Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here https://judithbarrowblog.com/
Judith has been reading Pretty Evil New England: True Stories of Violent Vixens and Murderous Matriarchs by Sue Coletta
It’s been a while since I read a non fiction book. Whilst I generally enjoy the genre, it’s usually more to gain knowledge on a certain subject, to read about a particular topic or person. And then move on.
Sue Coletta‘s Pretty Evil New England is a book that will stay in my mind for a long time. I should say at this point, although I never give spoilers when reviewing fiction, I have, below, given some details of each of the five women, the murders and the results of the trials
It is obvious from the beginning that the author has researched these stories extensively. Her attention to detail is remarkable. Not only in that she brings these women to life for the reader, not only in that their crimes are revealed, but the background story of each one gives an insight to the way their characters were formed. Which, in a way, gives the reasons, why it was almost inevitable, that they became murderers.
The author gives a voice to each of the woman. It’s quite chilling to hear the way they saw the world and their victims. The reasons they say why they chose their victims are varied; suffice it to say, it only shows how evil they were.
The book is divided into five sections, dealing with each woman: Jane Toppan, truly frightening in the caring facade she presented to society for so long. Wicked in her careless reasoning for the deeds she carried out – for the way she discarded the deaths of some. Reading between the lines of the author’s writing, I thought Lydia Sherman was a a sociopath with little empathy for those around her. Again, a woman with veneer of compassion in public life that hides her true vicious character. Nellie Webb was a conundrum; well educated and religious, she stood trial as a poisoner but was not convicted ( though many doubted her innocence) Afterwards, together with her husband, she vanished. Her grave was never found. Sarah Jane Robinson, in debt and desperate for the payment from insurance policies, nevertheless, gave the appearance of a compassionate woman.who gathered her own and others’ families around her but she was a woman who claimed to have dreams of loved ones dying. And then they did. After the trial, she lived the rest of her life in solitary confinement. Harriet Nason was a solitary person by choice, viewed by many in the community with distrust. Although shown through the author’s research to be almost certainly the murderer of four people, she was found not guilty.
For me, Sue Coletta’s writing style keeps the reader enthralled. Her attention to detail is impeccable; she presents the court transcripts, newspaper articles, the interviews with the women against the background of the era at the time, and reveals the society they lived in.
I must give a mention to the illustrations and photographs. Excellently portrayed and placed to add a grim reality to the text.
And I loved the cover.
This is a non fiction book that will fascinate any reader who loves both fictional and real life crime. Thoroughly recommended.
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.