Too Many Crimes, Too Many Characters

Murder is Secondary (A Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mystery) by Diane Weiner is one in a series of nine novels. The About the Author section notes this is a cozy mystery. I have never been sure what that is. In searching for a definition, I found that there is generally an almost absence of sex and violence but there is some sort of mystery that is supposed to appeal to intelligent women. Also, the mystery typically takes place in a community where everybody knows everybody. This sounds like the TV series Murder She Wrote. I hope no one minds if I occasionally spy on what intelligent women are reading.

For Whom the Belle Tolls

Hell’s Princess by Harold Schechter is the well-researched story of the mystery of Belle Gunness, a butcher of men. I note that she was “a” butcher of men, not “the” butcher of men or even the title without an article. Belle was a serial killer, one of many in history and to date. She was notable for several reasons. She was “she;” female serial killers were and are disproportionately few compared to males. Women nurtured; they did not “knock people off.” Second, Belle was unusually cruel in her kill methods and selection of targets. They were not strangers; her victims were husbands, lovers, and included her own children. Finally, she operated in a time and environment that we look back upon from the present day as a time of innocence, a closely interactive environment where people trusted the common good in each other, where such things just didn’t happen.