Amazon had this as one of their monthly free Prime Reads choices back in July 2022. Its subtitle “The True Story Of Satanic Panic In An Italian Community” had me interested and remembering my desire to read more true crime I went for it.
This investigative work focuses on what became known as the Devils Of The Bassa Modenese Case which I had not heard of but which caused a huge furore in the late 1990s and led to 16 children being removed from families, convictions and acquittals and a number of deaths of adults associated with the case.
Pablo Trincia’s research into this led to a podcast with investigative journalist Alessia Rafanelli and evolved into this book which has been translated from the Italian by Elettra Pauletto. Structurally, it does resemble a podcast eschewing a strictly chronological approach to focus on those involved and their stories with the interweaving and retreading of material that this structure involves. Initially, I found it a little confusing to separate the families but this soon falls into place.
The events are extraordinary. It is hard to imagine what happened here and the snowballing of such panics but similar things were happening in other countries and can be attributed to the way children were questioned by authorities. Concerns about a family of vulnerable children led to tales of horrific satanic abuse involving almost everyone these children knew of. Sexual abuse, torture, rituals, decapitations of cats and children killing other children in buildings and cemeteries horrified authorities who began widescale arrests, family separations and trials.
How much was true and how it came about became the author’s obsession. He says;
“The story was like a black hole. The more I looked into it, the more it seemed to bend social and behavioural norms and alter the relationship between cause and effect- things I’d always taken for granted. It seemed like a parallel universe where everything was deformed.”
The author got lucky as he got hold of much information from a couple of people who had been totally driven by the cases and had lots of documentation and who had both died since the trials and from that he began to piece together what had actually happened. Was this a case of false memory and how could that have affected so many children or was Satanism thriving in this small part of Catholic Italy in the 1990s? It’s a sobering, involving account. It is hard to believe that something like this could ever happen again, it reflects a terrifying moment in the history of abuse investigations where circumstances proved ripe for these life-destroying accusations.
All The Lies They Did Not Tell was published by Amazon Crossing in 2022.