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Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill: The Story of Mary Bell (Mary Bell #2)

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  1,010 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
England's controversial #1 best-seller.

What brings a child to kill another child? In 1968, at age eleven, Mary Bell was tried and convicted of murdering two small boys in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Gitta Sereny, who covered the sensational trial, never believed the characterization of Bell as the incarnation of evil, the bad seed personified. If we are ever to understan
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 15th 2000 by Picador (first published May 8th 1998)
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Jul 15, 2009 Jimmy rated it it was amazing

In 1968: an eleven year old girl named Mary Bell killed two boys (ages 3 and 4). The courts tried her, found her guilty, put her in jail until she was in her 20's. This book revisits her case years after she was released from jail and tries to figure out why she did it, what her life was like before she committed this crime, and whether she really understood the gravity of what she did at the time. I don't want to give any of it away, but I was so engrossed that I wanted to read the
Nov 20, 2015 Shaun rated it it was amazing
not written by Mary Bell and her accomplice

In a broad sense, this is the story of Mary Bell, a child serial killer who before her capture strangled two young boys.

As such the story is somewhat disturbing.

But beyond the story of Mary's crime is also the story of an inept legal justice system that was and, to some extent, still is ill-equipped to deal with children who kill.

When an adult kills, it's much easier to assign blame. Surely, an adult has the ability to distinguish right from wrong, to fully comprehend and appreciate the finalit
Sep 17, 2014 Jeanette rated it it was ok
Terrible, and dated psychology analysis from the get-go coupled with jumbled and scattered writing. I almost gave it a 1 star, and I did skim the last half because she was so redundant. This author would have produced a better work by writing the long term adult story of Mary Bell in 1/3rd of this length instead of preaching her own bias and rewriting the first book. The second star was for the locale of Newcastle societal information for the late 1960's, especially common family, community neig ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 28, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: true crime fans and students of English working class society
Shelves: true-crime
Brilliant examination of a very compelling case. Completely interesting on a great many levels. The book itself because a huge scandal on its serialisation and publication, when it became known that the grown up Mary Bell had received payment for her participation, which was another whole level of remarkableness.
Andrea Hickman Walker
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 27, 2010 Holly marked it as to-read
From Reading Matters: Gitta Sereny is an Austrian-born British-based journalist who has spent much of her career writing about moral culpability. She wrote an amazingly detailed but completely fascinating biography about Hitler's architect, Albert Speer, and a similar one about Franz Stangl, the commandent of the Treblinka extermination camp. But it is this book about Mary Bell, an 11-year-old who was tried and convicted of manslaughter of two young boys in the late 1960s, that sticks in my mind ...more
Jan 15, 2008 Brittany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book about child killer, Mary Bell, is one of the saddest true stories I've ever read. Because of my own tragic childhood, I could connect with this poor little girl on a deeper level. It really emphasizes that old saying: There but for the grace of God, go I. Very chilling.
Danie Tanaka
Cries Unheard... Until it was too late.

When this book was first released, it created a massive controversy over criminals profiting from their crimes in the nation where this story really happened: Britain. I can only surmise that those whom so vigorously felt that way didn't even read the book. Not long ago, I got my hands on a first edition American Version of the book published in 1999 from a thrift store.

This book is the horrific story of tragedy. When a child of barely 11 years old strangl
Kevin Walsh
Jun 02, 2014 Kevin Walsh rated it really liked it
Mary Flora Bell at the age of 11, strangled to death two little boys in Scotswood, an inner-city suburb of Newcastle upon Tyne. She was convicted in December 1968 of the manslaughter of Martin Brown (aged four) and Brian Howe (aged three). In this book Gitta Sereny controversially collaborates with Mary to provide a thought provoking biography that sheds some light on one of the most infamous child-killers of the 20th century.

I went into this book not having read her other book on the case (The
Katherine Addison
Unheard Cries is both problematic and frustrating. Its subject is Mary Bell, who murdered two little boys in 1968, when she was eleven, and who subsequently got dragged through the British justice system in ways that Sereny is quite right to want to protest. My problems with the book are not with that part, or with Sereny's general point that child criminals are very badly served by adult legal systems. My problems are with her discussion of Mary Bell's crimes and what caused them.

