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The Fatal Gift of Beauty

The Trials of Amanda Knox

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


Award-winning author and journalist Nina Burleigh’s mesmerizing literary investigation of the murder of Meredith Kercher, the controversial prosecution, the conviction and twenty-six-year sentence of Amanda Knox, the machinations of Italian justice, and the underground depravity and clash of cultures in one of central Italy’s most beloved cities.

The sexually violent murder of twenty-one-year-old British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, on the night of November 1, 2007, became an international sensation when one of Kercher’s housemates, twenty-year-old Seattle native Amanda Knox, as well as her Italian boyfriend and a troubled local man Knox said she “vaguely” knew, was arrested and charged with the murder. When Perugia authorities concluded that the murder was part of a dark, twisted rite—a “sex game”—led by the American with an uncanny resemblance to Perugia’s Madonna, they unleashed a media frenzy from Rome to London to New York and Seattle. The story drew an international cult obsessed with “Foxy Knoxy,” a pretty honor student on a junior year abroad, who either woke up one morning into a nightmare of superstition and misogyny—the dark side of Italy—or participated in something unspeakable.

The investigation begins in the old stone cottage overlooking bucolic olive groves where Kercher’s body was found in her locked bedroom. It winds through the shadowy, arched alleys of Perugia, a city of art that is also a magnet for tens of thousands of students who frequent its bars, clubs, and drug bazaar on the steps of the Duomo. It climaxes in an up-close account of Italy’s dysfunctional legal system, as the trial slowly unfolds at the town’s Tribunale, and the prosecution’s thunderous final appeal to God before the quivering girl defendant resembles a scene from the Inquisition. 

To reveal what actually happened on that terrible night after Halloween, Nina Burleigh lived in Perugia, attended the trial, and corresponded with the incarcerated defendants. She also delved deeply into the history, secrets, and customs of Perugia, renowned equally for its Etruscan tunnels, early Christian art, medieval sorcerers, and pagan roots.

A New York Times bestseller, The Fatal Gift of Beauty is the thoughtful, compelling examination of an enduring mystery, an ancient, storied place, and a disquieting facet of Italian culture: an obsession with female eroticism. By including the real story of Rudy Guede, it is also an acute window into the minds and personalities of the accused killers and of the conservative Italian magistrate striving to make sense of an inexplicable act of evil. But at its core is an indelible portrait of Amanda Knox, the strangely childlike, enigmatic beauty, whose photogenic face became the focal point of international speculation about the shadow side of youth and freedom.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Jul 04, 2011 – The 2007 murder of 22-year-old British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, captured the world's attention because of the woman eventually convicted of killing her: 20-year-old Seattle native and fellow student Amanda Knox. Burleigh (Mirage: Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt) examines the intertwined lives of the students and the media circus surrounding the trial in this powerful example of narrative nonfiction. In July 2007, Knox moved into a house shared with Kercher and two older Italian women. On November 2, Kercher was found with her throat slit in her bedroom, and Knox and Raffaele Sollecito whom she'd started seeing only a few days earlier were first on the scene. Giuliano Mignini, the notoriously tough Perugian prosecutor, charged them with murder, adding their acquaintance Rudy Guede when evidence placed him at the crime scene. The protracted trial was awash with what Burleigh describes as faulty forensic evidence and testimony that was more rumor than substantiated fact, but Knox was convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison; she is appealing her conviction. Burleigh, who parses how the Knox trial was perhaps tainted, still presents a fair and unbiased portrait of a girl adrift in a foreign legal system and a culture rife with preconceptions about young American women, 15 b&w photos; 2 maps.

Customer Reviews

Excellent read

An excellent portrayal of the evidence and the Italian judicial system. After hearing so much about the case over the last few years, it was great to see the facts in a cohesive, unbiased book. Whether or not you accept Amanda's version of the facts, or the prosectors, this book allows you to understand how Amanda was manipulated in the days following the murder and how lucky we are in America to have a judicial system, although not perfect, but with checks and balances that would have prevented this travesty from happening.

Excellent coverage of Kercher Murder

Finally, someone wrote a book that doesn't just toe the line for the prosecution. Burleigh does some leg work and real reporting here, shining light into dark corners. She gives a much needed look into the life of the only person who can actually be placed at the scene of the crime. She takes an objective look at all the players in this case, allowing the reader to form her own opinion as to guilt or innocence. Since the book was written, the two students involved have been released from prison. Thank you Nina Burleigh for doing some actual reporting and being objective about it. I learned a lot reading this book.

Exhaustively researched, well-written account

I’ve never been sure what to think about the murder of Meredith Kercher. I didn’t want to believe that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, little more than children themselves, could be guilty of such a heinous crime, but they were convicted, so I had to think it possible. The came appeals, acquittals, new trials, reinstated convictions and now, finally, Italy’s supreme court giving a definitive acquital that ends the case, once and for all. If you want to know how all of that is possible, Nina Burleigh’s exhaustively researched, well-written account will take you through things, at least to the first overturning of the conviction, in detail. She attended the trial, read transcripts, watched video archives, consulted experts, contacted key figures in the case, by letter or in person-to-person interviews. Hers is a rational account of what happened and why, and should be of interest to anyone who wants to understand this terribly tragic case

The Fatal Gift of Beauty
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: True Crime
  • Published: Aug 02, 2011
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 368 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings