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

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  12,440 ratings  ·  1,245 reviews

“A deeply researched and morbidly fascinating chronicle of one of America’s most notorious female killers.” —The New York Times Book Review

An Amazon Charts bestseller.

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

Kindle Edition, Kindle in Motion, 334 pages
Published April 1st 2018 by Little A
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Katya Kazbek Did the same for me. But another book I'm currently reading also stopped updating. So I think it might be goodreads.…moreDid the same for me. But another book I'm currently reading also stopped updating. So I think it might be goodreads.(less)
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Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
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 cou
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
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, true-crime
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. ...more
Katie B
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 a
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it
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 wa
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well researched and written account of the brutal murders perpetrated by that rare enigma, the female serial killer.
Ronald Keeler
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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 ...more
Susan Snodgrass
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Ghost of the Library
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 resea
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 under ...more
Katya Kazbek
Mar 16, 2018 rated it did not like it
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 ...more
Mike Bevel
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
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 spe
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 Gunne ...more
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!
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
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. :-)
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 v
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 re
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 en
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
The strange and brutal murders of at least 9 people in La Porte, Indiana in the early 2oth 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 afte ...more
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cjsreads
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
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

"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
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!
Erin Dunn
Apr 08, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I’m interested in this, but had to DNF because the writing isn’t for me.
Interesting book about Bele Gunness and her murder farm. This case was intriguing on how she lured men into her house to then murder them. They weren't sure if she was killed in the end or if she escaped. Did that fire take her out or did she get away? That is one of the mysteries of this murderer. It amazes me how she was able to get away with all these killings. It also leaves one with a sense of injustice that she was able to not only kill men and women but children as well. Why she wasn't fo ...more
Apr 07, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 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 informati ...more
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 ...more
I need to concede, right out of the gate, that if you are a True Crime purist -- one of my brethren who need their True Crime books to focus on the crimes and the criminal -- Hell's Princess might be a disappointment.

Harold Schechter -- and this is why I love him -- is more an historian of the American mid-west than a true True Crime author. Yes, he uses True Crime as his milieu, but he uses it to tell the untold stories of the American experience from the perspective of smaller communities infl
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.
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Aka Jon A. Harrald (joint pseudonym with Jonna Gormley Semeiks)

Harold Schechter is a true crime writer who specializes in serial killers. He attended the State University of New York in Buffalo, where he obtained a Ph.D. A resident of New York City, Schechter is professor of American literature and popular culture at Queens College of the City University of New York.

Among his nonfiction works are

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53 likes · 12 comments
“In comparing Belle to Jack the Ripper as a murderer driven by bloodlust and employing a signature MO, this anonymous expert accurately identified her as the type of homicidal maniac for which no name had yet been coined: what a later age would call a serial killer.” 9 likes
“She held him spellbound,” he went on, then let out a ragged breath. “So he went to his death.”[” 9 likes
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