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Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    This book was a well-researched compilation of facts and rumors heretofore only available through a patchwork of different readings and articles. I appreciate the attention to details, court records, and even word of mouth from the time period- no aspect of the crime went unattended to. Truth be told, the work itself was very much worth the read (and a boatload of stars), but... while I realize this author has written other relatively well-received works, I have a hard time believing that he This book was a well-researched compilation of facts and rumors heretofore only available through a patchwork of different readings and articles. I appreciate the attention to details, court records, and even word of mouth from the time period- no aspect of the crime went unattended to. Truth be told, the work itself was very much worth the read (and a boatload of stars), but... while I realize this author has written other relatively well-received works, I have a hard time believing that he could be an accomplished biographical true crime author with his obvious preconceptions and biases, especially against women, African Americans, and people with less than average IQs. The author takes multitudes of opportunities to describe women in the book in unflattering terminologies rather than using objective descriptors in terms of weight, facial features, skin colors, etc., i.e. instead of saying overweight, he said fat, in place of tall, he would employ mannish. He referred to victims and perpetrator alike as ugly, etc., not terms generally used by serious writers of nonfiction and biographical accounts. In terms of race, he makes prolific use of the “n” word, citing the common vernacular of that era. However, despite addressing the fact of the crude commonality and acknowledging it once or even twice, the author continued to use the term gratuitously, ostensibly defending the term with frequent references to the normality in the time period and his obvious belief in having the artistic license to utilize it in kind. Additionally, in terms of opinions of the intelligence of the victims and bystanders, he references stupidity, etc., also not generally considered objective descriptions in a serious work. It is demeaning and off-putting, and, in my personal opinion, a grave detractor from the quality of the writing and the overall consideration of the work as a serious foray into a true crime genre. Had the author maintained greater objectivity, I think I would have awarded the book four stars. I learned more about the murderess (and the victims) from this account than any single article or depiction I had ever previously read. It is a shame, in my opinion, that the subjectivity of its author was stated in such terms as to ruin the overall review of the work as a whole. Whereas I typically complete a true crime book with the intention of seeing what other culprits the author may have explored, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth from this one. If he has written other accounts, this reader will not be indulging in them.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Hell's Belle for sure, this Norwegian born lady was a gruesome murderer, who like most female killers was a poisoner, but unlike the usual method of the gentler sex, also decapitated and dismembered her victims. Whether she did this solely so the bodies couldn't be identified or for her own enjoyment isn't known. She started out marrying and murdering, but then moved on to writing ads in Norwegian newspapers for men who could invest in her farm and perhaps become a couple. Her letters are Hell's Belle for sure, this Norwegian born lady was a gruesome murderer, who like most female killers was a poisoner, but unlike the usual method of the gentler sex, also decapitated and dismembered her victims. Whether she did this solely so the bodies couldn't be identified or for her own enjoyment isn't known. She started out marrying and murdering, but then moved on to writing ads in Norwegian newspapers for men who could invest in her farm and perhaps become a couple. Her letters are macabre in the extreme, using feminine wiles to lure the lonely and somewhat trusting men to their deaths. She also ran a sort of baby adoption scheme, killing them off too,, when she could get money out of them through insurance or when they got in the way. This reads like a mystery novel and is well researched and well written. The author includes photos of Belle, her children, her victims and scenes from the murder farm. When there is no photo to illustrate the scene the author includes illustrations which incorporate movement if you read them on a kindle. I liked these very much.

