Facebook X YouTube Instagram Pinterest NetGalley
Google Books previews are unavailable because you have chosen to turn off third party cookies for enhanced content. Visit our cookies page to review your cookie settings.

Victorian Murderesses (Hardback)

P&S History > British History > Victorian History P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > True Crime Women of History

By Debbie Blake
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 25 mono
ISBN: 9781399094511
Published: 11th November 2022



You'll be £20.00 closer to your next £10.00 credit when you purchase Victorian Murderesses. What's this?
+£4.99 UK Delivery or free UK delivery if order is over £40
(click here for international delivery rates)

Need a currency converter? Check XE.com for live rates

Other formats available - Buy the Hardback and get the eBook for £1.99! Price
Victorian Murderesses ePub (11.8 MB) Add to Basket £4.99

The Victorian belief that women were the ‘weaker sex’ who were expected to devote themselves entirely to family life, made it almost inconceivable that they could ever be capable of committing murder. What drove a woman to murder her husband, lover or even her own child? Were they tragic, mad or just plain evil?

Using various sources including court records, newspaper accounts and letters, this book explores some of the most notorious murder cases committed by seven women in nineteenth century Britain and America. It delves into each of the women’s lives, the circumstances that led to their crimes, their committal and trial and the various reasons why they resorted to murder: the fear of destitution led Mary Ann Brough to murder her own children; desperation to keep her job drove Sarah Drake to her crime. Money was the motive in the case of Mary Ann Cotton, who is believed to have poisoned as many as twenty-one people. Kate Bender lured her unsuspecting victims to their death in ‘The Slaughter Pen’ before stripping them of their valuables; Kate Webster’s temper got the better of her when she brutally murdered and decapitated her employer; nurse Jane Toppan admitted she derived sexual pleasure from watching her victims die slowly and Lizzie Borden was suspected of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe, so that she could live on the affluent area known as ‘the hill’ in Fall River, Massachusetts.

I love true crime and mysteries, so I'm thrilled that I got to read this book. I was also pleasantly surprised that this book wasn't limited to women in the UK. I got to learn more about Lizzie Borden and Jane Toppan, and I got to discover more women of the era who took fate into their own hands. With how women were oppressed and treated during this time, I'm not surprised at some of these stories. The women were well researched and the facts of their crimes and cases stated eloquently and in come cases, sympathetically. Great read. I will recommend it to people who like history and true crime!

NetGalley, Rae Nason

This was really well written and an intelligent academic take on the realities of life for women in the Victorian age. The book wasn't massively about the murders but more about the women behind the murders as you gain insight into their personal lives which led them to become murders - which in my view only made it that much more fascinating to read.

Overall if you're interested in history and the realities of the Victorian era for women I'd definitely recommend giving it a go.

NetGalley, Gabrielle Flockton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found this book to be very interesting and learned a lot that I did not know prior about the Victorian Era. I did not want to put this down and read it quickly. I've recommended this to several friends. I highly recommend that you read this book.

NetGalley, Ashley Huffman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Yet another Pen & Sword success, this book on the subject of Victorian Murderesses is fascinating, fairly gruesome and an absolute must read for those interested in true crime. The fact that all the killers were women gives one pause as to who is the more violent sex? Debbie Blake writes well and her research is excellent. The stories are gleaned from the US and the UK and are very enjoyable. I highly recommend.

NetGalley, Carol Elizabeth Keogh

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book combines my interests: victorian era, crime and murder. Usually we read about men who kill, so was interesting to read about women who kill, especially in this era, and women were seen as the "fairer sex".
Loved that the author had researched both UK and USA. Also writing about the triggers, what made these women snap and their trials. A fascinating read!

NetGalley, Kerry Foyle

Some ladies are not very nice. Some are downright wicked and some are evil monsters. This book is filled with stories from both sides of the Atlantic of women who killed for a variety of reasons. Some were looking for wealth. Others killed because the victims were inconvenient. Some, like Lizzie Borden, remain a conundrum- acquitted in court but not in the court of public opinion. And others killed for the sheer joy because they could.

Even the most intelligent of them, and some were very cunning, they always had faith in their ability to avoid consequences. Invariably, they were wrong. The stories are gruesome and fascinating at the same time. Certainly the final story in the book makes the reader wonder where the line between insanity and evil exists. I am not sure that more than a hundred years later we are any closer to a definitive answer. Four purrs and two paws up.

NetGalley, Susan Johnston

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One my favourite periods of history is Victorian era and I find it have been one the fascinating eras for true crime. I was quickly pulled in and was fascinated with each case. I found the book to be well researched, well written and easy to follow and I enjoyed reading the back stories of the women along side their crimes.

If you like reading about true crime, Murder, history then read this.

NetGalley, S Ballinger

I quite enjoyed this look into the women who killed during the Victorian era. We almost always hear about the men so this was quite refreshing to show that women could be just as deadly in many ways. Looked to be well researched and was a good read with the tone.

