Book Review

The Truth about Belle Gunness (2017) Review


Truth is often stranger than fiction. The bizarre case of Belle Gunness is a prime example. Her story slips under the radar, and I don’t know the reason she’s lost in history. I’ve been studying serial killers since high school, and I can’t recall reading, watching, or hearing the first word about the Norwegian immigrant who haunted La Porte, Indiana. She might be America’s first female serial killer as she racked up a prolific total during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The overall total is unknown as is the knowledge of what actually happened to the woman. In the 2017 reissue of her 1955 book, The Truth about Belle Gunness: The True Story of Notorious Serial Killer Hell’s Belle, author Lillian de la Torre goes in search of the truth.

I’m not going into specifics, the details, or spoil anything. I never do, and I’m not starting now. If you’re into true crime, serial killers, real life bizarre mysteries, one, two, or all three, you need to read The Truth about Belle Gunness. It’s not a top tier perfect rating, but sits on the next shelf down which is a good place to be. I might as well get the negative out of the way, my sole complaint. There wasn’t a single photograph included. There’s a large cast of characters to keep track of, and a few photographs would be helpful to put a face with a name, especially the main players in this mysterious drama.

I can’t complain about the writing style or how the story flows. There’s no reason to do it. The Truth about Belle Gunness isn’t a sensationalized piece of tabloid journalism. The facts and proceedings are on full display throughout the text, and in chronological order. Speculation and the authors own theory don’t appear until the final chapter. She gives her theory and explains in full how she got her conclusion. If she didn’t give an opinion, it would be a dark spot. A void. It’s there, and in the right place at the right time.

I can’t stress enough what an interesting mystery the case of Belle Gunness is. Why isn’t the story of Belle Gunness well-known among the true crime, serial killer masses? I can’t answer, but I wish I knew. If you’re interested in reading and learning you don’t have to wait. The Truth about Belle Gunness reissue is out there for you to discover.

*I received this as an uncorrected eBook galley from in exchange for this honest review.

Copyright © Drew Martin 2017


6 thoughts on “The Truth about Belle Gunness (2017) Review”

  1. Nice, concise review.

    I’m not actually into true crime, but for some reason I like to read about and listen to people who do.

    Last year, Diane Fanning was the keynote speaker at the Virginia Writers Club annual symposium, and her talk was fascinating (and funny—a bonus!). Just the fact that she would go into prisons to interview serial killers for her work made her an interesting character all by herself. I don’t know if you’ve read anything by her, but if you haven’t, you might want to 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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