The title for Bitch on Wheels by Gregg Olsen comes from a description by one of Sharon’s “colleagues.” Sharon probably never had true friends. Sharon only had feelings for people who could provide benefits to her, either monetarily or connections with those who demonstrated the potential for future exploitation. Those feelings changed from moment to moment. People who initially had feelings of friendship for her would change their perceptions over time as Sharon’s true nature would inevitably emerge. Throughout the story, I wondered if author Olsen was giving an accurate portrayal of Sharon. Her documented actions were deplorable on their face; it was Olsen’s description of Sharon’s acceptance of her own actions that caused me to speculate. If Olsen’s description of Sharon’s self-perceptions is accurate, Sharon is a monster.
This novel is the story of a female “black widow” serial killer, Sharon Nelson. The novel is disturbing from its first section, “Foreword.” The author is fascinated by female serial killers and spends several paragraphs telling us why “we” are fascinated more by female serial killers than their male counterparts. First, I don’t like being included as part of the “we” defined by a person I don’t know and who doesn’t know me, namely Gregg Olsen. Second, I found this sentence offensive. “We like her because she fantasizes and thinks about the kill quite a bit more passionately than her male counterpart.” (Kindle location 59). Other than the offensive “We,” the description of the stereotypical female nature bothered me. Can we not have sensitive male serial killers? I find this story fascinating for many reasons. Of course, the character of Sharon Nelson is a reference point, but I had more interest in the characters she interacted with. What was in their character that allowed Sharon to go undetected, although suspected, for twenty years? To give him credit, after expressing extensively his adoration of the character that is Sharon, Olson makes this point in his last sentence of his “Foreword.”
As a mostly non-fiction book, there is no danger of accidentally posting a spoiler. The pleasure in reading is following the process that led to eventual “justice.” Characters are everything in this novel. There is a type of criminal known as a grifter or con artist, a person skilled in deception, whose abilities are demonstrated in the trust they demand from their victims. Sharon Nelson is that kind of person with an exception. Most con artists don’t kill their targets. Sharon did that, it is not a surprise or spoiler; she is guilty and spending time in prison. Not only did her victims love her, not only did she cause her their deaths, but her story is also remarkable because she did not personally kill her victims. She recruited another person to do the killing for her. The hired assassin killed not for financial gain, although there were insurance money payouts, but because the killer was in love with Sharon. Everyone was in love with Sharon until, especially in the case of other women, they weren’t.
Other than her casual acceptance that the death of others was preferable to her leading a life without money and every desired material good, Sharon’s use of and desire for sex always and in all settings is difficult for me to believe. Sex addiction comes to mind. Although Sharon had children, it seems she cared for none of them. In pursuit of an adventure du jour, Sharon neglected the daily needs of children such as food and basic safety. When asked where one of her young children was, her response was one of “Wait, he will turn up. He always does.” Maybe I have led a sheltered life; I have met exactly one such mother in my life. At least in my case, it did not end up in anyone’s death, but the children led difficult lives. Despite all the recounting of prolific sexual activity, this novel does not have offensive sexual scenes or vocabulary.
Her name was Sharon Lynn Douglas Fuller Nelson Harrelson. Her parents supplied the Douglas, a minister gave her Fuller, an optometrist gave her Nelson, and a firefighter gave her Harrelson. The firefighter and the optometrist died. Sharon didn’t pull the trigger, heave the boulder, or pour the gas from the can and light the match. Gary Adams, one of her lovers, did those things at her order or suggestion. Readers might be amazed at the power of suggestion. Buried in this story is another explicitly stated opinion of the origin of the power that motivated Gary. Discovering these interesting nuggets of information is the fun of reading the novel.
Despite my reservations about the tone expressed in some parts of the novel, this is a well-written interesting novel which I give four Amazon stars. I like crime novels, not all of which involve serial killers, and I am sure I will read more by this author. This novel is available for a free read on Kindle Unlimited.