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In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte

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An audacious novel of feminine rage about one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history--and the men who drove her to it. They whisper about her in Chicago. Men come to her with their hopes, their dreams--their fortunes. But no one sees them leave. No one sees them at all after they come to call on the Widow of La Porte. The good people of Indiana may h An audacious novel of feminine rage about one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history--and the men who drove her to it. They whisper about her in Chicago. Men come to her with their hopes, their dreams--their fortunes. But no one sees them leave. No one sees them at all after they come to call on the Widow of La Porte. The good people of Indiana may have their suspicions, but if those fools knew what she'd given up, what was taken from her, how she'd suffered, surely they'd understand. Belle Gunness learned a long time ago that a woman has to make her own way in this world. That's all it is. A bloody means to an end. A glorious enterprise meant to raise her from the bleak, colorless drudgery of her childhood to the life she deserves. After all, vermin always survive.


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An audacious novel of feminine rage about one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history--and the men who drove her to it. They whisper about her in Chicago. Men come to her with their hopes, their dreams--their fortunes. But no one sees them leave. No one sees them at all after they come to call on the Widow of La Porte. The good people of Indiana may h An audacious novel of feminine rage about one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history--and the men who drove her to it. They whisper about her in Chicago. Men come to her with their hopes, their dreams--their fortunes. But no one sees them leave. No one sees them at all after they come to call on the Widow of La Porte. The good people of Indiana may have their suspicions, but if those fools knew what she'd given up, what was taken from her, how she'd suffered, surely they'd understand. Belle Gunness learned a long time ago that a woman has to make her own way in this world. That's all it is. A bloody means to an end. A glorious enterprise meant to raise her from the bleak, colorless drudgery of her childhood to the life she deserves. After all, vermin always survive.

30 review for In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    I think after finishing this book, I will eventually suffer from nightmares at least for one month: it was mad, gruesome, dark, violent, extremely terrifying, disturbing, blood freezing , classic horrific combination of hair splitter- nerve bender- nail biter read! And this is based on true events: a close encounter to one of the most dark, vicious, dangerous women serial killers of the history: ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you Belle Gunness ( this time Belle is not definition of beauty I think after finishing this book, I will eventually suffer from nightmares at least for one month: it was mad, gruesome, dark, violent, extremely terrifying, disturbing, blood freezing , classic horrific combination of hair splitter- nerve bender- nail biter read! And this is based on true events: a close encounter to one of the most dark, vicious, dangerous women serial killers of the history: ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you Belle Gunness ( this time Belle is not definition of beauty, she is a cruel beast! Named herself after Queen Isabelle) A Norwegian American immigrates to the US, for brighter future, starting from the fresh. We witnessed to her teenage years: she’s been mentally abused, bullied, belittled by the men from her inner circle for years( work environment and by her own father who insists she is a changeling), lost her child with the harsh kick to her abdomen by the baby’s bastard father who has no intention to marry her. She bled to death but she finds a way to survive, thanks for her determination, sturdiness beat the grime reaper’s ass! For years of abuse, humiliation , losses, unkindness of her own family members, poverty, bottled up anger, resentment turn her into some kind of vengeful creator Aileen Wuornos meets Kris Jenner and Frakenstein’s Bride! As soon as she takes care of the bastard who killed her unborn child, tarnished her reputation, she writes to her sister Nellie who is having a painful pregnancy, living in Chicago and make her convince to live with her family. You may think a young woman could struggle to find her own way in the new continent. But guess what: Little Brynhild (her birth name) changes her name as Belle as soon as she takes her first steps to the new continent. She has a plan. She will never be hungry or suffer from poverty again and no other men will harm her! Well, I don’t want to give more spoils but I have to say: she reached most of her goals: she became wealthy and she married ( if you don’t count her husbands start to die suspiciously and any men she involves with vanished into thin air!) This is the fictionalization of true crime story: Belle is hungry: she never satisfies with the things she has. She always wants more! She is lustful! She has uncontrollable temper. She ruthless and she is a real actress who can deceive anybody about her innocence. This book was too long but I cannot stop reading and interestingly I thought if there were 300 more pages, I would certainly read and enjoy it! This is well written, mind blowing, extremely intense, dazzling, riveting novel. I devoured slowly but each chapter was like heavy meals which take extra time to absorb properly. Honestly I didn’t enjoy the previous debut novel of the author but this one surprised me. The author succeeded a detailed, meticulous, outstanding job with layer characters. I enjoyed both Belle and her sister Nellie’s POVS. I highly recommend this incredible novel to true crime and psychological thriller lovers. Special thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for sharing this outstanding ARC with me in exchange my honest opinions. blog instagram facebook twitter