  3. 4 out of 5

    viktoria

    This book was a case of "I wish someone took the book's research and had someone else write it" or "Wow, I wish there had been a very strong-handed editor," because there were some good elements and then some bad elements, and the bad elements far outweighed the good elements. The good elements: The details!: The author gives you so many details and so much historical context; it's awesome. When I first started reading it, I immediately thought, "Oh, I'm going to have an awesome Erik Larson or This book was a case of "I wish someone took the book's research and had someone else write it" or "Wow, I wish there had been a very strong-handed editor," because there were some good elements and then some bad elements, and the bad elements far outweighed the good elements. The good elements: 🏠 The details!: The author gives you so many details and so much historical context; it's awesome. When I first started reading it, I immediately thought, "Oh, I'm going to have an awesome Erik Larson or Bill Bryson RA!" (But I didn't.) I literally did a dreamy sigh with the description of the make-up of the immigration scene of Chicago at Mary's time, and how that contributed to her victim pool. 🏠 The book's narrative structure (for the first ~66%): I think the way the author laid out everything was fairly compelling, structure-wise, until that last third or so. And while he could be a little heavy handed with them sometimes, I do enjoy a good primary or secondary source, so those were fun. The bad elements: 🏠 There is a strange focus on irrelevant details, and it kind of makes the whole thing weird: Look, you can do the whole special snowflake, PC accusations or whatever on me, and I concede the point, but that being said, I read a decent amount of nonfiction, historical nonfiction, and historical fiction; I expect certain things to be mentioned and for them to affect what happens, and I'm okay with that because it should be noted as something that happened and affected the outcome of things: imagine if Mary had been conventionally pretty and thin, or Elizabeth Smith had been a white woman (don't get me wrong, Ray Lamphere was a dick, but the point remains) and how different the whole case might've been. However, there's a strong, persistent fixation on women's looks, calling Elizabeth Smith by the slur she was known as, and different opinions or observations about people's intelligence or other things, and it distracts from the book. It felt like these topics, and other interjections, were thrown in every page. I kept going, "We get it. She's ugly. Liz is not white. What else?" 🏠 The overall narrative voice is a little boring: I read a decent amount of non-fiction, especially historical non-fiction. I like historical documentaries. I don't know how much the above played into my feelings on this, but when I wasn't uncomfortable, I was bored. The speculations of what might've happened felt very monotonous after a while, and after a few, they had a very "Well, Bob at the corner market thinks this" feel to them. It says so much that I read the first 25% in a day, and then I was lucky to get in a chapter here or there afterwards—that never happens. I started this in March and finally forced myself to finished in July. The only reason I didn't DNF was because I had told a coworker I'd read it for an RA thing, and I felt I had to follow through. tl;dr: Sadly, this is the written equivalent of a long, uncomfortable, and offensive documentary you might've expected from yesteryear in the bad, bad way. It has some decent footage, but there are much better accounts out there. Pre-read: Hold on to your pinafores, it's Belle freaking Gunness. I need it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katie B

    3.5 stars I've read a lot of true crime books over the years, and I have to say this is one of the more bizarre cases. In the early 1900s, Belle Gunness lured unsuspecting men to her Indiana "murder farm". And these men vanished without a trace, that is until their butchered remains were eventually found buried on the farm. If you are unfamiliar with the case, I highly recommend you don't look up any information ahead of time because part of what makes this book interesting is all of the twists 3.5 stars I've read a lot of true crime books over the years, and I have to say this is one of the more bizarre cases. In the early 1900s, Belle Gunness lured unsuspecting men to her Indiana "murder farm". And these men vanished without a trace, that is until their butchered remains were eventually found buried on the farm. If you are unfamiliar with the case, I highly recommend you don't look up any information ahead of time because part of what makes this book interesting is all of the twists and turns. I didn't know ahead of time that the "murder farm" was actually in a part of Indiana I have visited many times. I have family ties to the area that date back generations so while the relatives who would have been alive during this time period are deceased, I have no doubt in my mind they would have been very familiar with the case as it wasn't just a local story, it made headlines around the globe. When the book discusses the carnival type atmosphere the farm drew when the bodies are discovered I found myself wondering, were they one of the estimated 16,000 people who showed up to be a part of the spectacle? The weird, unexpected personal connection to the story is definitely part of the reason I couldn't put the book down. Unfortunately not all questions that remain about Belle Gunness will be answered so if you are the type of reader that needs everything wrapped up in the end, this book probably isn't for you. However, if you enjoy reading about unusual true crime cases and are fine with drawing your own conclusions, than I say give this book a chance. This was my free Kindle First pick for March 2018. I was under no obligation to post a review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    An interesting, and absorbing account of turn-of-the-century murderer Belle Gunness. The author creates a unique Kindle experience, with "aged" pages, photos, and animation. The book is well researched, with a comprehensive section of notes and references. The ending is a bit dissatisfying, as there are many unanswered questions. This is why I prefer fictional, rather than true crime.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    So 40% of this kindle book was references! Overall this was a great telling of Mrs Gunness’ life and impact on society at the time. My one problem was the author’s overuse of ‘Nigger Liz’ throughout and explaining that that was what she was known as at the time each time he used the slur. Mrs Gunness was known as lots of different names after her deeds were found out but the author didn’t feel the need to go about them the way he did Ms Smith. It felt like he was justifying using the term and So 40% of this kindle book was references! Overall this was a great telling of Mrs Gunness’ life and impact on society at the time. My one problem was the author’s overuse of ‘Nigger Liz’ throughout and explaining that that was what she was known as at the time each time he used the slur. Mrs Gunness was known as lots of different names after her deeds were found out but the author didn’t feel the need to go about them the way he did Ms Smith. It felt like he was justifying using the term and was distracting from the history, there was no need to keep using it throughout.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ronald Keeler

