Review: Hell’s Princess, The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men – Harold Schechter

Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men by Harold Schechter

Publisher: Little A (April 1, 2018)

Print Length: 334 pages

Audiobook Length: 8 hrs and 53 mins

Narrator: Malcolm Hillgartner

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.

The Review

Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men is a non-fictional novel that tells the story of Belle Gunness, one of the most prolific serial killers to operate out of the United States during the start of the 20th century. 

While I was rather enthralled with the story of Belle and her nefarious ways, Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men was missing something for me. You can tell, right from the get go, that this is a topic that interests Schechter. His research is meticulous, and though I chose to listen to the book on Audible, this fact was not lost on me. The book is told in a linear fashion and tells the story of Belle’s immigration, settling, murders, and ‘death’. I think it is with the theories on her death that Schechter lost me. 

There is an abundance of factual evidence in regards to Belle’s crimes, but, little is known about her death. In one instance, Schechter presents the facts that a body was found in the burnt out farm house that was possibly Belle. However, it is also revealed that there are inconsistencies with the body, and that it could be that Belle escaped prosecution for her grizzly murder spree. This could it, couldn’t it, and the lack of Schechter’s opinion kinda made it hard to believe it one way or another. Also, as mentioned by several other reviewers, Schechter spends an absorbent amount of time focusing on Belle’s physical appearance and how it could have contributed to her homicidal tendencies. This was both unnecessary and discourteous, making me not wanting to pick up future novels by Schechter. 

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. 

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men by Harold Schechter. Have any non-fiction recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.


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