The Fatal Gift of Beauty - Nina Burleigh

The Fatal Gift of Beauty

By Nina Burleigh

  • Release Date: 2011-08-02
  • Genre: True Crime
Score: 3.5
From 36 Ratings


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.


  • Decent

    By MeekUno
    While Burleigh provides a decent narrative of the case of Amanda Knox, there are a few mistakes regarding Italian culture. At times, Burleigh seems to make suppositions about Italian culture that may be different from region to region.
  • Exhaustively researched, well-written account

    By DDR53
    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
  • Excellent coverage of Kercher Murder

    By ZeeBonnBonn
    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.
  • Excellent read

    By Nolewitz
    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.