    Hell’s Princess by Harold Schechter is the well-researched story of the mystery of Belle Gunness, a butcher of men. I note that she was “a” butcher of men, not “the” butcher of men or even the title without an article. Belle was a serial killer, one of many in history and to date. She was notable for several reasons. She was “she;” female serial killers were and are disproportionately few compared to males. Women nurtured; they did not “knock people off.” Second, Belle was unusually cruel in her Hell’s Princess by Harold Schechter is the well-researched story of the mystery of Belle Gunness, a butcher of men. I note that she was “a” butcher of men, not “the” butcher of men or even the title without an article. Belle was a serial killer, one of many in history and to date. She was notable for several reasons. She was “she;” female serial killers were and are disproportionately few compared to males. Women nurtured; they did not “knock people off.” Second, Belle was unusually cruel in her kill methods and selection of targets. They were not strangers; her victims were husbands, lovers, and included her own children. Finally, she operated in a time and environment that we look back upon from the present day as a time of innocence, a closely interactive environment where people trusted the common good in each other, where such things just didn’t happen. She arrived from Norway to visit and stay with her sister. Employed as a domestic, she saw little difference from the harsh life she had lived in Norway. She saw there was money to be made and by the time she married in 1884 to the father of her children, she found a way to get large infusions of cash quickly. Insurance payouts paid well. This did not bode well for husbands, partners, and lovers who had to die to trigger the payouts. Belle was versatile; she could see that frequent insurance payoffs would appear suspicious. After a few insurance scams, she purchased a farm remotely located from town and began to offer management partnerships to men. They had to make short-term investments of a few thousand dollars. The investment was short-term because the men would soon die. To the surrounding communities, the men would just disappear. For the inquisitive, the men changed their minds or had family emergencies. Their belongings and luggage remained with Belle to be forwarded later. Many men who answered Belle’s ads had families. Some relatives began to question their inability to follow up the fate of their relatives once the brothers or fathers had relocated to LaPorte, Indiana to help Belle. Thus, started the unraveling of some of Belle’s schemes. As with so many cover-ups of criminal activities, attempts at concealment had to become ever more complex. Things rushed forward as if a large bubble grew ever faster. The bursting of the bubble was almost inevitable. This is the story of how Belle’s life of murder and deception fell apart. Almost. This is crime non-fiction. There are no surprises or spoilers. Schechter goes to great lengths to assure readers this is not fake news. Twenty-five pages of footnotes are referenced to the forty-three chapters. There are eight pages of bibliography and twenty helpful index pages. Still, in the end, there are questions and Schechter does a very good job of revealing unanswered questions and describing the situations that surround uncertainty. This book is not for everyone. Academics will like it both for its sourcing and the way the author tries to bring in all possibilities and perspectives even when some of them border on the absurd. It is slow reading due to this writing process. Descriptions of how some of the murders took place, based on forensic evidence, will provide readers with an idea of how horror and thriller writers get their inspiration. Non-fiction can be scarier than fiction. I gave this work five Amazon stars just for the careful, balanced presentation. After I post this, I will look at other reviews. I expect them to be all over the range of ratings. There will be disagreements because of the careful research methodology Schechter used. Academics love to argue. That is how they justify their incomes. I just rate the book based on my enjoyment of it. I liked this one.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susan Snodgrass

