Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce

My Five Word TL:DR Review: One Word Will Suffice: Brilliant

Triflers

Fairly recently I was delighted to discover Camilla Bruce when I read her excellent debut You Let Me In so I was so happy when I saw her most recent work Triflers Need Not Apply (or, In the Garden of Spite as it is also known) become available.  To be honest, the two books couldn’t be more different if they tried but one element they undoubtedly share is excellent writing and the ability to hold you gripped, mesmerised even.

Firstly, I have to hand it to the creator of both titles because they’re  so pertinent.  If pressed I’d probably say In the Garden of Spite is my favourite simply because it resonates in more than one way for me in terms of the story but both have their logic.

Moving on, this is a reimagining of the life of a notorious serial killer known as The Black Widow of the Midwest.  To date it is unknown exactly how many people fell victim to her schemes but Bruce does an amazing job of bringing her story to the page.  It’s like watching a disaster unfold – it’s horrible, grisly, bloody and twisted but at the same time creepily hypnotic, you’re simply unable to drag your eyes away.

We start our story with Brynhild Paulsdatter Storset, a young woman born into poverty and hardship.  Her family are unable to afford land instead working the farms of others.  Brynhild has bigger dreams but unfortunately her schemes backfire and she almost dies when she is viciously attacked.  Living in Norway becomes impossible for Brynhild and with help and some hard work she finally escapes to America, reinventing herself in the process and changing her name to Belle.  Belle moves in with her sister Nellie and her husband and child until eventually marrying herself.

Here’s the thing, I’m not going to go any further with the plot.  I think Bruce has done a fantastic job in researching this story and it clearly shows in the attention to detail both in terms of true events and the historical descriptions provided.

So, characters.  Well, Belle is an unusual character.  Being inside the head of a serial killer is not a pleasant experience, quite rightly so, but she certainly is intriguing to read.  I mean, you can’t like her, she’s monstrous, and I didn’t like her, if anything she scared me but there was just this horrible fascination with her thought processes. Strangely enough I usually struggle to read a novel where I don’t like the central character and yet I had no difficulty with this one. There are moments where you feel you can perhaps see how she found herself on this terrible path and there’s a clear demonstration here of the argument of nature vs nurture.  Belle has not had an easy life in many respects.  That being said, as we follow her sister Nellie’s chapters it does become apparent, fairly early on, that something is not quite right with Belle and as we continue to read her chapters you can’t help but see that she is different, and not in a good way, perhaps psychopathic even –  she doesn’t seem to feel remorse or regret, she seems emotionally detached and yet at the same time she integrates into society with ease coming across as virtuous and kind.

Belle’s sister Nellie, as mentioned above, provides alternating chapters which is a positively inspired choice.  Firstly, it gives a little respite from Belle’s twisted line of thinking and roller coaster emotions.  Secondly, it serves to ratchet up the tension as the story moves along and Nellie becomes increasingly worried about her sister’s actions but is too afraid to confront her.

At just shy of 500 pages this isn’t a short novel but I seriously didn’t feel that this was drawn out.  I think I was enjoying the writing, the setting, the details that helped pull me into the time and place and the stylish delivery so much that it never felt over long to me.  Maybe the fact that this is a serial killer that I wasn’t familiar with also helped with that.  I was hooked completely and in fact it was only on reading the author’s note after completion that I realised this was based on a true character. Mind = blown.

Overall, this was a fascinating reimagining of real life events that even to this day remain shrouded in mystery.  And, whilst I realise that this is a fictional account I loved the way the author portrayed the character of Belle.  Positively chilling.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 5 of 5 stars

3 Responses to “Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce”

  1. Tammy

    I agree with everything you said, I loved this! And it was nice for a change to read about a female serial killer, which fascinated me.

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Excellent! I had a feeling this would be right up your street!

  3. Lexlingua

    You had me at “brilliant”. 🙂 Seriously, with a title like that, who wouldn’t want to try this out? But then I learn it’s about a serial killer, and it’s gripping… I am wondering if I can keep this safe till Halloween reading time.

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