NetGalley, Ashli Meynert

This book was both fascinating and insightful. Most books, documentaries and films focus on male criminals, male killers, so it was really interesting to have a whole book devoted to female crimes. Some I had heard of, some I had never heard of and ended up doing a deep dive on. Had the perfect amount of both historical reference and details and managed to still be a very quick-paced unputdownable book. Really enjoyed it!

NetGalley, Jessica Mayhall

Queen Victoria didn't like breast-feeding her son the Prince of Wales who was born in 1841. So she employed a "wet nurse" to breast-feed the little boy. Mary Brough was employed to do the job and all went well until alcohol was detected in the milk. Mary got the sack and so started her life of crime.
A new book, Victorian Murderesses (Pen and Sword), tells the sad story how and why she murdered six children. Put on trial, the jury delivered a verdict of not guilty on the grounds of insanity to be admitted to Bethlem Hospital where she died from "paralysis resulting from apoplexy" in 1861.
This is just one of the book's seven 19th century murder stories selected from the UK and from America. One woman married a series of men, got them insured, poisoned them to death with arsenic before collecting the insurance pay-off. Her hanging for murder is described in some detail.
One family in early America opened up a kind of rest centre on a well-used trail for wealthy travellers. While they ate one of the family would smash in their heads with a hammer, steal the money before burying the victim at the back of the premises. Eventually next of kin became suspicious but while investigations were in progress, the murder family split up, with the loot, and were never heard of again.
Author Debbie Blake has selected an interesting subject for her book but, unless the reader is interested in court room dramas, it's quite a task to plough through the pages of retold newspaper accounts and coroners' court hearings.

Terry Sutton

It is 5 stars from me for this one – a must read for fans of true crime and the Victorian era to give a different view

Read the Full Review Here

Donna's Book Blog

I love true crime and was excited for this book. It did not disappoint. The tales were well laid out and left me a bit shocked at times. It is very obvious that women were not the weaker sex.

NetGalley, Dawn Tarrant

Amazing case studies of true crime that shocked the world in that era. Brilliant!

Books Monthly

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Thoroughly enjoyable and well written. Each murder is written great detail. The author shows great respect for the stories.

NetGalley, Angela gonzales

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Having just read a new Jack the Ripper book prior to requesting this, I was definitely in the mood for some historical murder and seeing this pop up was perfect. Enjoyed rereading stuff about women I knew and learning stuff about women I've never heard of. All in all, stay away from women named Mary is what this book taught me. Ha!

NetGalley, Jennifer Christensen

I was so intrigued by this book! I knew a few of the stories, but for the most part I didn't know any of the information presented here. It was very well researched, and felt like I was listening to my favorite podcast as I was reading. My favorite portion of these stories was the backstory given for each of the women.

NetGalley, Jordan Caldwell

A new true crime book that did not disappoint. The cases were well selected and researched and I enjoyed the read. A couple of the cases I had read about previously and a couple I had heard of but was interested to learn more derails about from this book. There were also some new cases to me that I hadn't heard of before which was great!

Interesting cases from both Britain and the U.S. which true crime fans will enjoy.

NetGalley, Natalie Gardner

A good book if you enjoy true crime books involving women who murder.

Read the Full Review Here

The History Fella

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

'Victorian Murderesses" definitely provides a different view of Victoria women. Whether their targets are husbands, children, or random acquaintances, these women committed cruel murders and showed little to no remorse. I found it interesting that several were found not guilty due to insanity even though the evidence clearly did not support this. I was also impressed with the amount of detail that the author was able to provide for each case. It was very well researched and explained. This definitely worth a read if you are a true crime fan.

NetGalley, Kendra Carter

I have always been interested in historical true crime. Victorian Murderesses outlines seven cases from the United States and Britain. The seven women accused of murder were Sarah Drake, Mary Ann Brough, Mary Ann Cotton, Kate Bender, Kate Webster, Lizzie Borden, and Jane Toppan.

This book was well-researched and written in a concise interesting manner.

NetGalley, Janelle Hoos

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I was intrigued by this which is why I chose to read it.
I'm so glad I did.
Incredibly well researched I learned loads.
Highly recommend .

NetGalley, Maria Martignetti

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating information on some well known murderesses and some I've never heard of. Each person was covered in enough detail to make you feel you knew their story or to whet your appetite to find out more.
An easy read

NetGalley, sadie powell

I don’t know why I don’t read more non-fiction. This collection of crimes committed by Victorian Murderesses held my attention and got my imagination running wild. The Victorian era has always fascinated me. It’s an age that we can’t quite grasp our heads around. The medicine, the way of life, the clothing, and the evil deeds that women committed had me in a trance. The belief at that time was that women couldn’t commit violent acts, they were motherly, and caring and if driven to act then it was through the means of poisoning – that was a woman’s method. How wrong they were!

Each of these dastardly evil women is given their own chapter and I liked the mix of UK and US geography. The writing was brilliant, and the research dedicated to each woman shone through like the light at the end of the tunnel.

