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

Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men
By Harold Schechter
Narrated by Malcom Hillgartner
Genre: Serial Killers/Crime & Criminal Biographies
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


“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.”


I am pleased to say that I am really impressed with this book. Biographies are rarely my genre of choice when looking for a good read but I’m very glad I gave this one a chance. It is very well presented in whatever format you choose (print/digital/audio).

Belle Gunness, the woman also known as “Lady Blue Beard” drew me in thanks to Mr. Schechter’s writing and presentation style; oh, and to give credit where credit is due, also to Mr. Hillgartner’s narration. The colorfully detailed exploits of this infamous female serial killer are presented to the reader with a nice rhythm and description that bring the scenes to live in the reader’s minds-eye.  This book is so much more than a simple recounting of this woman’s horrible deeds.

Mr. Schechter presents the information about this legendary serial killer in a story-telling manner and that allows the reader to feel as though they are part of the many detailed investigations rather than simply reading previously published articles which would have made for very dry reading.

Belle Gunness & children

I felt as though I went along on this journey with the victims and the investigators. My heart bled for Belle’s children and I nearly shouted out loud a few times when Belle was talking to investigators about her husband having a meat grinder fall on his head. Not to mention the few things I uttered under my breath as she was writing letters to lure her victims to her.

Had Belle Gunness committed these heinous murders today I really don’t believe she would have gotten away with them. I’d like to think she would have met justice…and perhaps in a sense she did, if she truly died in the fire that consumed her house. But, one of the mysteries still surrounding this scary woman is this…was the decapitated body found in the ruins of her burned house really the body of Belle Gunness, or simply a red-herring allowing her to escape? How does the head of a body that supposedly died in a house fire simply disappear? The heads for all of the other supposed fire victims were present and accounted for…but not Belle’s. That seems just a tad bit too convenient for her…don’t you think?

I for one tend to believe that Belle Gunness intentionally orchestrated the grisly scene to throw the authorities off of her trail. After all, she had a very convenient sacrificial lamb at her disposal in the person of Ray Lamphere and while she may have been cruel and cunning…she was obviously far from stupid.

Ray Lamphere

Who is Ray Lamphere? You’ll have to pick up a copy of the book to find out. I highly recommend you do too; I rate this compelling biography at 5 out of 5 stars.

My personal recommendation is to download the audiobook; I found it to be quite enjoyable and engaging; Mr. Hillgartner has a smooth reading voice and style that really adds to the presentation. However, if you only download the audiobook you’ll miss out on all the pictures in the print or digital book. I feel that the best possible way to really enjoy this book is to download the audiobook as well as the companion eBook (Whispersync enabled).

Get yourself a copy, then tell me what do you believe happened to Belle Gunness? Did she die in the fire or did she escape and continue killing somewhere else?


About Anita Dugan-Moore

This blog gives me the opportunity to talk about the book covers I create for some wonderful authors and share my thoughts on movies and books that I love. Who knows...I may even share some of my own writing on here...or whatever else happens to pop into my mind.
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