before they arrived and only one of Knox's fingerprints could be found in the entire house in which she lived), but also a receipt for the bleach was found by the police in Sollecito's apartment. Strange that Russell and Johnson don't mention it.

When they get to Rudy Guede's role in the crime, I think they give too much space over to his highly romanticising defence in which he characterises Kercher as an angel (a thought which cannot have been at the forefront of his mind when he fled the scene without even calling an ambulance). They also don't include his picture on the cover even though all three have been convicted of Kercher's murder, not just Knox and Sollecito.

What they do well, though, is defend the Italian justice system against (unfounded) claims of anti-Americanism, which were voiced by much US media, the Knox family, and US senator Maria Cantwell after the convictions.

Let's hope when the automatic appeals of Sollecito and Knox are heard later this year that more balanced media reporting prevails.
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on 19 May 2013
This book didn't seem to know whether it should be a novel or a factual account of this horrible murder and I didn't care for the way the author sometimes second guessed what the participants must have thought. However, it is a very detailed and factual account of the events that led to Meredith Kerchers murder and the initial sentence handed down to Knox and Sollecito. I have studied this case for quite a while and I would say that this book does appear to cover the evidence accurately, and in great detail. It does seem to jump about a bit in terms of the timeline and I found this a little frustrating at times ,but overall it is a very interesting and captivating read.
It's a bit time expired now and we're heading for a retrial but I still think it is a very worthwhile read in understanding the evidence around the case.
Did Knox and Sollecito assist Guede in murdering MK? I believe the Italians have made very hard work of what should have been an open and shut case, mainly through poor evidential collection procedures. That being said, I'm sure all murder cases like this involve the odd cock up and there is still a huge amount of circumstantial and physical evidence putting Knox and Sollecito at the scene of the crime. To put it another way, to suggest this pair are in anyway "innocent" would involve a huge suspension of disbelief and accepting that these two are the unluckiest people on the planet with the memories of goldfish. Hopefully their original sentences will be re-instated and they get the punishment they truly deserve.
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on 23 February 2014
This book was written in 2009 and published by Pocket Books in 2010. It therefore does not deal with the appeal and the subsequent reconviction in late 2013. 3 authors are credited - Graham JOHNSON an investigative journalist, Paul RUSSELL a TV producer and Luciano GAROFANO, an Italian scientist and sometime law enforcement officer.

The book is 438 pages with an index. It is a useful addition to the wall of books about the violent murder of English student Meredith KERCHER. It is divided into 3 parts - Part 1 The Murder, Part 2 The Probe and Part 3 Justice. The problem facing a reviewer, as I see it, is to give a review that will be useful to others who are considering buying the book or otherwise reading it. This object will necessarily involve a great deal of subjectivity whilst trying to achieve objectivity. In my view a reviewer is unwise and failing in purpose if he or she descends into the arena. Therefore I will try and give an unbiased view of the writing and not give a view on who did it.

The book is long as I indicate above (438 pages) and carried a great deal of padding and back stories. I appreciate the principal author is an investigative journalist and the book was written for the mass market on a subject that was, and may still be, of global interest. However, I found the passages dealing with the social and familial histories of Amanda KNOX, Raffaele SOLLECITO and Rudy GUEDE to be overlong. What was the utility of knowing in detail what GUEDE did when he fled Italy? Some of the chapters had rather shrill and sensational titles - The Gilded Generation, Coming of Age, Freshers etc. I found that the back stories became part of the partisan media and personal hysterics of interest groups on each side of the Atlantic.

The writing style is standard but restrained journalism. It is full of undeniable facts, assertions of fact with comment or facts that are denied or in doubt (how can reviewers call it a work of fiction?) so I found the narrative helpful in understanding student life in Perugia at the time, the Italian legal system and the workings of the multi layered and complex Italian law enforcement system. On the whole I found the book balanced in that anyone with a shred of common sense and an enquiring mind would have seen Amanda KNOX and Raffaele SOLLECTIO as suspects from the get go.

My reservations of the book relate to the sections dealing with (1) the science (DNA), (2) the analysis of the computer and mobile phones of KNOX and SOLLECTIO, and (3) the Italian legal system. The descriptions of where samples were found, the analysis and the presentation of that evidence was hard to follow, not to say turgid. I had to read and reread to understand the value and weight of the DNA evidence. The detail of the evidence of SOLLECTIO's computer and his and KNOX's mobiles at relevant times was hard to follow, particularly as, in my view, it was of great weight and inference in the prosecution's case. Finally, the Italian legal system became fused into one long struggle from one judge to another, one appellate tribunal to another and one hearing to another. This was complicated by the fact that, in parallel to the murder charge, KNOX was convicted of libel by falsely naming Patrick LUMUMBA as the killer. I hasten to add that I do not think the legal system was ineffective or biased. Simply hard to follow in this book.

Overall, I give the book 3+ stars for the criticisms above. For me, the book raises the following unanswered questions (and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn in the absence of credible answers) ...........
How did KNOX know, early on, the position of the body and the nature of the injuries?
Why did KNOX and SOLLECTIO change their stories in the early stages of the investigation?
Why were their mobile phones off for a long period at a material time?
Why were those phones switched off and on at about the same time?
Why did KNOX name LUMUMBA as the killer?
How was KERCHER's DNA on a knife found in SOLLECTIO's kitchen?
Why did SOLLECTIO explain that MK's DNA was on the knife because she and he had been cooking in his flat and he accidently cut her? It was accepted by all that MK had never been to his flat.
Why was SOLLECTIO's PC turned off at a time he said he was at his flat checking emails?
Why was glass from the broken window found on top (ie not underneath) of items supposedly disturbed during the burglary?
How did the stone found in the flat, supposedly thrown to break the window as a precursor to burglary, fit through the gap in the shutters?

These and the rest of the evidence lead one to a view that the authorities were correct to lay the charges as they did. This book is worth a look if one is prepared to spend time comprehending the detail.
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on 9 March 2010
A meticulously researched and sensitive account of one of the most sensational murder cases in recent history. A huge amount of work has been put into this captivating read. Hats off to the authors.
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on 17 June 2015
This is one of the first books I read about the case. I ordered it from Amazon UK a while back but lost the review link so it mayn't show as a confirmed purchase. But I really have read all the books about the Murder Of Meredith Kercher, and somehow, I like this as the best of them all..

Most murder cases are solved on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone. There is a whole body of evidence which was sufficient for the trial judge to convict. This slim volume also examines the forensic evidence, and what I like about is its honesty. Yes, mistakes were made by the police, but not enough to alter the trial's conclusion. Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were also complicit along with Rudy Guede in the murder of Meredith Kercher.

It really was a miracle that Meredith Kercher's DNA was found on the murder knife, along with Amanda Knox's.
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on 27 August 2014
The word fox usually refers to a sexually attractive woman, but can also mean a cunning or sly person, the last meaning is the most appropriate for the mendacious murderess this word is sometimes applied to. I was going to wait until this case had finally come to an end, after being found guilty Sollecito & Knox were released because the Italian police screwed up the evidence, when the appeal was overturned a new trial was set but as all this might take forever I decided to buy this book to learn more about the case so far. Darkness Descending is surprising good, interesting, unbiased, and very well written right up to the last page. When this is all over I hope the same authors write the final chapters.
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