All the Blood We Share by Camilla Bruce

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Reimagining of Sinister Serial Killers


Well, if it doesn’t sound too hideous to say that I enjoyed a sinister reimagining of a family of serial killers, I will say that this was a very good read.  Perhaps not the kind of read that’s going to bring a smile to your face or give you any laugh out loud moments, but definitely a compelling tale that you read with ever increasing shock that is heightened even more with the realisation that this family really existed and spread misery across the Kansas plains with their low regard for life.

This is a reimagining of real life events penned by a wonderful author who clearly has an interest and has researched the subject well.  It’s positively gripping and a little bit like watching a dreadful trainwreck.

It was a sad day for Cherryvale, Kansas when the Benders came to stay.  Trying to leave a dark past behind they arrive on the prairie where they set up an Inn and dry goods store.  The females of the family are not entirely happy with this new start, wanting to go further afield, but William Bender believes they can make a living being so near to a frequently used trail and so begins a short and bloody spell in America’s history.

The Bender family consist of a young woman, attractive and persuasive, known as Kate.  Her mother Elvira who shares a love/hate relationship with her daughter, Elvira’s new husband William and William’s son John.  Although the four originally intend to keep a low profile in Kansas they soon become impatient with the slow progress of their savings and begin to murder and rob the travellers who stop at their Inn seeking a room or sustenance.  Put bluntly they soon become greedy, Kate, as I mentioned is a persuasive character and convinces her step father that the angels talk to her, her bloodlust needs satisfying and William is happy to be persuaded.  Elvira, whilst not entirely happy with the killings and unkeen to draw attention, is at the same time greedy enough not to make a real stand.  Then we have John.  Besotted with Kate he plays a moody and aggressive character who is capable of shocking violence in order to impress.  Along with the Benders we have an alternative voice in Hanson who lives at the nearby trading post.  He visits the family regularly and gives a great outside perspective, particularly as he goes from the blushing boy who has a crush on his attractive new neighbour, to a frightened boy scared by the killings, to a suspicious boy who doesn’t want to believe the worst.

I’m not going to really go into the plot but look at what worked well for me.

Well, firstly, this is a gripping story, it’s bloody and shocking and doesn’t hold back the punches so be aware of that.  I found it pretty horrific but at the same time unputdownable.  On top of this I think the author does a first rate job of creating a tense atmosphere what with the bloodlust and fear and on top of that the fact that the family don’t absolutely trust each other, definitely makes for an edgy read.  And there’s a great sense of place, the open plains and remoteness all playing into the story and lulling the family into a false sense of security.

Without doubt though I think Kate is the winning element of the story.  She’s so bad.  Always ready with an easy lie and a sweet smile she has no problem wrapping people around her finger and coupled with her constant scheming, dark moments of lust and remarkable lack of empathy she makes for a very strong leading lady.  Happily though, although Kate steals the show the other characters are a strong supporting cast.

Overall this was a quick read, the pacing was really well done and Bruce manages to give you that feeling of ever mounting dread.  The murders themselves are almost coldly and cleanly delivered which probably makes them a bit less gruesome than they already are and the characters create an immediate hook to keep you reading.

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

My rating 4 of 5 stars

6 Responses to “All the Blood We Share by Camilla Bruce”

  1. readinginthewildwood

    Hmmm I might have to add this to my tbr. Great review!

  2. pagesandtea

    This has been on my radar since I read Tammy’s review. Glad you enjoyed it, if ‘enjoyed’ is the right word?! I’ve been reading more gruesome things lately with the Chris Carter series so hopefully wouldn’t find this too much. The fact that it’s based on real events though, that’s the slightly unsettling part.

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    I recently read this one and found it just as riveting as you did. What struck me more than anything was the fact that serial killers are not a phenomenon limited to our times….
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. Tammy

    I really enjoyed this too. Not my favorite of her books, but I have yet to read anything I didn’t like of hers.

  5. Susy's Cozy World

    I have yet to try this author, but I have two of her books on my TBR and this one is one of them. They are a bit outside my comfort zone but I am mighty intrigued for sure and your review made me even more eager to get started!

  6. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    This was a fascinating read for me, I didn’t like it as much as In the Garden of Spite, but I loved the history. And agreed, it pulled no punches!

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