Sereny display
Danny Cassar
Aug 29, 2015 Danny Cassar rated it it was amazing
I never heard of this case or saw this book ever. My boyfriend just randomly bought it for me for my 21st birthday and I though oh its another biography! But I was definitely wrong! This brought tears to my eyes from the first page. I could feel Mary's suffering. It is a truly sad story, from her childhood throughout her life in prison and after prison! It shows how truly the system was failed and never looked through the life of the child to see why Mary did what she did. I would like to say th ...more
Ellis Amdur
Jan 14, 2015 Ellis Amdur rated it liked it
In 1968, Mary Bell, then eleven, killed two small children. She was seen, then, as the personification of evil. This book was written twenty-seven years later, and it will gouge a hole in your heart – how a child could be so brutalized and ripped by her upbringing that murder in turn seems to be all that she had left. This story is also one of redemption, one that shows in at least this case, that even those we believe to be the worst are often not. This should lead the reader to at least ask if ...more
Mar 18, 2013 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Interesting and ultimately disturbing look at the case of Mary Bell. I would say that this book is a must read for anyone interested in the Mary Bell case, if for no other reason than the fact that the author had some first hand access to Mary - something few authors or journalists ever accomplished. While the book does answer some questions about what made Mary tick (a lot of the blame is placed on her Mother and rightly so, which is made obvious as the facts of Marys young life unfold), many o ...more
Aug 16, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it
High 4. Sereny provides the compelling and heart-rending account of how years of sexual and physical abuse can lead to a child committing murder. The child in question is Mary Bell who, aged 11 murdered two younger boys aged 3 and 4. The killings took place in Newcastle in 1968 and caused national horror and condemnation. Sereny attended the trial and gained access to Bell in 1995 to produce this detailed analysis of the actions of a damaged child psyche. This is uncomfortable but required readi ...more
Feb 21, 2013 Melody rated it really liked it
This book is so terribly sad from every angle- Mary's childhood, her worthless piece of human debris of a mother, the failings of the system...everything. The author has clearly undertaken tremendous effort in research and it shows. It's a well-written book and the author definitely accomplished her goal of using it as a tool in understanding why kids kill. I can't imagine anyone reading this and finish it still thinking Mary Bell was a monster. I have to admit that I began the book with that ve ...more
Jun 04, 2008 Maudaevee rated it it was ok
I have to agree with the reviewer that said this book starts out really slow and the author did tend to get repetitive. I felt that the beginning was not only slow but rather jumbled/confusing, she seemed to jump around a bit and I didn't care for it at all. Towards the middle the story starts to be more orderly and easier to follow, but still never really found the book more than just ok.
Gareth Schweitzer
Oct 17, 2015 Gareth Schweitzer rated it really liked it
Not my usual fair, but a fascinating insight into the mind and motivations of a child who has killed. Much of the book is a conversation with Mary Bell now an adult and her revisiting and facing what she did and what happened to her during the years of her incarceration.

