cover image All the Blood We Share: A Novel of the Bloody Benders

All the Blood We Share: A Novel of the Bloody Benders

Camilla Bruce. Berkley, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-593-10259-6

A real-life family of 19th-century killers provides the cast for Bruce’s stellar sophomore effort (after 2021’s In the Garden of Spite). In 1871, Kate Bender’s family flee their comfortable farm in Pennsylvania after one of them kills a local man. Desperate for money in their hardscrabble new home on the Kansas prairie, Kate’s mother, Elvira, concocts herbal remedies, and the Benders offer travelers meals and makeshift lodging. Kate, a gifted performer, is eager to cash in on the spiritualism craze by setting up as a medium, but Elvira argues that courting public recognition is too dangerous. The murder of one of their overnight guests who’s carrying substantial cash proves an easier solution. Plus, the man is a transient, making the crime also low risk. Bruce excels at illuminating the inner life of a family that’s at once roiled by tensions and staunchly loyal; as the Benders often say, “We take care of our own, and the rest can fend for themselves.” First-person chapters from Kate and Elvira are particularly strong in a novel rich with characters as convincing as they are sinister. This is a riveting portrait of the dark side of the American dream. Those intrigued by historical crimes won’t want to miss this one. Agent: Brianne Johnson, HG Literary. (Nov.)