  2. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    "The world is not kind to those who are different,' I whispered into Rudolph's hair as we rocked gently back and forth on the step. 'But then again,' I continued, 'she may not always be so kind to it either." Well, well, well a female serial who is not sugar and spice and everything nice. Although she would want you to think that she is! Based on real life serial killer Belle Gunness, a Norwegian-American who killed in Illinois and Indiana between 1884 and 1908 before disappearing. Belle is k "The world is not kind to those who are different,' I whispered into Rudolph's hair as we rocked gently back and forth on the step. 'But then again,' I continued, 'she may not always be so kind to it either." Well, well, well a female serial who is not sugar and spice and everything nice. Although she would want you to think that she is! Based on real life serial killer Belle Gunness, a Norwegian-American who killed in Illinois and Indiana between 1884 and 1908 before disappearing. Belle is known in Chicago; people whisper about her and the many fires of her properties in addition to her two husbands both dying under suspicious circumstances. She always seems to profit from insurance payouts. But is she the angel of death? She presents as a god-fearing woman, who wants nothing more than to raise her children and be an upstanding member of society. She is nice to her neighbors, teaches Sunday school, and visits with her older sister. Everyone needs a hobby. Too bad hers is a deadly one. Many have suspicions, but she presents as a godly woman. Living alone with her children. Who can fault her for trying to find a husband? But there are always two sides to every coin. Sometimes you must take the bitter with the sweet. Is the face you present to society your true face or is your true face, hidden just slightly under the surface, ready and willing to show itself if the opportunity presents itself? She places ads for potential husbands, men come, they spend the night, but never stay.... or do they? Determined to make a place for herself in the world after a troublesome childhood and attack, will she come out on top? I enjoyed this one from the very beginning. I love books based on true events and people. Belle is an interesting character. AS the story progresses, we see her interact with others and commit her crimes, all without remorse and all with survival in mind. I appreciated how the author showed her sister struggling. We never want to believe the worst in those we love. We often wear rose colored glasses and are quick to make excuses for them. Because what would it mean if you loved a serial killer? What would that say about you? How do you reconcile the sibling you love with the psychopath in front of you? A great deal of research went into the writing of this book and I loved the details and the portrayal of this real-life serial killer. I found this book to be well written, thought provoking and captivating. I read most of this book in one day as I did not want to put it down. I had never heard of Belle Gunness before and was fascinated by her life and story. She was a scary, violent, and devious woman. I thought the author did a good job blending facts with fiction. Be sure to read the Author's Note at the end. Also, be sure to read this one if you are a true crime or psychological thriller fan. Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    Also called In the Garden of Spite. This book is a blend of fact and fiction and is the story of serial killer Bella (Belle) Gunness who was born Brynhilder Paulsdotter Størset in Norway and was active in Illinois and Indiana. After a traumatic event and cruel treatment by landowner Anders, she exacts revenge and leaves Norway to join her sister Nellie in Chicago. From then on, she changes her name to Bella and becomes a very different person to the one who grew up in the land of her birth. The Also called In the Garden of Spite. This book is a blend of fact and fiction and is the story of serial killer Bella (Belle) Gunness who was born Brynhilder Paulsdotter Størset in Norway and was active in Illinois and Indiana. After a traumatic event and cruel treatment by landowner Anders, she exacts revenge and leaves Norway to join her sister Nellie in Chicago. From then on, she changes her name to Bella and becomes a very different person to the one who grew up in the land of her birth. The story is told in alternating perspectives by Belle and Nellie. This is a well written novel, in places it’s vivid, the style is appropriate to the historical time period and it strikes the right tone. I like the two contrasting points of view as lovely Nellie gives us insights into Bella’s personality and Bella gives her own warped view of the world. Bella has big ambitions and shows her unpleasant side straight away by scoffing at Nellie and her lifestyle. The author shows how her rage against men builds (with some justification) and her calculating mind develops and she marries for what she can gain. This is a compelling insight and interesting exploration into the mind of a multiple murderer. Her thoughts are vicious, she always wants more and is never satisfied as is shown by the excess of food! Meeting James Lee is a turning point as two like minds feed off each other. It’s chilling how cold she is, how calculating and scheming and utterly without morality. I wonder as I read if she always had the capacity in her for evil or if she becomes this way through Anders horrific treatment of her, we will never know and can only speculate. However, her transformation to the angel of death accelerates following her move to La Porte when the killing becomes almost business like, it’s macabre and mind numbing especially as it seems to make her feel alive. She is beyond cold blooded, it is as if she has no heart at all in her callous wickedness and there are few things she will not stoop to. My reservations lie in the length of the book as you become numbed by her actions and at times the pace is a bit slow. Perhaps less about the food would help! Overall, this is a compelling read for the insights it gives into Hells Belle aka the Black Widow and her crime spree. The notes at the end are worth reading too.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mlpmom (Book Reviewer)

    Could not, PUT. This. Down. This book was nothing I expected but everything I anticipated. Deliciously dark, macabre, and so so hard to put down, this is truly a book I didn't even know I needed in my life until the I picked it up. From the very first chapter it seemed to put a spell on me and sucked me right into the very demented very disturbing mind of someone truly broken and I loved every single minute of it. Of course the most fascinating part of this whole sordid tale is the very fact that Could not, PUT. This. Down. This book was nothing I expected but everything I anticipated. Deliciously dark, macabre, and so so hard to put down, this is truly a book I didn't even know I needed in my life until the I picked it up. From the very first chapter it seemed to put a spell on me and sucked me right into the very demented very disturbing mind of someone truly broken and I loved every single minute of it. Of course the most fascinating part of this whole sordid tale is the very fact that..it's true. Embellishments aside, it really happened. I loved all the author's notes and thoughts and the end and can't stress enough that they too should be read. This truly was a gruesome delight and I'm so glad I took a chance on it. I think anyone fascinated with the past, with killers, anyone wanting a good thriller and a heart pounding read, is absolutely going to love this. *ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

  5. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I wanted to read this book based on the non-fiction 'true crimes' accounts of Belle Gunness. Speculation and embellishment about her crimes and motives are added to the story. I had read some previous accounts of her crimes and knew she is considered one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history. The number of her victims has been estimated at 40. I expected this would be a disturbing, gory, horrific, and upsetting read, and it was all of that. What I didn't expect was how t I wanted to read this book based on the non-fiction 'true crimes' accounts of Belle Gunness. Speculation and embellishment about her crimes and motives are added to the story. I had read some previous accounts of her crimes and knew she is considered one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history. The number of her victims has been estimated at 40. I expected this would be a disturbing, gory, horrific, and upsetting read, and it was all of that. What I didn't expect was how tedious I found the book, but I kept with it to the end. Born in poverty in Norway, she was the victim of a cruel and unspeakable act, unproven, to explain her spiteful nature and murderous intent. On moving to the USA to start a new life, intending to raise above her childhood poverty, she married twice. Both husbands died painful deaths when she tired of them. She inherited their property, life insurance, and also insurance payouts from buildings she set afire. Her second husband was a butcher wh taught her his trade. This came in handy after his death on bodies she dismembered before burying them on her farmland. She was excited and joyful at the sight and smell of blood, first from butchering farm animals and then her human victims. As the now wealthy owner of a large farm, her first victims were killed for their money and property, but later the killings were motivated by blood-lust. Numerous men came to court the wealthy widow, or to find employment working on the farm. These men vanished, often before breakfast the next day, robbed with any cash or property they brought with them, murdered, and buried. Unable to bear children, the story adds a fictional criminal lover who brought to Belle unwanted babies. She raised them as her own. He also helped with her murderous enterprises and arson and encouraged her depravity. She exhibited affection and pleasure in her foster children who were a great help in the house and with farm chores. What happens to them is very tragic and heartbreaking. The story is told from two perspectives, that of an added older sister, Nellie, and from Bella's thoughts and actions. I didn't feel that Nellie's viewpoint added much to the plot. She was in denial of rumors about strange happenings on the farm, felt legal investigations into Bella's crimes and insurance frauds were invalid, understood her bouts of anger, rationalized her suspicious behavior, and at the same time was living in fear for herself and future victims. Sometimes all these conflicting feelings were expressed on the same page. When the truth about Bell's shocking crimes could no longer be denied, Nellie refused to report what she knew to authorities due to family loyalty. The ending was inconclusive. It ends with her death, but suspicion remains that she may have faked her death to start a new life elsewhere.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amy Imogene Reads