    I have always been fascinated by true crime stories and this one is done very well. Extremely well researched and very detail oriented, it is as thorough as anyone could want. Belle Gunness was one of the most prolific serial killers of the late 19 and early 20th centuries. All for money. A vicious woman with no compunction whatsoever about taking a life. This is the best I've read about her life. Recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ghost of the Library

    As a principle I prefer facts, biographies, history and not fiction, it's no secret, look at my book lists! However this particular genre, albeit non fiction, is one that somehow I've avoided...95% of time that is. Don't get me wrong, not squeamish or afraid of blood at all, just most of the time I don't get a book that simply tells the facts and doesn't try its hardest to persuade you to believe whatever theory the author defends. Well as luck would have, or simply Kindle taking a peek at my As a principle I prefer facts, biographies, history and not fiction, it's no secret, look at my book lists! However this particular genre, albeit non fiction, is one that somehow I've avoided...95% of time that is. Don't get me wrong, not squeamish or afraid of blood at all, just most of the time I don't get a book that simply tells the facts and doesn't try its hardest to persuade you to believe whatever theory the author defends. Well as luck would have, or simply Kindle taking a peek at my research and suggesting reads, I believe this one may be the one I was looking for. The author here is simply a narrator, he relates by means of a thorough and careful research the true story of Belle Gunness and her murder farm, where she planted all the men she lured to her with promises of love and happiness. This is not an easy read, gory details of how she did it aside, simply because - and maybe I'm being partial - I find it always much harder to stomach when a woman is capable of such horrible actions....in my defense, I am a ghost from Victorian England, my sensibilities might be somewhat non pc in this day and age! However, and that is where I believe my background served me well, this is a fascinating read, because once you can push aside a 21st century view of society and acceptable behavior, this turns into an engaging tale that catches one's attention and keeps you turning the pages to find out how it ends. That Belle was a serial killer, long before such term was officially coined, it's a fact and quite soon shown, but the details surrounding not only the investigation but also society's reaction - on both a local and national level - make this both repulsive and yet appealing...human nature at its finest. Some may disagree with me but personally I think the author did a great job here and succeeds 100% in taking a reader back in time. If you're not easily impressed - in a bad way - by all means this is a read for you. My only quibble?....well I can't tell you...spoilers! Happy Readings!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)

    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 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. Thanks so much to Little A and Amazon Publishing for this copy!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Well researched and written account of the brutal murders perpetrated by that rare enigma, the female serial killer.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    Review to follow

  13. 5 out of 5

    Siobhan

    I love a bit of true crime, so interesting. Glad I chose this as my Kindle First book this month. It was my first Kindle in Motion book too and I liked the little videos and newspaper clippings etc. Very cool!

  14. 4 out of 5

    KC

    In the early 1900's, La Porte Indiana was a quiet farming community that was shaken to its core after a gruesome discovery was made on a local farm after a fire destroyed the home of Belle Gunness. Her supposed charred bones were uncovered in the debris along with her three foster children, but as the day progressed the workers, while filtering through the wreckage, unearthed what appeared to be a make shift grave site of human bones, clothing, and personal belongings. This is the story of In the early 1900's, La Porte Indiana was a quiet farming community that was shaken to its core after a gruesome discovery was made on a local farm after a fire destroyed the home of Belle Gunness. Her supposed charred bones were uncovered in the debris along with her three foster children, but as the day progressed the workers, while filtering through the wreckage, unearthed what appeared to be a make shift grave site of human bones, clothing, and personal belongings. This is the story of Gunness and her life as an alleged black widow, luring countless unsuspecting men to her farm, only to take all their money, murder and dismember them and then bury the remains on her property.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katya Kazbek

