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How does a Norwegian farm girl become an infamous American serial killer, responsible for upward of 40 murders? Born in rural Norway in 1859, "Belle" Storset Sorenson Gunness was constantly dealt bad hands in life—so she decided to take life into her own hands.
In America's Femme Fatale: The Story of Serial Killer Belle Gunness, Jane Simon Ammeson traces Gunness's path from a poor teenager rejected by a wealthy lover; to a new wife in Chicago, desperate to escape the poverty of her childhood and impatient for a child to love; to an ambitious, widowed landowner in La Porte, Indiana. Ammeson's careful research reveals how the young immigrant slowly turned into one of America's most dangerous serial killers, allegedly murdering husbands, lovers, and children, and, for a price, disposing of inconvenient corpses for others. Ammeson brings this shocking story to life, detailing the suspicious neighbors who were cowed into silence by Belle's intimidating personality, the culture of orphanages trafficking children and matrimonial agencies, the carnival atmosphere that exploded around the pile of bones found on Gunness's farm, and the sensational reporting that filled newspapers for months.
Perfect for true crime fans fascinated by the creation of a sociopathic serial killer, America's Femme Fatale will leave you entertained and looking over your shoulder.
4 out of 5 (very good)
AMERICA'S FEMME FATALE is the story a female serial killer who did it for the money, or to keep people quiet or from looking at her too closely. Belle is cold-hearted, cold-blooded, and sadly in my mind, managed to get away with it.
We follow her from her teenage years in Norway, to her going to America. The book is full of photos of Belle herself, plus other people and situations relevant to the story. I do believe that part of the reason she was able to get away with so many murders was, quite simply, the time in which she lived. I would hope and pray that something to this magnitude wouldn't happen in this day and age.
Although this book has been incredibly well-researched, it was a bit dry and confusing in places. At one point, we make a segue into highlights of the lives of some of her victims which I found to be unnecessary to the story, as it didn't make it any clearer. I personally would have enjoyed it more to stick with the main part of the story.
There were a couple of editing mistakes that I found, but nothing to take away from the story itself. Just a change of name, for example.
An interesting read about someone I hadn't heard of before, and definitely recommended by me.
** same worded review will appear elsewhere **
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
Jane Simon Ammeson is a freelance writer who specializes in travel, food and personalities. She writes frequently for Times of Northwest Indiana, Edible Michiana, Kentucky Living magazine, Lakeland Boating, MexConnect, Long Weekends Magazine, Travel Indiana, Indianapolis Monthly, and the Herald Palladium where she has a weekly food column. Her Touch Screen Travel app "Best Of Indiana" will be online soon. She writes the monthly marketing column for the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). She is a book reviewer for the New York Journal of Books.
She also writes the book review column Shelf Life for the Times of Northwest Indiana, has authored 14 books including Lincoln Roadtrip: The Backroads Guide to America’s Favorite President, winner of the Bronze Award in the 2019-20 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition in the Travel Book category.
Her historic true crime books include How to Murder Your Wealthy Lovers and Get Away With It: Murder and Mayhem in the Gilded Age, Murders That Made Headlines: Crimes of Indiana and A Jazz Age Murder in Northwest Indiana. She is also the author of other books such as Hauntings of the Underground Railroad: Ghosts of the Midwest, Brown County, Indiana, Holiday World with Pat Koch, and East Chicago. Jane’s base camp is Stevensville, Michigan on the shores of Lake Michigan.