    Exploring the darker elements of the female experience—in this case, the sociopathic murderous elements—makes for fascinating reading. This was a great work. But it could have been shorter. Concept: ★★★★★ Character portrayals: ★★★★★ Pacing/Length: ★★★ Have you heard the story of the Widow of La Porte? Belle Gunness' reign as one of the most prolific female series killers in early 1900s America is a chilling and true tale. Belle Gunness was born Brynhild Storset in Norway in the 1800s to a poor fami Exploring the darker elements of the female experience—in this case, the sociopathic murderous elements—makes for fascinating reading. This was a great work. But it could have been shorter. Concept: ★★★★★ Character portrayals: ★★★★★ Pacing/Length: ★★★ Have you heard the story of the Widow of La Porte? Belle Gunness' reign as one of the most prolific female series killers in early 1900s America is a chilling and true tale. Belle Gunness was born Brynhild Storset in Norway in the 1800s to a poor family of rural tenants. Her earliest years are spent with vicious nurture and violent nature, and an early sexual encounter gone extremely sour—the author's editorializing at work with this fact, as this encounter is rumored in Norway but not officially confirmed—leads to her first murder. Little Brynhild poisons her abuser and likes the feeling of power she gets. Little Byrnhild doesn't do well in Norway. The villagers whisper about her and her pride chafes at the knowledge that everyone in her small town knows of her shame. She writes to her older sister, Nellie, in America and desperately asks for her to help her. Nellie agrees to fund Brynhild's voyage to America and takes her under her wing in a Norwegian-American apartment community in Chicago. Brynhild becomes Bella. Bella's pride, greed, and need for control over the men in her life lead to some dark decisions... and her sister Nellie begins to suspect that something is not all right with her sister. As the years go by, Bella's life seems to be marked by obvious tragedy. Her husbands and children just keep...dying. And her homes and businesses just keep... burning down. What's up with that? Eventually, Bella moves to rural Indiana and marries Peter Gunness, her new persona as Belle Gunness begins. And once Peter suffers a tragic accident with a meat grinder—or cleaver, depending on who you ask—what's a twice-made widow to do with a huge farm but create an ad asking for male farm hands to come and help her? It's not exactly her fault if all the men disappear in the night... The black widow spider creates her wicked web... Told in two points of view, one from Belle herself and one from her sister, Nellie, In the Garden of Spite takes us along for the ride as we silently witness Belle's entire life from girlhood to her bloody reign as Belle Gunness on her murder farm. It's a chilling tale meant to unsettle, and Camilla Bruce's mastery of ominous, distanced writing really sells the tension throughout this almost 500-page novel. But bringing up the length of this book brings up my only caveat—it was pretty long. In the marketing, the focus is entirely on Belle's time in La Porte as a murdering farm widow. This seems to be a bit misleading and definitely affected how I viewed the pacing of the book. When you start a book expecting to read a novelization of the Widow of La Porte....and then it takes 380 pages to get to Belle's life as "Belle Gunness" in the first place... Honestly, it made the first 3/4 of the novel feel incredibly slow. I kept waiting for the "real" plot to happen and that took away from the experience of reading the characters' life stories. I'd definitely recommend going into this knowing that you're getting a life's story and not a snapshot novelization or a glorified true crime fixation. This is a personal and chilling character study of one woman's descent into the darkest levels of the human psyche and her lack of acceptance of her own darkness. It's also about the toll that life on her loved ones, and the knife's edge between loving and protecting your family versus realizing the monster in your family tree. Definitely read the author's note at the end - it gives a lot of context for Belle's real life, the amount of research the author used, and a key list of artistic differences that the author decided to take on in order to explore the themes. Thank you to Berkley, Goodreads, and NetGalley for my giveaway ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. Blog | Instagram

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    4.5 This was such a fantastic read that I find myself missing it days after I finished. I've never heard of Bella Gunness before and the depth of research needed to write a story this all encompassing definitely impressed me. It was fun to read about something completely new. Usually, books of this nature feature a male killer or are set in more modern times. I felt this straddled historical fiction and true crime rather well. It didn't get bogged down in details (this was my struggle with The De 4.5 This was such a fantastic read that I find myself missing it days after I finished. I've never heard of Bella Gunness before and the depth of research needed to write a story this all encompassing definitely impressed me. It was fun to read about something completely new. Usually, books of this nature feature a male killer or are set in more modern times. I felt this straddled historical fiction and true crime rather well. It didn't get bogged down in details (this was my struggle with The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America - however, to be fair, I read that book AGES ago so I might have more appreciation for it now) and the dual narrative helped give a perspective outside of what Belle was telling us. Spanning decades (and almost 500 pages), this is the fictional account of a notorious serial killer from La Porte, Indiana. It takes a while to get to the part where Belle becomes the Black Widow and I thought this rather well explained just how she became a killer. You really got to know Belle because you followed everything that happened to her from a young girl in Norway up until she was middle aged. It is very dark at times, but not terribly gruesome (at least for me). My only cautionary note is that the book is long. I wouldn't have edited anything out, particularly because this was an exploration into how Bella became who she was. I felt the author did a good job moving it along as quick as she could while staying true to the purpose of the book. The good thing is that every time I started to feel a little antsy, the story moved on and I was right back in it again. If you're interested in true crime, Victorian era or female historical characters then I absolutely recommend this book for you. Thanks to Berkley Publishing for sending me a widget via Netgalley to review honestly. Review Date: 02/16/21 Publication Date: 01/19/21

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Lawson

    I thought I'd love this because I'm a fan of true crime (and because Belle is such a fascinating and terrible person) and I did really enjoy it but the author took a lot of creative liberties with the facts and that made it more of a 3.5 star kind of book for me. Still quite good though. I thought I'd love this because I'm a fan of true crime (and because Belle is such a fascinating and terrible person) and I did really enjoy it but the author took a lot of creative liberties with the facts and that made it more of a 3.5 star kind of book for me. Still quite good though.