    A true crime book should not feel like you could have been better off reading the wikipedia page. And yes, I understand that Schechter's research did not pay off with a juicy twist he had hoped for. But that doesn't explain to me why there was a need to insert all the boring back and forths of the trial and everyone and their mother's suspicions. It was interesting for the first third (even though I found the intro oddly structured) but then it was too long. I was actually wondering why the book A true crime book should not feel like you could have been better off reading the wikipedia page. And yes, I understand that Schechter's research did not pay off with a juicy twist he had hoped for. But that doesn't explain to me why there was a need to insert all the boring back and forths of the trial and everyone and their mother's suspicions. It was interesting for the first third (even though I found the intro oddly structured) but then it was too long. I was actually wondering why the book was going on at one point. Also, I completely agree with accusations of Schechter's misogyny. Each time he referenced how fat and ugly Belle Gunness was, I looked at her photos, and was like: really? She might have been evil, but why strip a clearly normal-looking, and allegedly very sexually magnetic woman, of her agency? She was a brilliant scammer, yes, but she also did a pretty good job seducing men IRL when she needed to. I feel like this story would have been handled much better by someone younger, more woke, and perhaps less white and male? Also, because it's not satisfying as is, perhaps a novelization would work better?

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike Bevel

    Could Schechter have been a little less obnoxious with the misogyny (he never misses a chance to tell us how fat and unattractive Gunness was)? Did he seem a little too comfortable using Elizabeth Smith's nickname ("N----- Liz") repeatedly when once was really enough? There aren't answers to these rhetorical questions and there aren't definitive answers to the case of Belle Gunness, which Schechter muses briefly about at the end of the book. For a book about Hell's Princess, a lot of time is Could Schechter have been a little less obnoxious with the misogyny (he never misses a chance to tell us how fat and unattractive Gunness was)? Did he seem a little too comfortable using Elizabeth Smith's nickname ("N----- Liz") repeatedly when once was really enough? There aren't answers to these rhetorical questions and there aren't definitive answers to the case of Belle Gunness, which Schechter muses briefly about at the end of the book. For a book about Hell's Princess, a lot of time is spent on a man named Ray Lamphere, who loves being creepy and stalking Belle. Belle herself is more talked of than to, for reasons that become clear as you read the book. Now. Did she do it? They found a LOT of bodies on her property. And she was a lady of means looking for companionship, so she placed a lot of personal ads. Did she kill all those people? I don't know, guys. We just know how her own story ends; but there are no details that aren't circumstantial that can be used against her. She's the Carrie Bradshaw of her generation as far as I'm concerned.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Excellent, entertaining true crime I've read another book about Belle Gunness, which was ok, but left me wanting to know more. I'm just delighted Schechter wrote this book--the answer to my wish for a more thorough treatment of the killer and her many crimes. For what it's worth, I think she killed her kids, plus another woman to make it look look like she died. Then she took off for parts unknown. It's too bad that the California lady was who she said she was. It would've made for an excellent Excellent, entertaining true crime I've read another book about Belle Gunness, which was ok, but left me wanting to know more. I'm just delighted Schechter wrote this book--the answer to my wish for a more thorough treatment of the killer and her many crimes. For what it's worth, I think she killed her kids, plus another woman to make it look look like she died. Then she took off for parts unknown. It's too bad that the California lady was who she said she was. It would've made for an excellent ending. I totally, unreservedly recommend this book. It's well researched and written, kept my attention throughout.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    There once was a woman named Belle. She killed lots and LOTS of people, chopped them up and buried them on her farm. Nobody knows why. Nobody will ever know why. The End. You just saved yourself from having to read 300 pages. :-)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alaina