NetGalley, Yvonne Miller

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am a big fan of true crime. These stories are true crime from a totally different era. Life was nothing like it is today so you get a real peek into what life was like back in this time and guess what! I'm not surprised that women turned into murderesses!
Great storytelling!

NetGalley, Carla Hafer

Insightful and interesting. An interesting account of Victorian murderesses that will interest any true crime or history fan. This book was so entertaining and informative!

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The true stories of these seven women and their crimes breaks all preconceived notions of women who murder. The time frame is the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries when women were considered too weak and timid to commit murder, but indeed they did. Conventions said that if women did commit murder, it would be with poison, six out of seven of these women used violent means. And a woman would never harm her children, sadly that was untrue too. The stories are horrifyingly real.
Debbie Blake has done an excellent job of presenting these women and their crimes in such a manner that you want to know more. Maybe there should be another book. I'd certainly read it.

NetGalley, Denice Langley

This book was exceptionally well written, highlighting the lives and crimes of seven notorious female murderers in both Britain and in the United States. Some names were familiar, others were brand new to me, but I greatly enjoyed reading this before bed as a little Halloween-time spooky time. Definitely check this out if you are fans of history and true crime!

NetGalley, Kelsey Fischer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Ms. Blake succeeded in making this true crime stories extremely interesting and informative. Each chapter is dedicated to a murderess who lived (and killed) during the Victorian era, either in the US or the UK. The chapters (and the murderesses) are in chronological order.

The author guides the reader through time and places via an in-depth analysis of each story and crime, thanks to the details she retrieved about every murderess, her life and the trial she faced.

What I especially loved about Ms. Blake's work is the accurate historical account she gives: from an hisorical point of view, she doesn't give anything for granted, allowing every reader to contextualize the murderess and her crime, even without having any specific history background. In doing so, her approach is also highly didactical: honestly, without Ms. Blake's historical breakdown, as an Italian who only studied the history of the English-speaking countries superficially, I would probably never have known anything about the New Poor Law Act introduced in the UK in 1834 or the consequences of the Homestead Act issued by Lincoln in 1862.

Oh, and if you've heard that women usually kill by poisoning and for crimes of passion, brace yourselves: there is much more to be learnt in this book!

NetGalley, Roberta Giampetruzzi

As a huge fan of historical fiction, I definitely enjoyed these stories that prove that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

NetGalley, Amanda Gaines-Borders

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I loved Victorian Murderesses! I am a big true crime fan, and I hadn't heard of most of these cases, which is always a bonus for me. It is written well, and kept my attention throughout. I loved how in depth Debbie Blake went into each case. It was really well done. I even felt sympathy for a few of the women in the book, which is usual for me when reading true crime. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from Blake!

NetGalley, Michelle Rich

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a fantastic read this was. These women were to say the least dastardly but to know that some escaped really getting fair judgement was amazing. Since I read this I have gone on to read more about some of these women and in so doing have found other particular nasty murderesses'.
A great interesting read but at parts it needs to be said the descriptions may upset anyone who is fainthearted.

NetGalley, Sandra Miller

Blake writes an informative, entertaining and thought-provoking true crime story that provided me with new cases I hadn’t heard of, while adding some previously unknown information to the well-known, infamous cases, all with the backdrop of female inequality in one of my favourite historical eras. “Murderesses” is a whole new take on true crime, and I loved Blake’s creativity.

NetGalley, Erin Clemence

If you’re a huge fan of Investigation Discovery and/or you can’t get enough of true crime shows, check this one out. The forerunners of modern murderesses were much more ferocious and blatant than you may think.

NetGalley, Ann Dudzinski

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My goodness!

This book is absolutely intriguing! My mouth fell open quite a few times while reading it. I could not believe these women were, in my opinion, hell unleashed on earth. Yes, all their stories were shocking but what made it utterly horrific was the fact that you were very aware that THESE STORIES WERE ALL TRUE! Not fictional! I think I got a few white hairs because of it. They sliced and diced and poisoned as if it was a normal, everyday occurrence and what left me most horrified was that some of them murdered little babies and children without so much as blink of the eye. They were determined to get what they wanted and did not care about who stood in their way. I was very disturbed by this but somehow, I could not stop reading the book. I entered a realm that I never do in my reading world. I am glad I read this book as it opened my eyes to horror of what people can do without any remorse.

This was a fantastic read right before Hallowe'en. It's up there with "Carmilla" which I recently read and reviewed. The writing and tone and true stories all worked together in unison.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC! I HIGHLY recommend "Victorian Murderesses."


NetGalley, Mary-Lisa Russo

This book seems to be well researched and a gripping read, the stories may be short but they hold a massive punch.

NetGalley, PaigeLauren forrester

Overall, this was a fascinating, quick read that contained interesting insights into some of the most notorious murderesses of the Victorian Era in England and America. I recommend this work to readers interested in true crime and this period of history.

NetGalley, Abi McCoy

This was an interesting selection of well-researched true-life stories of Victorian female murderers. I particularly enjoyed the back stories of the women providing context for their crimes.