  9. 5 out of 5

    CYIReadBooks (Claire)

    In the Garden of Spite tells the chilling tale of Belle Gunness also known as the Black Widow of LaPorte. Belle is considered to be one of the first female serial killers in America. Growing up, Belle (fka Little Brynhild) wasn’t the angelic, picture perfect daughter of the St¢rset family. With a quick temper and spiteful tendencies, Belle’s anger causes her to be brutally beaten by Anders, the man that impregnated her. Shortly after Belle’s recuperation from her injuries, Anders mysteriously fal In the Garden of Spite tells the chilling tale of Belle Gunness also known as the Black Widow of LaPorte. Belle is considered to be one of the first female serial killers in America. Growing up, Belle (fka Little Brynhild) wasn’t the angelic, picture perfect daughter of the St¢rset family. With a quick temper and spiteful tendencies, Belle’s anger causes her to be brutally beaten by Anders, the man that impregnated her. Shortly after Belle’s recuperation from her injuries, Anders mysteriously falls ill and eventually dies. The bodies continue to grow in number even as Belle emigrates to America. A series of questionable unfortunate events, accidents, and illnesses plague Belle and her reputation. Written in two points of view (Belle and her sister Nellie,) the author adeptly blends the two views into one cohesive novel. A compelling read, In the Garden of Spite is the consummate combination of historical fiction and true crime. It will leave you speechless. Five stars. Unforgettable. I received a digital ARC from Berkley Publishing Group through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/01/11/... Last year, one of my favorite discoveries was Camilla Bruce’s You Let Me In, her debut that impressed me so much that I would read anything else she writes, sight unseen. Because of that, I was totally unprepared for what awaited me when I picked up In the Garden of Spite, her new novel about the most notorious female serial killer in American history. Oh man, this book was so messed up. So brilliantly twisted. This nightma 5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/01/11/... Last year, one of my favorite discoveries was Camilla Bruce’s You Let Me In, her debut that impressed me so much that I would read anything else she writes, sight unseen. Because of that, I was totally unprepared for what awaited me when I picked up In the Garden of Spite, her new novel about the most notorious female serial killer in American history. Oh man, this book was so messed up. So brilliantly twisted. This nightmare-inducing historical is a fictionalized account of Belle Gunness, known as “the Black Widow of the Midwest” who is thought to have murdered at least fourteen and quite possibly up to forty people between the years of 1884 and 1908. But before she became a notorious killer, she was Brynhild Paulsdatter Storset, a young girl born into a family of poor farmhands in Selbu, Norway. In Bruce’s reconstruction of Brynhild’s backstory, our protagonist becomes pregnant at seventeen, but when she demands the father to marry her, the young man tries to kill her instead. After she loses the baby in the attack, Brynhild makes plans to leave Norway and travel to America to stay with her older sister Nellie and her family in Chicago. But before her departure, Brynhild makes sure to get revenge by fatally poisoning her ex-lover, thus beginning her journey and lifelong obsession with spite. Once in Chicago, she changes her name to Belle, vowing to leave her old identity behind with her poverty-stricken life. Instead of helping Nellie with her children and work around their apartment, Belle sets her sights on finding a husband of means, eventually marrying Mads Sorensen, who was able to satisfy her expensive appetites—at least for a time. Once someone ceases to become useful to her, they have a tendency to drop dead, something her sister Nellie notices first with Mads and then with Belle’s second husband, Peter Gunness. They say blood is thicker than water, and to Nellie, Belle will always be “Little Brynhild,” a scared girl held in her arms. But as the body count rises, and Nellie’s suspicions grow stronger by the day, how long before her loyalty to her sister runs out? What really got to me was how plausible this novel was, despite the author’s afterword explaining how she blended truth and fiction. Yes, there were a lot of embellishments, but a lot of it was rooted in fact too, integrating what is known about Belle Gunness and her heinous crimes. After reading this book, I went and did some reading of my own into her life, which gave me the heebie-jeebies all over again, but also an even greater appreciation for what Camilla Bruce achieved here. Not surprisingly, the highlight of the book was her portrayal of Belle’s state of mind. Most monsters don’t feel that they’re monsters, but on some level, our protagonist does recognize something broken within her. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of her character is how she feels justified in being the monster, rationalizing her degeneracy and why she must do what she does. She is also ruthlessly persistent; once she puts her mind to a goal, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop her from achieving it. What’s even more complicated is the background Bruce has constructed for Belle, designed to establish sympathy—which worked to an extent. Eventually though, Belle’s thirst for blood—for spite—becomes simply too extreme, but of course by this point the story has become so fascinating that putting it down is impossible. Still, even without any sympathy for Belle, I found myself incredulously reading on, addicted to her voice. She was so vile and chilling, and yet I was completely engrossed, wanting to know more. As she became increasingly emboldened, not just in committing murder but also in her cold calculating way of taking in children and fooling the world into believing they are her own, the depravity reaches a whole other level, not to mention the gruesomeness and violence. Only Nellie’s chapters, scattered among Belle’s, helped keep the terror manageable by injecting a bit of sanity into this disturbing read. That said, the story still remained a nerve-wracking head trip as Nellie realizes the depth of Belle’s hunger, agonizing over what to do because in spite of herself, she still loves her little sister. Ultimately, In the Garden of Spite is an intensely compulsive read, comprising a sharp concoction of historical fiction, psychological thriller, and of course, horror. Certainly if the latter is what you are looking for, your cravings will be answered, though there’s also much here for fans of historicals and true crime. I highly recommend this book, as well as the audio format that I reviewed. Narrators Natalie Naudus and Stacey Glemboski performed the parts of Belle and Nellie perfectly, giving voice to all the complex emotions that made the characters in this book feel so incredibly, scarily real.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    How did they know exactly what I needed right now was historical fiction about an old-timey female serial killer??? How did they know exactly what I needed right now was historical fiction about an old-timey female serial killer???