    Interestingly boring. Okay, I wont even lie. I am so freaking happy that I was not born around the time that Belle was on her killing streak. I thank my lucky stars every day. Now before I dove into this book, I honestly had no clue who Belle Gunness was. Nope, I just went into because I've been on a murder mystery kick. Since this book is based off a true murderer, well shit - I had to dive into it! At the beginning, this book was completely interesting. We get to meet Belle and learn about her Interestingly boring. Okay, I wont even lie. I am so freaking happy that I was not born around the time that Belle was on her killing streak. I thank my lucky stars every day. Now before I dove into this book, I honestly had no clue who Belle Gunness was. Nope, I just went into because I've been on a murder mystery kick. Since this book is based off a true murderer, well shit - I had to dive into it! At the beginning, this book was completely interesting. We get to meet Belle and learn about her victims. I originally thought that this book was going to be more about her murders.. but then it switched to being about her own actual murder. The change didn't really bother me since I knew jack shit about her. However, it got boring pretty quickly and I wished it was actually about her own murders. This book had many flaws. I hated how Belle was constantly stated as not being an attractive women. I get it, you thought she was ugly but don't say people only wanted to be with her because of her land. Rude as fuck. Just say it once and move on. I don't need to be repeatedly told she was fat and ugly. Then there was the nickname .. I just didn't like it. Overall, it was jam packed with information but it did get a little boring here and there.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    2.5 stars I enjoyed the first third of the book, but found the rest disappointing. I suppose I did not realize the mystery was not Belle herself but rather than two-thirds of the book is dedicated to speculation about the circumstances surrounding her death. The author's excessive use of the "n" word seemed like using historical license to repeatedly use a slur for no reason at all. The author's insistent descriptions of how hideous and obese characters were, only to include their photos which 2.5 stars I enjoyed the first third of the book, but found the rest disappointing. I suppose I did not realize the mystery was not Belle herself but rather than two-thirds of the book is dedicated to speculation about the circumstances surrounding her death. The author's excessive use of the "n" word seemed like using historical license to repeatedly use a slur for no reason at all. The author's insistent descriptions of how hideous and obese characters were, only to include their photos which reveal rather average looking people of their era, made me doubt his objectivity. It is one thing to emphasize historical fascinations with the association between ugliness and criminal behavior, it's another for the author to assert that someone is ugly. I accept that historical true crime is not always clear cut, and the book is very well-researched. It definitely wasn't what I thought it would be when I started reading. I appreciated the media elements and thought they were a neat addition, but as the book got less interesting there were also fewer of the media pieces to keep it fun.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Teri

    The strange and brutal murders of at least 9 people in La Porte, Indiana in the early 21st century has perplexed the town residents for years. It is the case of Belle Gunness, a matrimonial murderess dubbed "Hell's Princess" among other erstwhile nicknames. Young Belle was a Norwegian immigrant to the US in the late 1800s. Once she arrived, she moved to Chicago to live near her sister. Unmarried with no kids, Belle takes on the foster care of a couple of children, as well as her niece. Soon The strange and brutal murders of at least 9 people in La Porte, Indiana in the early 21st century has perplexed the town residents for years. It is the case of Belle Gunness, a matrimonial murderess dubbed "Hell's Princess" among other erstwhile nicknames. Young Belle was a Norwegian immigrant to the US in the late 1800s. Once she arrived, she moved to Chicago to live near her sister. Unmarried with no kids, Belle takes on the foster care of a couple of children, as well as her niece. Soon after, she marries and her husband eventually passes away. She moves to the Norwegian settlement of La Porte, Indiana. It is there that her second husband suffers a fatal accident, leaving her twice widowed. Thereafter, many men come into her life, but they never seem to leave. This true tale echoes similar odd and mysterious circumstances such as the likes of H. H. Holmes and his Murder Capital, the notorious serial killer of the Chicago's 1893 World Exposition. Harold Schechter details Gunness's life from her landing in the United States through her supposed death and beyond. It has been a confounding case that continues unsolved or has it? I was completely engrossed in this story. Schechter has an engaging writing style that keeps you drawn into Belle's life. It is a quick read but includes a great amount of information. I happened to read the Kindle In Motion version of this story which added to the experience. This new Kindle technology has animated pictures that keep the story interesting. I highly recommend any book that is being read on a Kindle app to utilize the Kindle In Motion technology. I received this book gratis through Goodreads Giveaways.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Thanks to Amazon Publishing for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest 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 Thanks to Amazon Publishing for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest 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, Same (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

