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Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill: The Story of Mary Bell

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,477 ratings  ·  116 reviews
In 1968, at the age of eleven, Mary Bell was tried, and convicted, of manslaughter after the death of two small boys in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Her friend, and neighbour, thirteen-year-old, Norma Bell, no relation, was acquitted. Gitta Sereny attended the trial, and spent the next two years researching, and writing, what has become a classic study, The Case of Mary B ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 15th 2000 by Picador (first published 1998)
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Marissa Hammer Cries Unheard.
After spending 12 years behind bars in 1980, Mary Bell was released from prison with a new identity. She was met with a HUGE media uproa…more
Cries Unheard.
After spending 12 years behind bars in 1980, Mary Bell was released from prison with a new identity. She was met with a HUGE media uproar (people were less than thrilled about her getting out!) so after she got into a normal routine and felt comfortable to talk about her childhood, she published a biography (with help from the author) in 1999/2000. That book is the one I suggest called "Cries Unheard"
I've read both, and I recommend "Cries Unheard" ahead of the other one. The latest news I've heard about Mary Bell (I'll call her that because I obviously don't know her "new" name) is that she's now a Grandmother and is still living happily, and repeatedly says she's "a completely different person" than she once was.
Hope I helped! (less)
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Diane in Australia
Interesting book about an interesting case. The author wrote a previous book about Mary, after the trial, and this is a follow-up, which was based on interviews with Mary, now an adult.

I felt the author truly wanted to help society figure out why kids kill, but I'm not sure she accomplished much towards that goal. She was 77 when she wrote this book (1998), she is a journalist - not a psychologist, and was probably not the best qualified to analyse Mary Bell's motives, etc. In fact, I didn't fee
Jul 09, 2009 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
Feb 19, 2015 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 fina
Sep 12, 2014 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
Jan 15, 2008 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. ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 28, 2007 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.
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
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 strang
Brian Hamilton
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is actually a two hander, the first (and major) section deals with the killing of two toddlers by schoolgirl Mary Bell in 1968. Sereny, in her formal, school headmistress tone, dissects the killings and, rather than plaster bland and cheap sentiments onto Bell (and her friend Norma Bell, who played a lesser part in the killings, perhaps acting as an enabler) Seveny takes a microscopic look at Mary's formative years and her dreadful upbringing.

The murders are gone over in some detail, a
Andrea Hickman Walker
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 27, 2010 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
Feb 21, 2008 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. ...more
Jan 22, 2012 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.
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was endlessly fascinating from a psych perspective. Mary is clearly a sociopath but her descriptions and memories are from a traumatized child's point of view. If you enjoy psychological true crime, this is a must. ...more
Stephanie (Stepping Out Of The Page)
Cries Unheard tells the story of Mary Bell, a girl who was only eleven years old when she was convicted of murdering two boys - aged 3 and 4. Most of my knowledge about Mary Bell comes from my grandmother who lived in the same area as Bell at the time of her crimes and knew both Bell and the victims families. The other knowledge comes from one TV documentary and the small amount of information about the case which is on the internet. Due to the locality of the case, I'm always wanting to learn m ...more
Becca Milsom
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
such an interesting read
Caryn Cady Barnett
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Parts of it read like a psychology textbook and some of it was so jumbled I'd have to reread the section to understand what the author was trying to say. Still, it was interesting to get to the reason behind the crimes and what happened to her afterwards. ...more
Jun 21, 2016 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
Kevin Walsh
May 31, 2014 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
Danny Cassar
Jun 23, 2015 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
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1968 a body of an 8 year old boy was found murdered.
Later Mary Bell (11 years old) and her friend Norma Bell (13 years old) no relation.
Are arrested and tried for the murder of two little boys.

The books follows the arrest with statements for people involved and with Mary Bell herself telling her side of the story.

I found this book hard to read Norma was found not guilty for both murder and Mary was found guilty of both. I don’t disput the ruling. Mary did kill them.

But to try an 11 year old
Ellis Amdur
Jan 14, 2015 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
Jan 29, 2009 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
The Final Chapter
Feb 25, 2010 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 19, 2013 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
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime
An excellent, penetrating look into Mary Bell's murders, committed when she was only 10. Written by the only journalist Mary trusted, who worked on this book in conjunction with Mary herself. VERY hard to put down. Starts with a series of interviews Gitta Sereny did with the infamous preteen murderer, Mary Bell, shortly after her mother died, freeing her to speak without interference. Very insightful, with an almost miraculous ending. ...more
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't tell you how much I love Gitta Sereny's work. She had this deep compassion for her subjects, even though she focuses on difficult topics. Her sympathy seeps through her writing and draws you in to the most difficult of subjects. This book investigates chid killers and the way they are treated by the Justice system, using Mary Bell's story as its basis. In the end, I think Sereny makes a pressing case for a different approach to children who commit serious crimes. ...more
Jun 04, 2008 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. ...more
Gareth Schweitzer
Oct 17, 2015 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.
Sep 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humanism, murder
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. ...more
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Gitta Sereny was an Austrian born 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 "wit

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