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura Peden

    I’m a huge True Crime nerd. I’ve read of Belle Gunness so I knew what I was getting into with In the Garden of Spite; it’s ’s a blend of true facts & fiction. This is very much historical fiction with suspense & horror. Overall, I enjoyed it but I think this could’ve been so much better. This woman is pure evil and the character written is almost too likeable imo. I guess I’m saying this could’ve been darker but she didn’t really go there...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Hupe

    Thank you NetGalley, Camilla Bruce, and Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to read this book. In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce is for anyone who is fascinated by the mind of a serial killer. There is always a beginning to the evil. Brynhild Paulsdatter Storset wants more than the life of a tenant farmer. She sets her eyes on a man who is the farm owner’s son. But even as she is with child, he still won’t have her and he beats her and leaves her for dead. Except she lives. Her revenge i Thank you NetGalley, Camilla Bruce, and Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to read this book. In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce is for anyone who is fascinated by the mind of a serial killer. There is always a beginning to the evil. Brynhild Paulsdatter Storset wants more than the life of a tenant farmer. She sets her eyes on a man who is the farm owner’s son. But even as she is with child, he still won’t have her and he beats her and leaves her for dead. Except she lives. Her revenge is slow but gives results. The only way to move on is to move in with her sister in America. There she marries a shop owner. He is kind and will provide for her. But is that enough? He is too kind, too weak, and not ambitious enough for her. He will be one of her victims. But is it really because he was too weak? Is it about the money? Or has she developed a taste for killing? Triggers: graphic murder, abuse, child loss This book is inspired by Belle Gunness or The Black Widow of La Porte. The author does an amazing job at getting into the head of a serial killer. She gave her a villain origin story so to speak. The story stays pretty true to the history that we are aware of when it comes to Belle Gunness. There is a brief introduction to social issues in Norway and then jumps into one of the most intriguing time periods of Chicago. While she was killing in La Porte, Indiana. HH Holmes was busy with his murder hotel in the White City. Fun fact: Belle Gunness was never apprehended nor was her death confirmed. Here you go, conspiracy theorist fans, did she die or escape? I could have done without her sister’s point-of-view. It slowed down the story and just felt unnecessary and repetitive. BUT I loved reading from Belle’s perspective. Which each death, she always has a reason. Until the end—when she finally accepts her want to kill. It is definitely eerie and I could totally see this being a terrifying Netflix series! Pretty please, Netflix? I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars!

  14. 4 out of 5

    MaryannC. Book Freak

    5 BIG STARS!!! Set in 1877 Selbu, Norway, Little Brynhild is a precocious, tough little girl living under the hand of her brutish, drunk father and protective mother. They live in abject poverty, her older sister, Big Brynhild now Nellie as she is known has long since moved to America settling in Chicago with her husband where they too are struggling in a new land to survive. As Little Brynhild matures hoping for better circumstances she catches the eye of a farmer's son and ends up pregnant. Na 5 BIG STARS!!! Set in 1877 Selbu, Norway, Little Brynhild is a precocious, tough little girl living under the hand of her brutish, drunk father and protective mother. They live in abject poverty, her older sister, Big Brynhild now Nellie as she is known has long since moved to America settling in Chicago with her husband where they too are struggling in a new land to survive. As Little Brynhild matures hoping for better circumstances she catches the eye of a farmer's son and ends up pregnant. Naively believing her lover will do right by her and marry her, he rejects her and with her declarations to the local folks of her baby being fathered by the farmer's son, her lover lures her to a secret meeting and savagely beats her leaving her for dead. This was the defining moment that will rule the rest of Brynhild's life and lead her to become the brutal serial killer Belle Gunness. Author Camilla Bruce took liberties adding a fiction storyline to go along with some of the true facts surrounding Belle's life and it was a chilling, delicious dive into how Belle went about planning, plotting along with her male friend to lure and ultimately murder for gain these unsuspecting men who were promised love and comfort in the arms of a lonely widow. Recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Special thanks to Netgalley and publisher for a copy to review. This title is a challenging review as it is a historical thiller(?) I guess? Or historical fiction at any rate marketed as much a thriller as anything although there is graphic violence there is only intermittant action. Which is a long winded way of saying it was not a one sitting read by any means. This novel moved slow, which at times was frustrating even as the reader in me admired the skill with which camilla Bruce set the story Special thanks to Netgalley and publisher for a copy to review. This title is a challenging review as it is a historical thiller(?) I guess? Or historical fiction at any rate marketed as much a thriller as anything although there is graphic violence there is only intermittant action. Which is a long winded way of saying it was not a one sitting read by any means. This novel moved slow, which at times was frustrating even as the reader in me admired the skill with which camilla Bruce set the story. Fine details permeated the prose, and although it did not ever seem excessive or too wordy it did slow the plot down despite the beautiful careful prose. So the biggest weakness may be pacing but the greatest strength in the writing is fictionalizing actual events and plotting a female serial killers story in a realistic and historically accurate setting. The switching perspective between sisters was at times jarring and seemingly needless outside of narrative structure but overall this book was an entertaining and educational read., however it was little slower than I expected hence only 4 not 5 stars. But if you have any interest in say a reading a little house on the prairie as it would be on HBO as opposed to the PG version I say give this one a try.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I found it very well done and loved the book. The author gave the characters stories.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jess Combs

    WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST READ?!?!?!?! My daughter just asked if I'm okay and the answer is NO! I'm definitely NOT okay!!! "They never expected me to hold a grudge." Those words will haunt me for quite some time now. I admit I've been fascinated by fictionalized stories of serial killers. Usually, they don't haunt me in my dreams and keep me up at night. But this... this... THIS has scarred my brain, I think. And (unfortunately) also caused me to want to learn more about the serial murderess Bell WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST READ?!?!?!?! My daughter just asked if I'm okay and the answer is NO! I'm definitely NOT okay!!! "They never expected me to hold a grudge." Those words will haunt me for quite some time now. I admit I've been fascinated by fictionalized stories of serial killers. Usually, they don't haunt me in my dreams and keep me up at night. But this... this... THIS has scarred my brain, I think. And (unfortunately) also caused me to want to learn more about the serial murderess Belle Gunness. I literally lost count of how many bodies had dropped by the time I made it to the mid-point of this novel, but that's not what kept me reading. It was the way Belle was portrayed as yes, a killer, but also a victim whose compulsion to kill was deeply embedded as a way to protect herself and her children. I hated that I kept finding myself feeling just a teensy bit sad for her. And then she'd do something completely horrid and turn my stomach and I'd have to set my Kindle down and hold my babies super tight because.. UGH! This was horrible!!! (But in a good, super creepy, can't ever close my eyes or trust people again sorta way. ) Do I recommend this to fans of historical fiction who enjoy a good serial killer story? ABSOLUTELY!!! But make sure you're in a good head space before you pick this one up, because it WILL keep you up at night and send shivers down your spine! Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with an e-galley of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gina Reads