Sereny makes a compelling case for a judicial review about how younger children might be handled in these instances.
Aug 02, 2016 Maghily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Cette lecture fut difficile que ce soit par son contenu ou par sa forme. Il ne s'agit pas d'un roman mais d'une enquête, d'un témoignage recueilli par Gitta Sereny pendant de longs mois. Il sert à dénoncer le traitement opéré par la justice sur des mineurs qui ont commis un crime. C'est à la fois effrayant et révoltant.
Jan 22, 2012 Alice rated it did not like it
I first have to confess that I love true-crime, the more disturbing the better, though I do demand a certain level of literary-ness. This one seemed to fit the bill. But this is one of those books that you keep reading and hoping it will get better. It did not. Now I just feel annoyed at how much time I wasted. It was really just a book about prison life.
Feb 21, 2008 Kristen rated it it was amazing
This is a really hard book to read due to the content. I picked it up with the intention of reading something that I disagreed with to see if it could sway my opinion. It did. Obviously I don't glorify children who kill by any means, but it does shed light on the other side of the story. This book broke my heart but it was so intriguing that I read it in one night.
Sep 22, 2010 Gaile rated it it was amazing
Shelves: murder, humanism
I had a clear understanding of death by the time I was ten years old. The story of the experience of Mary Bell is most unfortunate as how many adults even remember their childhood? To most of us, it's ancient history but England punishes Mary for a crime she doesn't understand.
Apr 30, 2008 Shea rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in psychology and social impact
This book started really slow and the author belabored some points but it is a very interesting and intriguing subject.
Marie Clifton
Jan 14, 2017 Marie Clifton rated it liked it
I don't normally read true crime and i wasn't sure about reading this.
At first i did have some sympathy for Mary, she did have a hard life..But,, many childrens lives are harder and they don't resort to murder.
I felt the author was trying to sell her as the victim and overlooking the fact that two little boys had lost their lives.
To me Mary came over as manipulative and clever when it suited her.
Maybe i'm just biased i don't know, but at aged 11 i knew right from wrong, my kids know right from w
Jill Bowman
Nov 30, 2016 Jill Bowman rated it it was amazing
An excellent book. I read a lot of books that teach me things but rarely one that makes me think about something enough to change my mind about a long held belief. This book did. I firmly believed that if a child committed an atrocious crime it was because they were 'evil'. After reading this book about Mary Bell, who at 10 years old killed a 2 and a 3 year old I've rethought this position. It's complicated and I could never explain an entire book in a goodreads paragraph - but I got a lot out o ...more
Aug 03, 2016 Electra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-lit
Ma première lecture en tant que jurée du challenge du Meilleur Polar de Points fut celle de l’histoire de Mary Bell, une petite anglaise, condamnée pour le meurtre en 1968 de deux petits garçons. Mary venait tout juste de fêter ses onze ans lorsqu’elle fut reconnue coupable et envoyée pour une période de temps indéterminée en prison.
Gitta Sereny avait découvert l’existence de cette petite fille lors de son arrestation, et avait assisté à son procès – avant de la rencontrer et de publier un premi
Jul 17, 2016 xoSammiDxo rated it it was amazing
To the Author: A beautiful piece of work with immeasurable intentions of good and change for the system dealing with children that commit violent crimes. But the result far reaches beyond into our society as a whole, or humanity, actually, lack there of it. I can't imagine the task of creating of this work and it was done with grace, compassion, wisdom, patience, and tenderness.

To Mary: Who is described throughtout the book as intelligent and articulate must be very much so, extremely intelligen
Alors j'ai reçu ce livre il y a un petit moment maintenant. Je ne voulais pas le lire de suite car j'attendais tout simplement le bon moment. Je savais que cela serait un livre fort en émotion, fort en témoignage de es évènements. Et je suis heureuse d'avoir attendue le bon moment pour le lire car ce fut fort intéressant. Je remercie encore une fois les éditions Plein Jour pour cet envoi. J'ai passé un bon moment en compagnie de cette lecture mais ce ne fut pas un coup de cœur pour ma part.

"If there was one thing in this world I would want for you, I’d give you back your childhood, Mae."
The further you go into the book, the more you feel that way I guess.

Now, I actually have very mixed feelings about this book. Yup, it's a true story, therefore a lot of what is described in this book is most fascinating for sure, but the writing was... quite painful to read. Maybe it would have helped if I read the previous book (The Case of Mary Bell: A Portrait of a Child Who Murdered) before r
Ruth Ann
Aug 26, 2016 Ruth Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was actually interested in two other locally unattainable books by Gitta Sereny titled Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth and Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience. Instead I found Cries Unheard... in my library and I scribbled many notes to remember for writing my review. Now I'm struggling a little bit on what to reveal.

Gitta Sereny died at 91 in 2012. Take a look at her author page on Goodreads.

Did you use my link to read about Gitta Sereny? I think it is important to remember
Ruth Turner

The ebook that I have has so many punctuation errors that it was difficult to read. I often had to reread paragraphs a number of times to clarify what the author was trying to say. Also, notations by the author appear in the middle of sentences all the way through the book.

The story itself was slow to start and, for a good proportion of the book, is rambling and disjointed, and often hard to follow. Again, I had to reread many sentences and paragraphs.

Normally, with a book this bad, I would have
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Gitta Sereny was a journalist, biographer and historian. She passed away in England aged 91, following a long illness.

Gitta attributed her fascination with evil to her own experiences of Nazism as a child of central Europe in the early 20th century. Hers was not a happy childhood. She was born in Vienna, the daughter of a beautiful Austrian actress, whom she later described as "without moral opin
More about Gitta Sereny...

Other Books in the Series

Mary Bell (2 books)
  • The Case of Mary Bell: A Portrait of a Child Who Murdered

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