NetGalley, Melanie Caldicott

These are true stories to keep you awake at night! Real life accounts of Victorian murderesses you have probably never heard of before. Not for the faint hearted these include the court records, police reports, newspaper articles letters etc.

NetGalley, Books in Wales

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Victorian women weren't supposed to even be aware of evil let alone harbour evil thoughts and worse yet, act on them. Victorian Murderesses details several nineteenth century American and British women who for various reasons committed the most heinous crimes imaginable. Motives were often financial as women had no means of their own and therefore had to do what they could to keep their children and themselves alive. Unless, of course, they killed their children for insurance or retaliation. Some killed for "love", others for sexual gratification and still others for the sake of killing.

Children in boxes, body parts in bags, people hacked to death or injected with an atropine/morphine solution to teeter on the brink of death only to be revived only to suffer through it again and again at the whim of an evil nurse who had patients' lives in her hands. Arsenic was cheap and readily available. Various households were deemed "unlucky" with several deaths and doctors could not always pinpoint the cause. A few of the women were respectable and respected such as prolific killer Nurse Jane Toppan who was an asset in surgery yet with unquestioned access to drugs relished the thrill of the kill, especially enjoying her victims' last breath. A family of killers attacked victims for their horses and other belongings. These violent crimes are just a few contained in this book. All sickening, all bewildering.

The information contained within is based on interviews, newspaper clippings, court records and letters. Back stories are given for each woman, their circumstances which drove them to kill, their methods of killing and their reasons. Some were never caught, others hung(some by notorious Calcraft who often botched hangings) while still others sent to lunatic asylums and workhouses. I like that the afters are described as well from courtroom drama, the appearance of the condemned ad the sensation the cases caused; some stories even include sad stories about affected family members who had to suffer for their mothers' despicable deeds. A few extolled the virtues of prison life with good food and safety.

True Crime readers would find this book informative and fascinating but it is not for the faint of heart as details are graphic and disturbing. Reading a chapter and doing something else before returning back to it is ideal.

My sincere thank you to Pen & Sword for the privilege of reading this difficult yet important book, giving us glimpses into the lives of these women.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

A deeply interesting and enthralling read. This is a subject you certainly don’t get taught about at school and rarely see documentaries on so this was a brilliant insight into some incredibly interesting cases and in some cases, terribly brutal ones! I thought each story was really well written.

NetGalley, Lauren Hudspeth

Being a true crime podcast listener, I gobbled this one up. The murderesses from Britain were new to me and it was interesting to read about them and their crimes. Be aware that unfortunately, many of these crimes did involve small children. That said, the crimes that most intrigued me took place in the United States, Jane Toppan, Lizzie Borden, and the Bender Slaughter Pen. The latter being one I’d never heard of and brought chills to my spine. And while I had listened on numerous podcasts’ takes on the crimes of Lizzie Borden and Nurse Jane, I felt the author’s extensive research added some wonderful details to these respective chapters. Podcasters listen up! If you need to do research on Victorian era crimes, this is the book to pick up.

NetGalley, Chatti Brown

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I probably shouldn’t write that the brutal murders have provided a fun read but I’m surprised how much I’ve enjoyed this nonfiction book with newspaper and court excerpts along with letters. Debbie Blake is a great story teller. She was able to weave facts and true accounts into each chapter and make them relatable.

NetGalley, Sharon Pajka

A brilliant non fiction read detailing all the crimes and the murderesses. Really riveting and fascinating to read, very hard hitting at times. Really loved it.

NetGalley, Stephanie Humphreys

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Horror of these tales is their truth. These women lived and murdered and their lives are as fascinating as their crimes are gruesome.

Amazingly written with court, letter and newspaper excerpts. The women and their victims are as real now as then.

I appreciated the lack of wandering intro and liked how it jumped right in to the tales. Each tale is well separated and lacks any theme other than murder so can easily be read as individual stories.

Grab this for a bed side table read. Another story before bed.... Or read by the fire with the lights on.

NetGalley, Jeni White

It was a very fascinating read - a lot of new information. The writing and pacing was great. Very well edited.

NetGalley, Shivani Yadav

Victorian Murderesses by Debbie Blake is an interesting read. The combination of information about the time period as well as the individuals themselves paints an informative read for true crime buffs. The book provides details of the lives of victims and perpetrators as well as background information on their family history. The quotes provided by witnesses from the time period are also helpful in creating the setting for each crime.

True crime readers who also enjoy historical reads will want to read this book.

NetGalley, Erica Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a very interesting and enjoyable read. Each chapter focuses on a different murderer, giving you their background, and then their journey to begin murder, and how they carried on murdering before eventually being caught. The book then goes into the trial of each woman and what was said and the evidence etc. It was very well written and held the readers attention throughout. I’d highly recommend this book

NetGalley, Saffron Melnyk

I enjoyed reading about cases that I had never heard of and enjoyed that it almost felt like I was watching a true crime show. I recommend adding this to your list if you are a history or true crime buff.