    I enjoyed this book so much! So little is known about the why of the murders committed by Belle Gunness, but Camilla Bruce provides believable, compelling circumstances, though fiction, where you can see the creation of Belle unfold, without pulling any punches on the murders she committed. It is easy to both despise and feel incredibly sorry for Belle. I am happy to recommend this book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    I was intrigued by the book description and was looking for something a little different to the books I have being reading recently. I found the book a little slow at first and struggled to get into it but persevered and it did get a lot better. By the time I was two thirds into the book I didn't want it to finish. Based on a true story the novel tells of Bella Sorensen killing spree as she thrives to live a comfortable life after starting life as a Norwegian immigrant. In a determination to live I was intrigued by the book description and was looking for something a little different to the books I have being reading recently. I found the book a little slow at first and struggled to get into it but persevered and it did get a lot better. By the time I was two thirds into the book I didn't want it to finish. Based on a true story the novel tells of Bella Sorensen killing spree as she thrives to live a comfortable life after starting life as a Norwegian immigrant. In a determination to live life to the full she doesn't let anything or anyone stand in her way. Fascinating read with some very interesting characters. I would like to thank both Netgalley and Penguin Michael Joseph for supplying a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    "We are all just creatures on this earth, fending for ourselves the best that we can. There is nothing unnatural about me. I walk the same pastures as any other. I am as natural as they come. There are just not many of my kind." Wow. what a story! This largely fictionalized account of the real serial killer, The Widow of La Porte, Belle Gunness, is very slow to start but when it takes off -- you will find it impossible to put down. Despite lengthy investigations, there is still no accurate tally "We are all just creatures on this earth, fending for ourselves the best that we can. There is nothing unnatural about me. I walk the same pastures as any other. I am as natural as they come. There are just not many of my kind." Wow. what a story! This largely fictionalized account of the real serial killer, The Widow of La Porte, Belle Gunness, is very slow to start but when it takes off -- you will find it impossible to put down. Despite lengthy investigations, there is still no accurate tally of the number of men, women, and children she killed. Although remains were found on the farm she owned in Indiana, it is believed that there are many unaccounted for given anecdotal evidence and a great deal of suspicion. In fact, there is nothing found to indicate when and where she died. The narrative is told from the viewpoints of Belle (also known as Bella) and her sister, Nellie. The main feeling that I had while reading was that of dread. I could hardly believe that someone this evil was able to get away with what she did for so long. She is definitely a psychopath, very manipulative, and incredibly heinous. Everything she did was to protect herself and for money though there is an attempt to give her behavior a motive based on something that happened to her in Norway before she came to the United States. The author explains in an endnote that much of this novel is creative license, but if even a part of this is factual, it's a gruesome tale. Much of the book was quite difficult to read yet I could not stop reading as I had to know the extent of her terrible crimes. The truly scary part is to know that those murders essentially went unpunished and the many victims never got justice. Definitely you will need to find something light and sweet to calm your emotions once you've finished. Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for this e-book ARC to read, review, and recommend to those who can stomach it!

  21. 5 out of 5

    ☕️Kimberly

    Serial killers both fascinate me and terrify me, so naturally I enjoy thrillers about them, especially fictional stories based on actual events. What a creepy tale this was! Told from the perspective of Norwegian sister’s Bella and Nellie. Nellie moved to America first, where she married and raised a family in Chicago. Bella followed soon after. Nellie and her husband introduced her to perspective suitors. I thought it was clever to provide both sister’s perspectives. When we read headlines about Serial killers both fascinate me and terrify me, so naturally I enjoy thrillers about them, especially fictional stories based on actual events. What a creepy tale this was! Told from the perspective of Norwegian sister’s Bella and Nellie. Nellie moved to America first, where she married and raised a family in Chicago. Bella followed soon after. Nellie and her husband introduced her to perspective suitors. I thought it was clever to provide both sister’s perspectives. When we read headlines about serial killers, we often wonder if the family knew. Belle was complex. She is ruthless, driven and never satisfied. She could go from calculated control to rage in a moment’s breath. She easily assumed many roles, from the grieving widow to the captivating seductress. She drugged her children, punished husbands by poisoning them, and lured men to her web. Even when they suspected or questioned, she could turn things around and have them doubting themselves. I found the introduction of the fictional character James Lee fascinating. He is driven by the same desires as Belle and fuels her passions. Nellie’s struggle and worries about her sister through the years and events that unfolded shared the struggle loved one’s face when they suspect things; unimaginable things. I thought the author did a good job of showing the struggles when dealing with a sociopath such as Belle. I will admit to being furious at Nellie. There were moments that demanded she open her eyes and protect the innocent. The macabre tale that unfolded was suspenseful as the author took us into Belle’s twisted, calculating mind. Be warned there is violence, rape, gore and abuse. I felt Nellie’s fear and worried constantly for the children. The story was made for audio. Natalie Naudus and Stacey Glemboski were perfect in their roles of the sisters and secondary characters. They added to the suspense and brought this story to life. This review was originally posted at Caffeinated Reviewer

