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

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  525 ratings  ·  206 reviews

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

Hardcover, 480 pages
Published January 19th 2021 by Berkley
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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Nilufer Ozmekik
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
"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
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feb-2021-reads

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
Jenny Lawson
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
CYIReadBooks (Claire)
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
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
Mogsy (MMOGC)
5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

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
Dec 26, 2020 marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2021
How did they know exactly what I needed right now was historical fiction about an old-timey female serial killer???

Laura Peden
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
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...
Amanda Hupe
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, 2021-reads
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
MaryannC. Book Freak

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
Dec 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found it very well done and loved the book. The author gave the characters stories.
Jess Combs
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Gina Reads
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio2021
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
Crystal Hiatt
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 16, 2021 added it
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. ...more
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
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, netgalley, 2021
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.

Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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.
The Lit Bitch
Feb 15, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 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
”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
Shh... One More Chapter
Jan 31, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1st-past, arc, 2021
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 ...more
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Camilla Bruce was born in central Norway and grew up in an old forest, next to an Iron Age burial mound. She has a master's degree in comparative literature, and have co-run a small press that published dark fairy tales. Camilla currently lives in Trondheim with her son and cat. ...more

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