In 1873 the people of Labette County, Kansas made a grisly discovery. Buried by a trailside cabin beneath an orchard of young apple trees were the remains of countless bodies. Below the cabin itself was a cellar stained with blood. The Benders, the family of four who once resided on the property were nowhere to be found. The discovery sent the local community and national newspapers into a frenzy that continued for decades, sparking an epic manhunt for the Benders.
Ms. Jonusas...traveled 'all over America' to research these events: visiting historical-society archives, combing through boxes of government records, scrolling through century-and-a-half-old newspapers, examining the testimony of long-dead lawmen and outlaws. Her efforts bring the frontier setting into sharp focus ... The diligent Ms. Jonusas discovered several further leads in official archives and correspondence, enough to transform Hell’s Half-Acre, at this halfway point, from a gothic popular history into a Wild West chase full of extraordinary developments ... Susan Jonusas’s debut, rich in historical perspective and graced by novelistic touches, grips the reader from first to last ... With the appearance of Hell’s Half-Acre, we probably know as much about this murderous clan as we ever will.
Jonusas paints a vivid picture of nineteenth-century Kansas, bringing the affected area and its citizens to life ... Fans of true crime will be just as enthralled with the tale of the Benders’ crimes as were initial readers of the sensational tale, which spread far and wide in nineteenth-century newspapers.
Jonusas places the story of the Benders in the context of Kansas’s turbulent history. Additionally, she discusses the sensationalist media coverage of the case as well as its impact in the present day ... A fascinating look at a case that still captures the imagination. Fans of historical true crime will be pleased.