NetGalley, Taylor Hathcock

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love a good true crime read and I am also a huge fan of the Victorian period and this book combines both - I am not ashamed to admit that I am fascinated by the psychology of serial killers and there are some of the most "famous" or infamous Victorian Murderesses that feature in this book and despite women most commonly being reported as opting for poison to commit their crimes, not all of those featured in the book went down that route.

The book was easy to follow and considering the subject matter it was an easy read too, I thought that it was very well written and set at a good pace. The book focussed on facts and it wasn't overly gory, I really enjoyed it and I liked the mix of US and UK women chosen to make up the seven murderesses featured in the book.

I was able to read a couple of chapters a day without losing track as the author has laid the book out really well. It is 5 stars from me for this one - a must read for fans of true crime and the Victorian era to give a different view.

NetGalley, Donna Maguire

Victorian Murderesses was full of interesting women who were notorious for heinous crimes. I enjoyed learning about the history of each one before getting into the acts they became known for... Overall, this was excellent and I highly recommend.

NetGalley, Naomi Sutherland

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I enjoy reading about the Victorian era and all the true crime from that time. I have previously read other books on the the same subject so I was dubious about how much I would already know from this book.

I was happily surprised to read things I had no previous knowledge of and Murderesses I had not heard of before.

Its a professionally written book which has been researched and is respectful of the subject matter. The cases were covered in detail and showed various reasons why these women chose to commit their crimes.

NetGalley, Hazel Thomson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For all fans of true crime, or Victorian era crimes, this is a novel you should not miss. Although the crimes are gory, and disgusting, I found myself enveloped and immersed in the lives, crimes and outcomes of these 7 female killers during the Victorian Era, in the US and the UK. Deep, extensive research and well developed stories will leave you wondering how could anyone even think of that...or doing that?? What would possess a person to do such a thing??
Debbie Blake has written a true crime book that is absorbing as the the gory details of the crimes committed. I look forward to more from her.

NetGalley, Dorie Koch

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating and rich in detail;
The book describes seven cases of female murderers in the 19th century. The cases range from infanticide in poor circumstances to a murdering nurse. The book is well written and easy to read. I was fascinated that so many details about the cases could be researched. Since the author not only describes the deeds, but also the life story and living conditions of the murderesses, the circumstances can also be classified sociologically and culturally. It's unbelievable how life has changed in the last 150 years, especially for women. Nevertheless, the motives are timeless in a certain way and show that women experience more pressure than men in many ways. An entertaining, interesting read!

NetGalley, Christina Bomm

Very interesting analysis of women’s crimes in the Victorian era. I think it's a very educational book, very informative, and fun to read, especially if you are into true crimes. I'm really happy to finally see more women throughout history, even if it’s not necessarily in a good light.

NetGalley, Andra Talpeanu

My favorite kind of murderesses are Victorian ones. Is it wrong to say this was a fun read? If you like historical true crime, this is one to check out.

NetGalley, Lori McAlister

It was the time of hoopskirts, parasols and petticoats, of smelling salts for ladies having the vapors, and ladies taking walks and.... committing murder. Ladies were committing murder in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons.
Murder was not just something she wrote about, it was something she did.

One doesn't think of women murdering in past times, but it certainly did happen. This book tells the tales of Victorian Age murders by women, based on a variety of sources. This book covers a little known piece of history told in careful detail.

NetGalley, Suzan Ball

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is a fascinating read. I always wondered what pushed these Victorian women to kill? They killed their children, husbands, lovers. Was it sheer desperation? Mental illness? Pure evil?

In this books Debbie Blake masterfully tells these women's stories and answers the important questions: why, where, how?

I really wanted to know more about Mary Ann Brough who served as wet nurse for Queen Victoria's heir, Bertie the Prince of Wales. Her story is probably the saddest, because it appears she suffered from mental illness (no wonder, considering her multiple pregnancies that may have left her suffering from the untreated postnatal depression or psychosis).

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in history and true crime. It was a perfect blend of both for me. Loved it.

NetGalley, S. Constant Reader

I am sucker for a good true crime non-fiction, any time -- and Blake's Victorian Murderesses absolutely satisfied my every expectation of the genre. It was gory and chilling, all the more so because of the historical grounding of each case covered here.

Each chapter -- there are seven of them -- examines a specific killer and the details of her crime(s). Four of them focus on British murderesses: Sarah Drake, Mary Ann Brogh, Kate Webster, and Mary Ann Cotton, while the remaining three cross the Atlantic to provide accounts of the disturbing murders perpetrated by Kate Bender, Lizzie Borden (of course), and Jane Toppan. I was grateful that Lizzie got only a chapter; the fame of her crime has sullied my interest in her case. I've simply read it too many times for it to invoke any novel shock, but I acknowledge that the Borden murders warrant a place in a book like this.

