Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #TrueCrime #NonFiction PRETTY EVIL NEW ENGLAND by @SueColetta1

Today’s team review is from Robbie, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Robbie has been reading Pretty Evil New England: True Stories of Violent Vixens and Murderous Matriarchs by Sue Coletta


I have always been interested in true stories about people behind ghost stories. Most myths and legends about ghostly sightings involve a person who has died badly at the hands of a third party, although a few are suicides. It seem that people who die as a result of murder are generally believed to become vengeful and become trapped in the spirit world due to a desire for revenge on their murderer.

Recently, I have turned my attention from the murdered to the murderer and I have been reading a few true story style books about serial killers and child murderers. I am particularly interested in the psychology of people who kill.

When I saw this book, Pretty Evil New England, it fitted exactly into latest reading craze and I was most interested to read the histories of these five women who all murdered continuously and without any remorse.

All of the stories in this book were detailed and well researched and I thought there were a couple of very interesting revelations about the nature of female serial killers crimes. All of them murdered their nearest and dearest including husbands and children. The unmarried women and those without children killed relatives and close friends. I thought that was very intriguing. What kind of a woman kills her own child or son-in-law?

Another interesting fact was that they all used some sort of poison, mainly arsenic, which causes a painful and horrible death. Imagine watching your own daughter suffering from cramps, vomiting and dehydrations as they suffer a horrible death. It was also amazing that none of the attending doctors initially realised the deaths of the victims were due to poisoning. It does seems rather unobservant and surprising, even in those days. I wondered if men’s erroneous concept of all women as homemakers and caregivers was responsible for this lack of vision.

As I read the book, the similarities in the illnesses of the victims became very apparent. Many of the women killed a number of people living in the same house or within the same family, which increased their risk of being caught significantly. If your husband or husbands and your children all die, that is bound to raise suspicion. I can only assume that having got away with murder a few times, these women became over confident and this led to their down falls.

This book covered information that interested me greatly, but it is a non-fiction book and some of the content is a bit dry, especially the detail around the court scenes. The last story also jumped between two different cases which, although there were some similarities, were not connected in any way. Moving between the cases made following the two separate stories confusing for me and, as there was no connecting thread at the end, I didn’t understand why the author chose to write this section in that manner.

Book description

Nineteenth century New England was the hunting ground of five female serial killers: Jane Toppan, Lydia Sherman, Nellie Webb, Harriet E. Nason, and Sarah Jane Robinson. Pretty Evil New England tells the story of these five women, from their humble origins through the circumstances that led to their heinous crimes.

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5 thoughts on “Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #TrueCrime #NonFiction PRETTY EVIL NEW ENGLAND by @SueColetta1

  1. Great review, Robbie. I’ve also read this book; I read it one section at a time – slowly because it is so dense; ‘dry’ facts mixed with emotions ( or strange lack of emotions from the women’s point of view) I found it fascinating.I agree about the last section, but I dipped into it and read each woman’s story separately because it was easier for me. I did wonder if the way it was written was an editor’s choice?

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