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    2.5 "She is entitled to be known to future generations as the arch fiend of the twentieth century." Hell's Princess is a good introduction to Belle Gunness if you don't know anything about her. If you are familiar with her story, you're probably going to be pretty bored. There's just so little information on Belle Gunness, it's tough to write a full book on her. It got pretty disjointed, and I feel like Schechter tried way too hard to create filler for this book. There were a lot of parts about 2.5⭐ "She is entitled to be known to future generations as the arch fiend of the twentieth century." Hell's Princess is a good introduction to Belle Gunness if you don't know anything about her. If you are familiar with her story, you're probably going to be pretty bored. There's just so little information on Belle Gunness, it's tough to write a full book on her. It got pretty disjointed, and I feel like Schechter tried way too hard to create filler for this book. There were a lot of parts about people's speculations, and a large chunk of the book was about Ray Lamphere's trial (I skimmed this). After dragging on, the book ends pretty abruptly, and it was a strange way to organize it. Harold Schechter also writes with an incredibly misogynistic tone, and it's very clear that he believes women are supposed to look a certain way (not like Belle Gunness, or not old, or not too underweight, etc. So ridiculous). He also uses a very racist term more than once because of a name the townspeople called someone, and I believe we would have gotten the idea from him just writing it once. All of it was unnecessary. Overall, I wasn't impressed, and was disappointed after looking forward to this book for a while. I gave it 2.5⭐. This book is about 260 pages, and it took me about 4 days to get through it. It's very dry, and I didn't really learn anything new.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Erin Dunn

    I’m interested in this, but had to DNF because the writing isn’t for me.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    I was excited for this because I love true crime, I love reading about female serial killers since they are few and far between. I already knew the story of Belle Gunness and felt excited that I could learn more and relearn some things I might have forgotten. Unfortunately I did not like this at all...it felt like I was reading a Wikipedia article instead of a true crime novel. Now it is insanely hard to write a book and easy for me to criticize but this did not work for me. I knew the I was excited for this because I love true crime, I love reading about female serial killers since they are few and far between. I already knew the story of Belle Gunness and felt excited that I could learn more and relearn some things I might have forgotten. Unfortunately I did not like this at all...it felt like I was reading a Wikipedia article instead of a true crime novel. Now it is insanely hard to write a book and easy for me to criticize but this did not work for me. I knew the information in this already, its very basic and about 30% of it is just references. Another thing that REALLY bothered me is the authors constant need to use racial slurs and point out the fact that she was not society's standard of beauty. I completely understand having to describe this person, describe them anyway you want but it was constant and felt like he was really driving the point that she was "unattractive" As far as the racial slurs go. I am a half black so I have a natural cringe when I read racial slurs, BUT I understand that they can be necessary for the story you're telling. SO if it feels like it needs to be there or part of a character then I will let it go. But he used them WAY too much. Sometimes it felt like it was every other line. It got to be so much that I had to actually put the book down for a day. It really felt like the authors viewpoint of race instead of the subject matter. 1 1/2 / 2 stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shaneice

    As a fan of authors such as Erik Larson and murder mysteries in general, I was very excited when this came up as an option for Amazon Prime's First Reads. It has a slow start but starts to pick up around the time Belle moves to La Porte. However, the book starts to slow down again around the time of the Lamphere trial. Now, I don't know if it's just because the author needed some filler or had to hit a word count, but there was A LOT of verbatim from news clippings and even passages from a pulp As a fan of authors such as Erik Larson and murder mysteries in general, I was very excited when this came up as an option for Amazon Prime's First Reads. It has a slow start but starts to pick up around the time Belle moves to La Porte. However, the book starts to slow down again around the time of the Lamphere trial. Now, I don't know if it's just because the author needed some filler or had to hit a word count, but there was A LOT of verbatim from news clippings and even passages from a pulp paperback thrown in the middle which started to get tedious for me. Also, as others have pointed out, he mentioned "N***** Liz" more than he needed to. We got it the first time. All in all, I didn't hate it. I just had higher hopes for it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    Slightly fascinating true crime book, but the second half is just a case of an author seriously padding his not long enough book with time period appropriate fact loading not related to this crime. I just wanted to scream, “Where was the editor?” While I don’t necessarily recommend this book, its gruesome first third was worth reading. So few female killers of this magnitude have been discovered that I was thoroughly fascinated by the nerve of this black widow spider!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nyx