What makes Victorian Murderesses such a fantastic read is the way in which Blake colors in the context of these women's lives; not only do we get a rare glimpse into their worlds, but the Victorian world as a whole, especially as it was for women of a certain working and middle class. The reader also gets to see how these women got away with their crimes for a significant part of their lives and how police operated to discover them. In some cases, like with Sarah Drake, I could not help but feel a bit sorry for the murderess as much as the victims; institutionalized sexism drove some of these women to extreme lengths -- though I cannot say I condone their decisions to take innocent lives. In some cases, like Cotton's and Webster's I found myself wondering how it was possible for them to commit so many crimes without getting caught earlier! I wonder at how it was that Lizzie Borden became so famous when these other women committed so many more criminal acts.

Kate Bender and the Bender family were -- for me -- the most dastardly, the creepiest of the seven chapters. Their crimes were like those out of a grisly, B-rated horror where a family of four drives down a lonely farm road... and is never seen again... Brr. I feel shivers thinking of it now.

This was a fantastic true crime read, fun and gore all around, enough to keep you wanting more.

NetGalley, JoAnn LoSavio

Victorian Murderesses is an unpredictable creepy true crime book. This book contains seven cases of murder crimes committed by different class of women with different ways. I intrigued by the stories because I always curious about how investigation going on and how the police solve the cases in Victoria era without modern technology we have now.

This book come straight with data and infos about each case. All of that give us insight about background each murderesses, their motives, process investigation, trials and the punishment. The storytelling style is engaged and interesting to read. But if you want extra detail oriented or depth analysis for each cases you can't found in here. The author already attached some sources to doing additional read and research when reader want to dig deeper into the cases. This book is perfect gift for true crimes reader who want some information about famous murderesses from this era.

NetGalley, Alexa Netgalley

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As many horror enthusiasts are also lovers of the Victorian Age, this is a shocking overview of some famous female serial killers of the era. Each chapter is broken down into a different murderess, while the locations span American and the UK. If harm to children is something that bothers you, the first couple of chapters may be skipped. Most people are familiar with Lizzie Borden, and her story is featured in this book. The two stories I most enjoyed were that of Kate Webser and Jane Toppan (Jolly Jane). Kate's story reminds me of a more grotesque Talented Mr. Ripley, while Jolly Jane as the compassionate nurse flew under the radar, never suspected of causing between 30-100 deaths! Some of the finer details of each criminal's trial and case were a tad daunting, but for the most part, I wasn't bored and was interested the whole way through to find out whether the perp was sent to the gallows, or even served prison time. 10/10, and thanks to NetGalley and Publisher for for the ARC!

NetGalley, Natalie Barnett

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Victorian Murderesses is a superior account of 19th century women murderers from America and Britain. Although this is a book in the true crime genre, it reads like a novel. The author has done a wonderful job of bringing the women and crimes to life, with tons of detail and color. The well-known story of Lizzie Borden is of course recounted, but with such great vividness that it feels modern. It is obvious that in this book the author has done thorough research with lots of primary resources. But this is also mixed with a flair for creativity that bring the cases to life. These details feel authentic and historically correct. All in all, I highly recommend this book.

NetGalley, Amy Joseph

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I give Victorian Murderesses 5/5 stars.

Victorian Murderesses was a well-written book about some of the most salacious crimes in the 1800s. The accounts were informative as well as entertaining, and I would happily read again if an audiobook version becomes available. It felt like my favorite true crime podcasters made a book just for me. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in true crime.

NetGalley, Amber Humphries

I do really enjoy true crime books and the cover of this book really appealed to me. We normally hear about male murderers and less about female ones. I loved how this book had a section for each murderer and you could follow the story from before they committed their crimes, during it and what happened after. I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend.

NetGalley, Sarah Waling

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating read about people who thought they could get away with murder in Victorian times.

NetGalley, Louise Emerson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I’m always interested in True Crime, but I find historic true crime fascinating.
I like to learn about the social history aspect of the killers lives. What are their circumstances? Is there a direct cause for their actions? And so on… I could go in forever with questions.
This book has it all. It’s clearly well researched, and well written. There’s a lot of thought that’s gone into producing this wonderful book.
I absolutely loved it, I can’t say anything more!
Thank you to the author, the publisher and Netgalley for my arc.
5 out of 5 stars!

NetGalley, Helen Williams

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Murderers have always been fascinating to me; it's about why they did what they did also it's rare for women to kill.
This book takes us back to hear about the women who took lives of others and why.
Great book.

NetGalley, Karen Bull

A great incite into seven murderous women and the reasons behind the killings. Using newspaper articles, eyewitness statements and court records, the author shows some of the thinking and hardships a very well written book.

NetGalley, Vicky Jones

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I’m a lover of historical crime and this book delivered for me. The author Debbie Blake has obviously put in the time researching each of the murders she has written about. There is plenty of details to give you a back story into each crime.
I’m sure this book would be great for a book club. Each of these women - Were they evil or were they ill. In todays society would they have got off with their crimes?

NetGalley, Catherine Harrold

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

First, let me say thank you so much for granting me this wish and allowing me the opportunity to read this book. Second, I would like to apologize for the delay in me giving feedback about this book. The reason for the delay is because I IMMEDIATELY re-read this book because that is how much I enjoyed it. Out of the 14 arcs that I have been approved for and read, Victorian Murderesses is, by far, the most enjoyable experience I have had so far. It was luxury reading this book.