  22. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Hiatt

    As a true crime fan, I've long been fascinated and intrigued with the mysterious Belle Gunness. Despite her dark legacy, not much is known about Belle's early years, suspicious death and motivation for murder. Camilla Bruce takes what we do known and weaves a chilling and realistic fictionalized account of the Widow of La Porte. Equally chilling and realistic is Bruce's portrayal of the treatment of women in the 19th century. Belle's disdain for men, love of money and desire for independence no As a true crime fan, I've long been fascinated and intrigued with the mysterious Belle Gunness. Despite her dark legacy, not much is known about Belle's early years, suspicious death and motivation for murder. Camilla Bruce takes what we do known and weaves a chilling and realistic fictionalized account of the Widow of La Porte. Equally chilling and realistic is Bruce's portrayal of the treatment of women in the 19th century. Belle's disdain for men, love of money and desire for independence no doubt lead to her crimes. Was it the time in which Belle was born where women had few rights and were shown little respect that provoked her to do the things she did? If Belle was a woman in today's society, I wonder how much different her path would have been. This is an incredible, intricately crafted and thought provoking book. I love a book that makes me think long after I'm finished, and this one has my mind reeling. There is one main question at the forefront of my mind: Was Belle truly evil or was she a product of her time? Highly recommend for fans of true crime and/or historical fiction.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Dnf 55%. This is really boring and much longer than it should be. We know where it's going, please let's get there. As it is, it's the most boring book about a serial killer I've ever read. Dnf 55%. This is really boring and much longer than it should be. We know where it's going, please let's get there. As it is, it's the most boring book about a serial killer I've ever read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sheena ☆ Oh, the Sheenanigans!

    Thus far, ‘In the Garden of Spite’ was one of my most anticipated must reads this year and did the author deliver? No, no, a million times no! There aren’t enough words to describe how devastated I am. Since its announcement, I was more than ready to proclaim this as 2021 best of the best. I thought this was going to blow me away but unfortunately the drawn out, tedious painstakingly boring story has shattered all the hopes and dreams I had for this novel. The only positive Thus far, ‘In the Garden of Spite’ was one of my most anticipated must reads this year and did the author deliver? No, no, a million times no! There aren’t enough words to describe how devastated I am. Since its announcement, I was more than ready to proclaim this as 2021 best of the best. I thought this was going to blow me away but unfortunately the drawn out, tedious painstakingly boring story has shattered all the hopes and dreams I had for this novel. The only positive—the author managed to stay (somewhat) true to the actual tale of the infamous serial killer, Belle Gunness, but that wasn’t enough to save this read for me. All in all, I struggled to complete this and there wasn't anything particular I really liked. There were no characters that truly stood out which baffles me since Belle was the centralized character of this true crime thriller yet I cared little for her and what led her to become the Black Widow. I didn’t enjoy the alternating POVs between Bella and Nellie (older sister) and the dragful storyline had me yawning more times than I could count. Frankly, ‘In the Garden of Spite’ didn’t live up to my high expectations and there is a low possibility that I will read from this author again.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    I'm not sure what to call this book so I will settle on fact based historical fiction with a heavy leaning towards true crime. Although events have been changed and some characters invented it is based on the life of a Norwegian-American serial killer who was active in Illinois and Indiana between 1884 and 1908. Belle Gunness is thought to have killed at least 14 people and possibly many more. Most of them were men she conned into marriage or the promise of marriage, and others who just got in h I'm not sure what to call this book so I will settle on fact based historical fiction with a heavy leaning towards true crime. Although events have been changed and some characters invented it is based on the life of a Norwegian-American serial killer who was active in Illinois and Indiana between 1884 and 1908. Belle Gunness is thought to have killed at least 14 people and possibly many more. Most of them were men she conned into marriage or the promise of marriage, and others who just got in her way. As the story opens. Belle (who is known as Brynhilde at that time) is an unhappy girl from a poor family who is abused at home and working as a maid. She is in love with a farmer's son and too naïve to understand that his family is considered above her station in life and that he will never marry her. I felt a lot of sympathy for her at first as she is left pregnant and in fear of the shame that will bring if the father of her child refuses to stand by her. When she threatens him it leads to horrific violence and it at this time she changes from naïve child to broken and vengeful woman. I think I still felt for her at this time even while she plotted and manipulated her way to America. Upon her arrival, her true nature starts to take over and it becomes clear that she has very little emotion other than rage. Belle views people only as something to be used to get what she wants. The author creates a very detailed, gripping and chilling account of the inner workings of a murderers mind. I received an advance copy for review

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alena

    I read the first couple chapters of this book, put it down and had absolutely no interest in continuing. A week or so later I made myself pick it back up and every day since I had to continue making myself read it. It was just so dull and drawn out. Almost half of the story is told from POV of Belle's sister, most of which was unnecessary and didn't bring anything to the story. It was just her constantly suffering from her poor back and being suspicious of her sister but doing nothing about it. As I read the first couple chapters of this book, put it down and had absolutely no interest in continuing. A week or so later I made myself pick it back up and every day since I had to continue making myself read it. It was just so dull and drawn out. Almost half of the story is told from POV of Belle's sister, most of which was unnecessary and didn't bring anything to the story. It was just her constantly suffering from her poor back and being suspicious of her sister but doing nothing about it. As for the serial killer herself... I hated her. And not in the "love to hate" but in a "I can't stand reading about her anymore" kind of way. She was just a selfish woman who was constantly furious at somebody and did everything out of spite. At first I tried to empathize with Belle for going through some very traumatic things, but she quickly started getting on my nerves. Unfortunately, she wasn't a fascinating killer like Joe or Dexter (both of whom I love), she was just annoying and sometimes very stupid. Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley for my eARC.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stacy40pages

    In The Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce. Thanks to @netgalley and @berkley for the e-Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Belle Sorenson is said to be the first female American serial killer, yet her story is not well known. A Norwegian immigrant, Belle has always wanted to rise above her station and live in comfort. She will do so, no matter what it takes. This was a fantastical book. I could not put it down. The author of course had to take liberties with the characters and stories, but I think she did a superb job. In The Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce. Thanks to @netgalley and @berkley for the e-Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Belle Sorenson is said to be the first female American serial killer, yet her story is not well known. A Norwegian immigrant, Belle has always wanted to rise above her station and live in comfort. She will do so, no matter what it takes. This was a fantastical book. I could not put it down. The author of course had to take liberties with the characters and stories, but I think she did a superb job. Belle comes across as sympathetic at times, yet still a monster. She is shown as a product of her environment. Her character is complex, as I imagine she was in real life; a traumatized woman with a strong hatred inside, yet with a longing to belong and comfort her children. The time period was also interesting. I’ve read a lot of serial killer stories, but not any from the 1800’s. The environment attributed to the story; drifters, farm work, shoddy investigations, etc. Reading the author’s note at the end tied up a lot of questions as to what was real and what was imagined; make sure to read it. In the Garden of Spite comes out 1/19. “Living with hatred is like living with a being, an entity made of spikes and thorns. You get used to it- you embrace it and nurture it. Eventually it becomes a part of your soul.” “I had survived - just to spite - and I would rise in spite as well.”

