A fascinating and dramatic page-turner that will be a new favorite among true-crime fans.

HELL'S PRINCESS

THE MYSTERY OF BELLE GUNNESS, BUTCHER OF MEN

In this depraved story of sex, deception, greed, and murder, a veteran true-crime writer offers the first definitive history of Belle Gunness (circa 1859-1908), the most prolific female serial killer in American history.

In previous books, Schechter (American Literature and Culture/Queens Coll.; Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal, 2015, etc.) trained his shrewd eye for detail and predilection for horror on familiar serial killers like H.H. Holmes (Depraved, 1994) and Albert Fish (Deranged, 1998). Here, the author focuses his expert attention on Gunness, the notorious “Lady Bluebeard” who butchered at least 28 victims at her “murder farm” in La Porte, Indiana, at the beginning of the 20th century. An imposing, severe Norwegian who weighed more than 200 pounds, Gunness immigrated to America in search of a new life far away from the poverty of her youth. Driven by greed and an insatiable hunger for wealth, she used matrimonial ads in immigrant newspapers to lure suitors to her farm, where she would con them out of their money before poisoning them, brutally butchering their remains, and burying them in her hog pen. Ray Lamphere, a hired farmhand who had an affair with Gunness, was one of the only men to leave the farm alive when he was fired in 1908. Lamphere was charged with arson and quadruple murder when the Gunness home was burned down with its owner and her children inside, but the investigation of the fire revealed the true horror: the mass graveyard of Lady Bluebeard’s victims. Schechter interweaves the stories of Gunness and Lamphere with a suspenseful narrative that explores the motives and psychology of murder, the sensational portrayal of gruesome crime in the media, and the terrifying legacy they leave behind. Featuring previously undiscovered details and rich historical context, this authoritative account firmly establishes Schechter as one of America’s leading crime chroniclers.

A fascinating and dramatic page-turner that will be a new favorite among true-crime fans.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4778-0895-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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