I *might* be slightly biased as this book was right up my alley. My mother's side of the family come from Massachusetts, we are (distantly) related to Lizzie Borden and she has always fascinated me, I have a love for all things witchy, victorian, horror and hauntings, and yet despite me spending hours upon hours googling about this type of stuff in my free time, I STILL LEARNED SO MUCH FROM THIS BOOK THAT I NEVER EVER KNEW!!! I am awe-struck about how many of these women and all of their disturbing and dark histories that I had never heard of until reading this book.

This book is absolutely FANTASTIC, deeply-sourced, thoroughly entertaining, bleak, tragic, devastating, shocking, enthralling, and I can absolutely say this is a PERFECT book. It made me audibly gasp, made me feel sick to my stomach at some points, enraged at other times, screaming HELL YEAH at others. This book is am emotional-roller coaster and this book has proven that reality really is stranger (and far more interesting) than fiction.

The cover art, the title, EVERYTHING about this book is stellar. I cannot WAIT to buy the hard copy version of this book when it comes out at the end of October (my birthday month)!. My ONLY complaint is that I wish this was longer!! I didn't want to stop reading, I wanted more and I cannot overstate how enjoyable this book was. I had never heard of Debbie Blake before but she will be an auto=buy from me now. This is absolutely in my top 5 books of all time, In any genre. I already want to do a 3rd re-read and won't stop talking about it with my friends and family. I am driving them crazy. Hahahaha.

Thank you SO MUCH for granting me this wish! I am still SHOCKED at how much I enjoyed this book and how much time and effort must have been put into putting this book together. Victorian Murderesses is without a doubt 5 stars. Perfection. An absolute must-read.

THANK YOU SO MUCH again to Pen & Sword for granting me my wish (my first wish!) and giving me the opportunity to read such an amazing book.. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!!!!! You have an absolute gem here.

NetGalley, Lindsay E

A historical look back on seven female killers during the Victorian Era. Extremely well researched and not long nor drawn out, this book has just the right information to tell a complete story. Six of the stories were new to me which I was thrilled with and one which was Lizzie Borden wasn't.

NetGalley, Christine Cazeneuve

Welcome to the victorian era, a book full of information on seven woman who committed crimes that no one could believe, that's right people woman can kill too but in a less gruesome kind of way.
I loved the book from start to finish, 7 chapters based on 7 different woman from different years and locations, were all the crimes different in a way yes, maybe, who knows I won't spoil it.
I loved how each hapter was full of information that the writer took her time out of to search up everything she needed in order to write about these woman.

NetGalley, Emily Chesterton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

‘The room in which the horrid tragedy was perpetrated have been undergoing a thorough cleaning, but the flooring is so deeply stained with blood, as to defy all attempts at obliteration.’

I just love reading about the Victorian era!

I consumed this book so quickly and was fascinated with each case. Some cases were quite awful to read, for me the case on Mary Ann Brough was very disturbing.

If you like reading about true crime, Murder, history then read this.

NetGalley, georgi_lvs_books .

I thought the cases were chosen well, highlighting a variety of life situations which contributed to murder. I am fond of getting into details, whether crime or any other topic, then extrapolating outward as more information is gained. So these cases, along with others with which I am familiar, bring a lot about Victorian era society into focus.

I would recommend this for readers of true crime as well as history readers who like to read about the outliers. The writing is good and the bibliography offers avenues for further reading if you want to look into any of the cases in more detail.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A really good book. Will recommend this book. It dove into the lives of the women, their crimes, and then their sentences.

NetGalley, Elya Cummins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

True Crime programs, podcasts and books are a staple in our household. My husband especially loves nothing more than watching various programs about True Crime. So this was something that immediately peaked my interest.

I admit, it was rather unsettling as I read the opening story of Sarah Drake. It scarily mirrored some of my own family history, where it was discovered my Great Great Grandmother was tried for infanticide of a bastard child and subsequently caught and jailed for 6 months. Her path whilst not as criminal as Sarah Darke's, was something that struck me as I read the account of her crimes in this book. There were eerily similar events.
So much so, I actually wondered if my Great Great Grandmother's name might appear later in the book (spoiler, she didn't, phew).
I was instantly eager to read the rest.

There was no doubt that these stories were researched well and individual enough to not seem boring. Some names might be recognised (most notable, Lizzie Borden) but most weren't ones I could think of as being commonly used in books of a similar nature, and that was refreshing to see. I also appreciated that it was a mix of women from Britain and America, which helped in my opinion.

Overall this is a book that does exactly what it proclaims. And in a way that is clear, concise and yet doesn't cut corners or ignore pertinent details.

If you're in the market for a book of this kind, then this is one you should consider. We'd certainly happily have it on our bookshelves.
It is a fairly quick read too, with no slogging through minutiae detail.

