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Monday, April 2, 2018

REVIEW: Hell's Princess by Harold Schechter @littleabooks @amazonpub @hschechtrucrime #CJSReads

Hell's Princess
by Harold Schechter

Thanks to Little A and Amazon Publishing for these copies.
As a fan of true crime, the history of the world's first female serial killer is quite intriguing!

One of the best things about doing these buddy reads is the discussions we have about what worked or didn't work.  While we may not always agree (which is one of the best things about books in my opinion), there are times when the narrative voice may be questionable and it's nice to have a sounding board to see if it's just ME, or if it's the book.  In this case, we all seemed to agree - continue below to see what Jessica, Sam and I thought of this one.

Publisher:  Little A / Amazon Publishing
Published: April 1, 2018
334 Pages
Genres:  Non-fiction, History, True Crime

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the pantheon of serial killers, Belle Gunness stands alone. She was the rarest of female psychopaths, a woman who engaged in wholesale slaughter, partly out of greed but mostly for the sheer joy of it. Between 1902 and 1908, she lured a succession of unsuspecting victims to her Indiana “murder farm.” Some were hired hands. Others were well-to-do bachelors. All of them vanished without a trace. When their bodies were dug up, they hadn’t merely been poisoned, like victims of other female killers. They’d been butchered.

Hell’s Princess is a riveting account of one of the most sensational killing sprees in the annals of American crime: the shocking series of murders committed by the woman who came to be known as Lady Bluebeard. The only definitive book on this notorious case and the first to reveal previously unknown information about its subject, Harold Schechter’s gripping, suspenseful narrative has all the elements of a classic mystery—and all the gruesome twists of a nightmare. 

My Review:

If you've read my reviews before, you know I'm not the biggest fan of non-fiction or history.... except when it comes to true crime and the like.  I was SO excited for this book.  I have done countless research on serial killers when I was younger as I had a bit of an obsession (still do but less research has been made in the past decade of my life).  I already knew the story of Belle Gunness but didn't realize how much I remembered until I started reading this.  Unfortunately, I was a tad bit underwhelmed with this for a variety of reasons.

The first quarter of the book was about her and her victims.  Then she's found decapitated in a fire and now it's a story about her murder...and if she in fact was or is still at large somewhere.  Something apparently no one will ever know.  Another true crime that will forever be unsolved.  As someone who already knew this story, there was nothing new that I learned.  Nothing exciting that came to pass that sparked my interest again.  

I'm not sure if the author was making references in light of the time period, or if it was his own prejudices and biases that made his book riddled with misogynistic and racial slurs.  There was consistent references to Belle not being an attractive woman and clearly her only form of attractiveness was her land and catering to a man's need to be mothered as just a small example of what was found as I read.

Take all that above aside and this is fantastic for readers who are not familiar with Belle's story and the aftermath of her killing farm and the poor victims that made their way into her deadly path.  Clearly a lot of research has been done... there are several pages of notes and a bibliography to reference.  I think this is definitely catered more for those who have never learned Belle's story.  If you already know it, then I fear you're not going to get much more out of this read.


Sam's Review:

I’ve been on a bit of a non-fiction kick lately, so, when Chandra from #cjsreads suggested we read Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men by Howard Schechter, I was all about it!  I am a fan of historical fiction and true crime so this book seemed like it would be a no-brainer for me.

I hadn’t heard (surprisingly) of Belle Gunness before, so, before I started my reading, I did a quick Google search to get myself a little bit familiar with the story.  This ended up being a huge mistake.

The book ended up being a long-winded version of the Wikipedia page.  It lacked any real “story” and just ended up being more of a list of facts.

I also really struggled with Schechter’s narrative voice, which I actually found to be a little bit offensive.

Overall, I was not a huge fan.

1/5 stars.

Jessica's Review:

If you've followed my reviews for awhile, you'll know that true crime and historical fiction are my jam. I love these genres and will pick up any book that falls under true crime. HELL'S PRINCESS was one of those rare books where I didn't know any information about the subject. Belle Gunness, the Butcher of Men, sounded intriguing and I was ready to learn more about her. 

This felt more like a regurgitation of some of the online searches you could do for her. Like my buddy reader, Sam (of Clues and Reviews) said, it felt like the drawn out version of the Wikipedia page. I will say that it helped me get an introduction to who she was and the crimes she committed - and that this is a true crime that never had a real resolution (always fun and eerie when that happens)

I understand wanting to emulate the time period of the subject, but I felt like this one went a little too far in some cases. I think that Schechter could have limited some of his racial slurs and how he described Belle. If you're wanting to learn about Gunness and her crimes, then this is a good one to read, but keep in mind that you'll be getting a lot more than just a history lesson. 

Overall, I give this one 2/5 stars

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