I honest to the heavens thought I’d reviewed this one. The short version is: True crime fans/Murderinos will probably enjoy this one. I’m not sure anyone else will; the subject matter is pretty grim and the person in question warped like HH Holmes. Lizzie Borden may have killed her father and stepmother with an axe, but Belle Gunness killed a hell of a lot more, including her own children.
Overnight, Belle Gunness—formerly lauded in the press for her “heroic, but futile effort . . . to save her offspring”—was transformed into a demon. – p 87
Belle Gunness came to the United States from Norway, got married, sent her husband off to pan for gold, discovered the two of them had fallen for a scam, and eventually murdered not only the husband but also any number of wealthy gentlemen callers and her own children.
Schechter draws on as many primary sources as he can, given that “…very little is known about her early years.” (p 6) That said, it turns out one of her victims kept her letters but did not bring them with him when he came to the farm in La Porte. Belle’s story is one of madness (real and accused), of a bad actor (in a number of definitions of the term) setting up good alibis, and of the damage one person can do to an entire community if that person puts their mind to it. Belle lied, cheated, murdered, stole, buried, ran a farm, and generally, from the text, seemed an unpleasant sort. Oh! And she probably stole the babies she called her children and would later kill:
The midwife who came to assist with the delivery was bewildered to find that the baby had already “been born, bathed, and dressed.” – p 29
Schechter’s writing style is fine, if a little leading in places. There were a couple of points where my notes include questions as to why he included particular details about a person, but it’s serviceable for all that. And I was there for the murders, anyway.
Love to my MFMFamily. SSDGM.