5/5 stars

NetGalley, Sara Buckle

Thank you for the opportunity to read Victorian Murderesses by Debbie Blake. What a fascinating insight into some of the most notorious female murderers of the Victoriana times.

NetGalley, Laura Fayle

This book covers a lot of interesting cases for true crime fans but, for me, what was most interesting was learning how the women were treated by society and by the law. On one hand, women had fewer rights than men but, on the other, it was beyond belief that women (especially mothers) were capable of such crimes so they were deemed to be insane. The book also highlights how few options women had in terms of how they could support themselves financially, and how exposed they were if their husbands left them. The author does a great job of breaking down the cases and how they were investigated, making each chapter a complete and satisfying read.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

Very very interesting book about murderesses in the Victorian age. The only one I knew about was Lizzie Borden. The others were new names to me. I really enjoyed reading about how these seemingly normal women were able to disguise themselves and commit murder. Especially Jane Toppan. Wowza!

NetGalley, Deb Wolshuck

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is super interesting and you cannot put it down! My interest in Victorian murderesses is that examining the conditions surrounding it reveals the social conditions of the time more accurately than any other indicator. In early 20th cent. Alexandria (Egypt), two sisters murdered countless women for their gold and buried them in their houses (they moved a lot). The families of these women were ashamed to report the missing women for fear of shame - so the murders went undetected for many years. The research in Victorian murderesses is thorough and the writing is clear. The author holds the narrative very well. Now if you love reading mysteries, this is your book!

NetGalley, Mona Zaki

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Victorian Murderesses gives a chilling insight into these women’s lives.
We are given the circumstances that caused them to commit there murders and are taken through there trials.
If you are curious about Victorian history especially the darker side this is a fascinating and sometimes a horrific look into the past.

NetGalley, Debra Gape

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From Kate Binder to Lizzie Borden the Victorian era True Crime stories in this book are not copy and paste… I repeat they are not copy and paste they are well researched with multiple things I didn’t already know about the stories. This is a hodgepodge of international female criminals some I had heard of and others I did not but all are very interesting. This is a book I totally recommend to any True Crime fan.

NetGalley, Janalyn Prude

This was a well written and often dark story of women who murdered in the Victorian era and bizarrely it was really enjoyable, which always seems odd when you are discussing true crime. There were some women in here that I had heard of such as Mary Ann Cotton as I had seen a drama based on her crimes and Lizzie Bordon, and some that I hadn't heard of such as Mary Ann Brough, Jane Toppan and Kate Bender but reading this book made me want to find out more about them.

NetGalley, Aria Harlow

Debbie Blake does a killer job of researching, writing, and contextualizing the 19th century female killers in this book.
Victorian Murderesses includes the entire story of each woman's life, including the reasons that they committed each murder. British and American murderesses are including Lizzie Borden. Money, sex, and anger are prime motivators.
The 19th century was a time when the idea of a woman committing an act of homicide was abhorrent to all since women were not thought to be capable of such madness.
This book adds to the body of work in Women's Studies, women's lives and the cultural milieu that could not see women as killers - and once they were thought to be so - the animals that they are then seen as.

NetGalley, Beth Emmerling

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I loved this book. I cannot wait to purchase the actual book. An interesting account of Victorian murderesses that will interest any true crime or history fan. This book was so entertaining and informative!

NetGalley, Lynn Beck

‘The room in which the horrid tragedy was perpetrated have been undergoing a thorough cleaning, but the flooring is so deeply stained with blood, as to defy all attempts at obliteration.’

I just love reading about the Victorian era!

I consumed this book so quickly and was fascinated with each case. Some cases were quite awful to read, for me the case on Mary Ann Brough was very disturbing.

If you like reading about true crime, Murder, history then read this.

Georgi Lvs Books !!

About Debbie Blake

Debbie Blake is a freelance writer whose historical articles have been published in various publications in the UK, Ireland, Canada, and the United States. She has written articles for the internet and runs two blogs Women’s History Bites and The Wee History Blog. She is the author of Daughters of Ireland: Pioneering Irish Women and The Little Book of Tipperary, published by The History Press.

Lizzie Borden's father and stepmother are murdered

4th August 1892

Sunday school teacher Lizzie Borden's father and stepmother are murdered with an axe in Fall River, Massachusetts; Borden is later arrested, tried and acquitted

View all events View all anniversaries

Perfect Partner

Mary Ann Cotton - Dark Angel Britain’s First Female Serial Killer (Paperback)

A female thief, with four husbands, a lover and, reportedly, over twelve children, is arrested and tried for the murder of her step-son in 1872, turning the small village of West Auckland in County Durham upside down. Other bodies are exhumed and when they are found to contain arsenic, she is suspected of their murder as well. The perpetrator, Mary Ann Cotton, was tried and found guilty and later hanged on 24 March 1873 in Durham Gaol. It is claimed she murdered over twenty people and was the first female serial killer in England. With location photographs and a blow by blow account of the trial,…

By Martin Connolly

Click here to buy both titles for £34.99
More titles by Debbie Blake

Customers who bought this title also bought...

Other titles in Pen & Sword History...