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


Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce


“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is: The Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce:


Over a hundred years ago, the citizens of F- did something rather bad. And local school teacher Catherine Evans has made writing the definitive account of what happened when Lisbeth Clark drowned in the well her life’s work.

The town’s people may not want their past raked up, but Catherine is determined to shine a light upon that shameful event. For Ilsbeth was an innocent, after all. She was shunned and ostracised by rumour-mongers and ill-wishers and someone has to speak up for her. And who better than Catherine, who has herself felt the sting and hurt of such whisperings?

But then a childhood friend returns to F -. Elena is a successful author whose book, The Whispers Inside: A Reawakening of the Soul, has earned her a certain celebrity. In search of a new subject, she takes an interest in the story of Ilsbeth Clark and announces her intention to write a book about the long-dead woman, focusing on the natural magic she believes she possessed.

And Elena has everything Catherine has not, like a platform and connections and no one seems to care that Elena’s book will be pure speculation, tainting Ilsbeth’s memory rather than preserving it. Catherine is determined that something must be done and plots to blunt her rival’s pen. However she had not allowed for the fact that the past might not be so dead after all – that something is reaching out from the well, disturbing her reality.

Before summer’s over, one woman will be dead, the other accused of murder… but is she really guilty, or are there other forces at work? And who was Ilsbeth Clark, really? An innocent? A witch? Or something else entirely?

Expected publication : September 2022

Friday Face Off : Dressed to kill


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.

Woot – wifi is restored.  I will be catching up with comments and blog hopping slowly but surely 😀

This week’s theme:

Dressed to kill

This week I’ve gone for a very recent read by an author I’m really enjoying reading.  Being a new book there aren’t a lot of covers but I feel like the book and the covers really fit the theme – of course you’d need to pick up a copy to find out why that is.  Don’t be fooled by the character’s seemingly sweet and respectable appearance – she is anything but.  A chilling read that takes you into the mind of a serial killer.  This is also a book with two different titles – which do you prefer:

Do you have a favourite?

I’ve updated the list now to include themes for next year.  If you know of an event that’s coming up let me know and I’ll try and include covers that work for the event itself so that you can link up to the Friday Face Off and, as always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.  Also, I would just mention that it’s very possible that some of these might be repeats from previous FFOs although I have tried to invent more ‘open ended’ prompt that can be interpreted differently and also prompts that relate to emotions.  Finally, don’t struggle with any of these, this is meant to be a fun way of highlighting books.  If you can’t come up with a book you think fits for a particular week use a freebie – perhaps a recent read for example:

Next Week : Sunbathing or on the beach



27th – Sunbathing or on the beach

September (RIP event)

3rd – 1920s feel, noir detective

10th – I’m Henry the Eighth I am – let’s look at Kings or other Emperors/rulers

17th – Books with ‘Murder’ in the title

24th – A favourite thriller


1st – A Halloween read

8th – Chills – anything at all that almost makes you too scared to pick up the book (your own pet hate)

15th – Your favourite book of magic

22nd – Books with ‘Queen’ in the title

29th – Must be gothic

November – Sci Fi Month

5th – Your earliest sci-fi read or the first sci-fi you reviewed

12th – A book with ‘star’ in the title

19th – Futuristic vista

26th – A Black Hole – in the universe or going deep into the ground


3rd – Windswept, the classic figure, stood majestically, with wind blowing out in a fetching way

10th – A fairytale retold

17th – Winter Solstice approaching – anything cold and seasonal

24th – All things fire – red hair, red covers, fire breathing dragons, simply fire?

31st – What’s your catnip – if it’s on a cover you have to pick it up

Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce

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


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

December Countdown, Day 18 : Christmas Cards

December book meme (details here).  Christmas Cards – a book with a message :

you let me in

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