cover image In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of LaPorte

In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of LaPorte

Camilla Bruce. Berkley, $26 (480p) ISBN 978-0-593-10256-5

Bruce (You Let Me In) takes a mesmerizing look at the murderous career of the real-life 19th-century serial killer Belle Gunness. In 1877, the 17-year-old Gunness is impregnated by a neighbor, Anders, in Selbu, Norway. After she demands marriage, Anders attacks her, causing a miscarriage. Months later, Gunness gets her revenge, fatally poisoning him. She continues to indulge her violent streak after she moves to Chicago in 1881. Her unhappy marriage to Mads Sorensen ends when she poisons him with a cyanide-laced slice of cake. The widow uses the insurance money she collects to buy a farm in Indiana’s LaPorte County, where she adds to her body count, including her second spouse, Peter Gunness. Bruce plausibly reconstructs Gunness’s mental state, including her chilling assessment: “There is nothing unnatural about me.... I am as natural as they come. There are just not many of my kind.” Fans of fictionalized treatments of notorious murderers will be fascinated. Agent: Brianne Johnson, Writers House. (Jan.)