Cover Image: Hell's Half-Acre

Hell's Half-Acre

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This is an absolutely excellent book that is just as much true crime as it is history. A perfect picture of the 1870s on the American Frontier is painted, putting readers directly in the time period. Not only is the crime itself discussed, but the long, tumultuous venture to capture the Bender family.
Was this review helpful?
This enlightening book is both true crime and an examination of history. A worthwhile read for anyone interested in the post-Civil War era, this careful piecing together of the historical record shows depravity has no limits.
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately I ended up not finishing this book. It just did not capture my interest. I am fairly familiar with the Bender family but this book felt very slow and had a lot of historical information about the time period, which is fine, just not what I was looking for.  The book blurb said it is suspense-filled, and considering what I know of the Benders, it should have been. This just didn't hit the mark for me.

This book was provided by NetGalley for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
You probably know the story of the Bloody Benders: a family comes to claim land in a small Kansas town, sets up a grocery store slash kind of place for people to sleep if they like sharing a room with some crazies. Lots of people go missing, and it eventually turns out that gasp, what, the mysterious and creepy family who have recently moved to town and who are always attempting to murder people ACTUALLY MURDERED PEOPLE. An angry mob is assembled, but the family gets away.

I was always vaguely spooked by the idea of this clever family evading the law for decades, but now I learn from this book that it was decades of incompetence, lying, and straight up corruption that allowed the Benders to basically keep living their lives like half a day away from where they'd committed the murders. Real life is so frustrating. Real criminals are so dumb and obvious but we're all trained to be polite so we pretend we don't see it. #fuckpoliteness

This book does a spectacular job of explaining the historical context of these crimes, why they went unnoticed for so long, and why it became so difficult to arrest the Benders even though many people knew exactly where they were. It's not dry at all. The only problem I have is that the straight chronological timeline makes the ending feel weak. A flashback would have given the ending more balance.
Was this review helpful?
I liked this book but I didn’t love it. I found it hard to follow at parts and felt like certain aspects mentioned didn’t all connect. However, the overall narrative was good and I appreciate the history and additional aspects about the frontier that the author included. This is a case that has long fascinated me and so I’m glad to have been able to read more about it!
Was this review helpful?
Well researched! Jonusas does a lot with a scarce information. She paints a really vivid picture of the family, the landscape, the state history, and the time itself.
Was this review helpful?
This is *way* early - maybe I'll try to remember to repost this in Feb or something, but since this is both scary and local (like the White Hot Hate book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago) it seemed like a good time to post it. Of course, I finished reading it on Halloween, but this won't post until several days later, so I've sort of missed the boat in a couple of ways there...
That being said, this is an *extensively* researched exploration of both the crimes of the Bender family (while located near Cherryvale, KS, just south of us in the NE corner of the state) and the lengthy search and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to bring the Benders back to KS to answer for their crimes.  The story is told well and the notes are unobtrusive but *very* detailed and worth checking out (they comprise the last 1/3 to 1/4th of the book alone) along with the bibliography. The author spent a good deal of time in KS, working with the historical society and other archival collections in the area. She even mentions, at the end of the book, spending some time at the ax-throwing bar in Lawrence, which dates her research pretty accurately (that bar was open for about 5 minutes a couple of years ago...). It's a great exploration of the story and a local interest book that will likely appeal to your patrons!
Was this review helpful?
**I received an ARC from the publisher on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Very interesting read. Susan Jonusas does a good job of piecing together truth from myth and theories. I loved all the history incorporated into the book, how it paints the picture of the true wild west. For being such an old case where 90% of the information came from the headlines, Susan did a wonderful job sorting through all the information and history of the case.
Was this review helpful?
The amount of research for Hell’s Half-Acre has culminated in a very interesting, readable account of America’s first documented serial killer family. A homesteading family by the name of Bender has settled in Labette County, Kansas, and from that remote location, offers the occasional traveler food and lodging. After the Benders suddenly abandon their cabin and disappear into history, a horrible discovery follows their name through the west as justice is sought for their crimes. Most interesting was the court case where two supposed members of the family were identified 15 years after the last known sighting, and found not to be Ma and Kate Bender. Or were they?
Was this review helpful?
A great book for a fan of true crime, particularly historical/american history. The Bloody Benders are the subject of many popular culture podcasts on true crime, and the details of the crimes and the victims is an intense look at a family that wasn't related at all...at least by anything but murder. The question of what happened to the Benders, and exactly what they did and to whom, is examined and looked at by Jonusas. The crimes, particularly the murder of a small child, are gone over in detail and are not for the faint of heart.
Was this review helpful?
While this book covers some very interesting subject matter, it didn't end up being for me. The material was too dry and the structure of the book was confusing, bouncing back and forth in time between different groups of people some who you would see again and some who you would not--and no clue which was which.
Was this review helpful?