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Comment: Publisher: Northern Illinois Univ Pr
Date of Publication: 2011
Binding: hard cover
Edition: First Edition (US) First Printing
Condition: Fine Clean Unmarked Book/Very Fine Jacket
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Heartland Serial Killers: Belle Gunness, Johann Hoch, and Murder for Profit in Gaslight Era Chicago Hardcover – April 25, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Northern Illinois University Press; 1 edition (April 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875804365
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875804361
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,647,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Heartland Serial Killers contains three elements that contribute to the success of a true crime work: a fresh take on a legendary tragedy (Gunness), reintroduction to a shocking and salacious yet forgotten one (Hoch) and entertaining prose underscored by evidence of ser ious research. By combining a popular approach with evidence of careful research, he has created a work that should appeal to both the general reader and the serious true crime aficionado.”—Rose Keefe, author of The Starker: Big Jack Zelig, the Becker-Rosenthal Case, and the Advent of the Jewish Gangster

“Gunness and Hoch’s stories are inherently interesting and Lindberg’s focus on how they found and manipulated their victims, rather than on gruesome bloody details, makes this an engaging work of history. The author’s extensive research in period newspapers, court documents and other material is evident in the rich detail in the text, notes and bibliography. This is a story you won’t soon forget.” —Elizabeth A. De Wolfe, author of The Murder of Mary Bean and Other Stories

Book Description

Lindberg, an accomplished local historian and true crime writer, presents a fascinating story of two contemporaneous serial killers, both weaving marriage and murder in and around Chicago during the 1890s and 1900s. Johann Hoch was a debonair bigamist and wife killer who boasted of having perfected a “scientific technique” to romance and seduction. Belle Gunness was a nesting “Black Widow” whose sprawling farm in Northwest Indiana was a fatal lure for lonely bachelors seeking the comforts of middle-age security by answering matrimonial advertisements placed by Gunness.

Notorious in his own day, Hoch had faded into the dark background of Chicago crime history. But, in Heartland Serial Killers, Lindberg brings back vividly the horrors of one of Chicago’s first celebrity criminals and uncovers new evidence of a close connection between Hoch and H.H. Holmes, the “Devil in the White City.”

Unlike Hoch, Belle Gunness, likely the most prolific and infamous female serial killer of the 20th century, has remained fascinating to the public. Here, Lindberg presents the most comprehensive and compelling study of the Gunness case to date, including new information regarding ongoing DNA testing of remains found at the site of Gunness’s farm in LaPorte, Indiana, which may serve to resolve once and for all the mystery surrounding Gunness’s death.

Told in alternating chapters and rapidly paced, this book is true crime at its best—gripping, pulpy, and full of sharp historical tidbits. True crime fans, history buffs, and those interested in local lore will delight in this chilling tale of two ruthless killers.


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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Meaghan on August 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book might as well have mentioned H.H. Holmes in the title too, since there's substantial coverage of his life and crimes in the story. I'm actually a bit troubled by what Mr. Lindberg has to say about Holmes, since a lot of it contradicts what I've read in the other two books I've read about him, The Devil in the White City and Depraved. Is Lindberg making much out of nothing? Is he inaccurate or were the other authors wrong? Contradicting sources always bother me.

Regards Hoch and Gunness, their stories are decently enough told, and as far as I know this is the only modern full-length book about the undeservedly obscure Hoch. It's got value for that all by itself. But I wish Lindberg had put in more about the "is the burned decapitated corpse really Belle Gunness" controversy, and perhaps his own opinion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By historybuff on October 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Heartland Serial Killers offers an intriguing narrative of two infamous serial-murderers during the turn of the twentieth century in and around Chicago. This is a good read for the general reader interested in the true crime genre because its narrative is gripping and the reading light, and it's a good starting point for anyone looking to research more about Johann Hoch or Belle Gunness. A slight word of caution to researchers: you won't find anything in the way of new analysis on Hoch or Gunness. Additionally, the author doesn't always cite where he got his sources in places. This severely effects his credibility, and makes one wonder whether his sources are indeed accurate. This was my key disappointment with the book. I thought since a historian wrote this book it would have some innovative historical analysis, but there was none. The interpretation that Gunness could be "considered by some to be an early feminist, running her farm and her business in a harsh, unyielding physical environment and doing the punishing man's work" (pp 219) is a bit of a stretch. Actually it's more than a stretch, it's absurd to anyone who has had a women's history course. Throughout history women have worked on farms, doing physical work, but this would've hardly labeled them "feminists."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I came across the story of Belle Gunness on Wikipedia one slow day at work and became momentarily obsessed with the gruesome things I read about her. I wanted to know more, so I searched for books on the topic. This book is my first foray into the genre of true crime, and I was disappointed by the lack of pacing and general lack of narrative in the book. Then again, though, it might be hard to create an entertaining narrative about two killers that did terrible things such a long time ago. There are many details in here, and it's clearly well researched - hence the three stars... But if you're looking for a page turner that gets into the psyche of these two killers and tells a suspenseful story, you won't find it. There is much more emphasis on the effort to track down the killers (not the most interesting side to these stories!) than on their deeds. You learn about the newspaper business in Chicago and the local politics of LaPorte, but the stories of Hoch and Gunness actually begin to feel repetitive and unsurprising about two-thirds of the way through the book.
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By Rose Keefe VINE VOICE on February 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Famed Chicago historian Richard C. Lindberg has excavated the long-buried stories of Belle Gunness and Johann Hoch, two serial killers who preyed on the lovelorn during the closing years of the nineteenth century and the dawn of the twentieth. It's a darkly fascinating look at a ruthless pair who profited from their respective marriage-murder sprees until the law caught up with one and fire destroyed the other... maybe.

Belle Gunness was a homely middle-aged widow whose Northwest Indiana farm included an unmarked graveyard for all her slain suitors. From 1900-1908 she lured well-to-do men to her home, promising love and material comfort and delivering a horrific death instead. She is arguably the most prolific female serial killer of her era, and Lindberg enlivens her story with details about recent DNA testing of human remains found on the old Gunness farm site in LaPorte. When a fire destroyed the place in 1908, apparently killing the murderess along with her children, some investigators were convinced that the adult female skeleton found was not Belle's. The authorities had been closing in on her, alerted by the suspicious relatives of her victims, and many believed that she'd murdered a homeless woman to aid in her escape. The mystery isn't solved yet, but this modern postscript suggests that one day it may be.

Johann Hoch's legend is not as well remembered, but no less intriguing. A squat, balding man who somehow appealed to women, Hoch spent some time as an apprentice to serial killer H.H. Holmes (a fact that Lindberg's masterful research has brought to light), whose Englewood "murder castle" claimed dozens of lives. Hoch married thirty-five women for their money and assets and killed at least ten of them.
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By Denise Adinolfi on July 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
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