    2.5 out of 5; rambling and ultimately unsatisfying This was my Kindle First choice for March. I also read "Depraved" by Schechter this month and I've rated "Hell's Princess" the same as that, despite finding it a lot less engaging. Clearly, a great deal of research has been put into both books. However, Schechter presents his findings in a manner that flips between stale and insultingly ill-mannered. When Schechter is not giving lengthy quotes or paraphrasing a whole pulp true crime pamphlet, 2.5 out of 5; rambling and ultimately unsatisfying This was my Kindle First choice for March. I also read "Depraved" by Schechter this month and I've rated "Hell's Princess" the same as that, despite finding it a lot less engaging. Clearly, a great deal of research has been put into both books. However, Schechter presents his findings in a manner that flips between stale and insultingly ill-mannered. When Schechter is not giving lengthy quotes or paraphrasing a whole pulp true crime pamphlet, he's sassing the "typically overwrought" style of news reporters or repeating himself about how ugly Gunness was. There's also the feeling of shameless delight at being able to use a racial slur often because of the copying ad verbatim of people's statements. While I agree that we should not shy away from the past, this book wasn't about the racial issues of the day. Can't help but wonder whether some readers will be unnecessarily riled by the wanton use of Elizabeth Smith's nickname. In my opinion, the layout of the book is undesirable. It seems to hop around, wander off into tangets, and repeat itself a fair deal. The "Kindle in Motion" pictures made up for this a little, though that's simply due to the novelty. I noticed the same issues while reading "Depraved". While "Hell's Princess" was passable, it has convinced me not to pick up another book by this author. At least not seriously.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    The big hard "okay" on this one. It was okay. There's really nothing here that, for as little as I knew about Gunness, I learned that was new. The writing is serviceable, though I found the choice to keep some of the language around individuals in the story (N-word Liz, for example) to be utterly unnecessary. Audio was fine, too.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jamie (The Kansan Reader)

    2.5 stars Find all my reviews: https://jaynikkibelthoughts.wordpress... Could have been better First off has anyone had a book on their kindle and it had show media? This is the first book I’ve had that did this. I felt like Hogwarts. The pictures move!!! Now the review: When asking most people, they never heard of Belle Gunness. I first heard of her through a WatchMojo Top 10s. I can’t fully remember how I came across this book but I decided to give it a try. Belle Gunness was a lady fair In Indiana 2.5 stars Find all my reviews: https://jaynikkibelthoughts.wordpress... Could have been better First off has anyone had a book on their kindle and it had show media? This is the first book I’ve had that did this. I felt like Hogwarts. The pictures move!!! Now the review: When asking most people, they never heard of Belle Gunness. I first heard of her through a WatchMojo Top 10s. I can’t fully remember how I came across this book but I decided to give it a try. Belle Gunness was a lady fair In Indiana State. She weighed about three hundred pounds, And that is quite some weight. That she was stronger than a man Her neighbors all did own; She butchered hogs right easily And did it all alone. But hogs were just a sideline She indulged in now and then; Her favorite occupation Was a-butchering of men. This story dragged on for me. I would think I would be getting closer to the end look at my page and notice I wasn’t even at the half waypoint. I’m not a big fan of the writing style either. This story didn’t fully keep me captivated nor did I want to DNF. I auto-piloted through some of the chapters. Others the writing sounded ridiculous and I rolled my eyes to the back of my head. Before I even got to the halfway mark, I wanted this book done. I just wanted it to be done so I could write my full review and post it. I no longer cared about Belle Gunness and her murder farm. I no longer cared if she was dead or alive or anything. I wanted the book to be done. I did not want to DNF it because I actually did want to see how they writer got to 318 pages of this boring tale he was weaving. I should have realized that the feeling I had in chapter one would plague me throughout the whole book. Now I’m here adding to my “meh” pile. The pile of books that I’ll be lucky if I can even remember if I read it or not when seeing the book in the future. To be honest I skimmed through the rest of this book. I just wanted it finished so I could move on to books I wanted to read.

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