  28. 4 out of 5

    The Lit Bitch

    DNF A story about a female serial killer? Say no more. This book was on my radar for weeks and I couldn’t wait to start reading it. It sounded deliciously dark and creepy with so much promise. My book club picked this one to read for our February book because it sounded so amazing. I was fully ready for this book to be on the darker side. In fact I expected it to be one of my more darker reads with a lot of nuance and atmosphere. On the surface this book was primed to be one of my favorite reads DNF A story about a female serial killer? Say no more. This book was on my radar for weeks and I couldn’t wait to start reading it. It sounded deliciously dark and creepy with so much promise. My book club picked this one to read for our February book because it sounded so amazing. I was fully ready for this book to be on the darker side. In fact I expected it to be one of my more darker reads with a lot of nuance and atmosphere. On the surface this book was primed to be one of my favorite reads of 2021 and I couldn’t wait to start reading this one. And then I did start reading it and I don’t know that I was fully prepared for how dark this novel was going to get. Full disclosure, I didn’t finish this one. I simply couldn’t. It wasn’t for me and it also wasn’t for any of the ladies in my book club (we switched to another book for February) but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t read this one. I think this is a book that would appeal to a certain type of reader rather than the masses. The second I started reading this one it was very apparent this was not going to be a book for me. I had just come off this whole string of historical romances with happy fluff and HEA, so I was willing to keep reading this one just in case I was tainted by this fact, but the more I read the more I was sure this just wasn’t the novel for me. I expected this one to be gritty and dark, but I didn’t expect it to be gross. Since I only read 15%, I don’t consider this a spoiler. In the beginning, the heroine finds herself pregnant and the guy who got her pregnant basically beat the baby out of her. The author graphically describes her attack and the loss of the baby, likening it to a piece of meat. It was just too much for me and since this happens at the beginning of the book, it just turned me off entirely. The rest of what I read was about her recovering from her injuries and setting up for how this attack would impact her future decisions. Her parents were basically poor alcoholics and they were not nurturing at all, in fact they were down right abusive. I would be willing to look past all of these parts if there was some sort of redeeming quality about the heroine. I mean I get that she was a serial killer and obviously it would be unlikely that she would have a redeeming quality, but there was simply nothing about her I liked. Initially I felt horrible that this terrible thing happened to her, but the more I read I just couldn’t muster any sympathy. While this book was definitely not for me, I still think the concept shows promise and I think that this would appeal to the right reader. Perhaps someone who enjoys darker, grittier reads. I also thought that some of the observations of the characters showed a strong sense of awareness, for example there was a closing line in a chapter where the attacker said something to the effect of ‘you are nothing but vermin’ and when the chapter closes the main character says that she will survive because the vermin always survive. I admired the author’s boldness and awareness/insight for her characters even if this one wasn’t for me. Even if I didn’t like it, you might. If I were you, I would download a sample and see if you like it before you buy it because I think this is a book that you will be able to tell if you like it or not right away. See my full review here

  29. 4 out of 5

    Meigan

    ”We are all just creatures on this earth, fending for ourselves the best that we can. There is nothing unnatural about me. I walk the same pastures as any other. I am as natural as they come. There are just not many of my kind.” A fictionalized account of infamous serial killer Belle Gunness, IN THE GARDEN OF SPITE takes readers on a journey from Belle’s tragic beginnings to her rise to wealthy, connected woman, with a trail of bodies in between. Known to many as The Butcher of Men, t ”We are all just creatures on this earth, fending for ourselves the best that we can. There is nothing unnatural about me. I walk the same pastures as any other. I am as natural as they come. There are just not many of my kind.” A fictionalized account of infamous serial killer Belle Gunness, IN THE GARDEN OF SPITE takes readers on a journey from Belle’s tragic beginnings to her rise to wealthy, connected woman, with a trail of bodies in between. Known to many as The Butcher of Men, this book puts readers inside Belle’s head and we get to witness first hand every moment from the heartbreak and the tragedy, to the violence and the gore that eventually earns Gunness that well-earned moniker. Having just a passing familiarity with Gunness, this is a book that, when I first heard of it, I knew I needed to read. Serial killers in and of themselves are horrifically fascinating, and ones of the female persuasion even more so. People speculate that it was rage that eventually drove Gunness to commit all of the heinous and horrific acts, and after reading this book and bearing witness to the many tragedies that befell Belle (even if they are mostly fiction), I’d believe it. Bruce does such a phenomenal job with making Gunness seem less a monster and more a mere human woman that it was difficult at times not to sympathize with her. Though let’s be real here — she is most definitely a sociopathic monster, even when you want to believe that perhaps that isn’t the case. Bruce stays true to the parts of Belle’s story that are common knowledge, and I love that she weaves in a lot of fiction among the fact. The bones of the true story are what this novel are built on, but it’s all of the extras — the made-up characters, the social events, the courting periods with her various husbands, that give Gunness the personality we can only imagine she had in life. Bruce is an excellent storyteller, and this is certainly a book that was equal parts horrifying and entertaining. 4.5 stars, and now I’m off to fall down the Belle Gunness rabbit hole. (Seriously, it’s fascinating stuff!) *eARC received courtesy of NetGalley and Berkley Publishing.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shh... One More Chapter

    So, I wanted to like this more than I did. Being a lover of murder, I am well aware of the various retellings of this story. In this fictionalized version, the main events stay true to form while others are most likely embellished and added upon. Nellie's chapters for instance which added really nothing to the story. The writing is also a bit tedious and overblown reminding me a lot of the older style of writing which I guess makes sense considering the years the novel is set in. Bt I found it a So, I wanted to like this more than I did. Being a lover of murder, I am well aware of the various retellings of this story. In this fictionalized version, the main events stay true to form while others are most likely embellished and added upon. Nellie's chapters for instance which added really nothing to the story. The writing is also a bit tedious and overblown reminding me a lot of the older style of writing which I guess makes sense considering the years the novel is set in. Bt I found it a bit draining to slug through. It wasn't my jam but it will probably do better with readers who enjoy this era.

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