The Essay Project 2018: Joan Didion, the right writer for this time in my life.
Labor Day Reading List 2018.

Teeny Tiny Review: Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men.

I did not like Harold Schechter's True Crime/history book Hell's Princess, about serial killer Belle Gunness.

The story is unpleasant (of course): Norwegian immigrant Belle Gunness was able to procure a farm and some acreage in Indiana in the late nineteenth century, and using that land as bait, she coerced men who were looking for a farm to invest in (or perhaps the farm's owner to marry) into coming to live with her, at which point she murdered them, took their money, and then dispensed of their bodies by chopping them up and burying (some of them, at least) in her hog yard.

Yes, I know. Most people reading that description are simply asking, "I'm sorry, how can you read True Crime? I just don't get it." And that's fair. But mostly, I find True Crime interesting, and I learn a lot from it. And, in all honesty, I don't find reading about crimes that really happened any more disturbing than reading fiction thrillers or mysteries, in which authors sit down and dream up horrific crimes so that people can read them and be entertained. (So there.) But I digress.

The story seems rather straightforward, which is one of the reasons I was surprised that I couldn't follow Schechter's narrative very well. It seemed to jump around oddly, chronologically, which is usually okay with me, but for some reason I just couldn't follow the timeline of crimes, basic character details like how many children Gunness had or what happened to them, and how the crimes were eventually discovered and investigated.

Also, the index is a mess, which really bugs me, because I firmly believe that any work of history, True Crime stories, included, should have good indexes. At one point I was looking up Gunness's daughter, to find out if anyone ever truly knew what happened to her (that is how confused I was by the book), and found her under two separate name headings, with different page number references. That's just plain sloppy indexing of a proper name, which is really one of the most basic things an index can provide.