In the Garden of Spite
A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte
by Camilla Bruce
Release date: January 19th, 2021
I received a complimentary ARC copy of In the Garden of Spite:A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte by Camilla Bruce from NetGalley & Berkley Publishing Group in order to read and give an honest review.
… the author does an excellent job at getting inside the mind of this infamous serial killer…
This will be a challenging book for me to review I’m giving it a 3.5 but rounding it up to 4 stars. Part of me loved this book, but part of me, well…
For the positives, Camilla Bruce does such a fantastic job fictionalizing the story of a real-life serial killer Little Brynhild / Bella Sorenson / Gunnes aka “The Black Widow of La Porte”. Well-written for the most part, the author does an excellent job at getting inside the mind of this infamous serial killer. Bruce’s characters were brilliantly brought to life, perhaps in the case of Bella, a little too well. On the negative side, although I do not shy away from dark books this was even a bit much for me. Warning for those faint of heart, this novel contains graphic violence, murder, dismemberment, sex, arson, child abuse and infanticide. I also found at times it was slow and repetitive which made it a struggle to get into.
The novel follows Little Brynhild/Bella through her young teenage years and into her middle age. We learn about a heartbreaking ordeal she experiences as a young teenager in Norway that leaves wounds that fester driving her to inflict damage onto all those who get close to her. The disconnect she feels towards her family and a rage that she cannot contain, drives Little Brynhild to leave the misery of Norway to join her sister Nellie in America. In America she takes the name Bella Sorenson and is disappointed in her first experience. Bella longs to make a happy and successful life for herself, constantly seeking acceptance from those in her adopted community. Having struggled for respect in Norway she knows what she wants and what she must do to reach the status she desires for her future. Bella is determined to be the perfect self-made, powerful woman and will go to any length, taking matters into her own hands in order to get what she feels she is due.
Being a fairly famous news story, many people who follow true crime are aware of this famous female serial killer, but the author manages to get inside this monster’s head offering the reader a glimpse of what could have driven this woman to such destruction.
It is a well-written engaging fictional interpretation of the workings of this woman’s mind, but it was a little too graphic for my taste, nevertheless an intriguing read.