Friday, March 20, 2020

Book Review | Black Widow: The True Story of Giggling Granny Nannie Doss

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Rating: ⭐

First off, the cover is terrifying.

That is just about the only good thing I have to say for this book, so this will be rather short and sweet.

I have, as of late, been drawn into the True Crime genre - mainly when the crimes have occurred in earlier times (the Victorians were nuts about murder, especially by poison, and I am 100% here for it.) I don't even know how I came across this one via Kindle Unlimited, but I did and I regret the time spent, but am glad no money was exchanged.

The problem with the book, besides the constant repetition of the phrase 'marital bed', and constant repetition in general, is that the story is told from this crazy lady's perspective. With no bibliography, how are we to know these were truly her thoughts and feelings as she flitted about, murdering at will when she was angry? I think that is dangerous and irresponsible for any author to do, to put words/thoughts into the mouth/head of someone else without backing it up with documentation.

As the book is only told from Doss's perspective, the story is completely one-sided and lacking in big-picture. At one point the author mentioned other biographies of Doss, so I think if you are interested in the story, any one of those would be a much better option. There is no analysis here whatsoever. It is just the laying down of the timeline of events, what happened, on to the next, peppered with all these thoughts of Doss's as she goes about murdering two of her children, two of her grandchildren, two mother-in-laws, her own mother, one of her sisters, and four of her five husbands.

The inaction of those who knew she was a murderer also baffles me. Doss's oldest daughter Melvina watched her mother stick a hat pin into the head of her newborn baby girl, killing the child. No one else was in the room, and Melvina at first thought that she had imagined it, with all the ether she had needed during the very difficult birth. But once home, Melvina and her younger sister discussed it, and their step-father even knew, because they had always suspected Doss of murdering the middle two children years earlier. But instead of going to the police, they all just cut ties with her (except the step-father, who would end up poisoned too), and allowed her to continue poisoning anyone she came across who disrupted the way she thought things aught to be.

When Doss was a child, during a family trip via train she was knocked unconscious when the train stopped suddenly and she hit her head against a metal bar in front of her. She had blackouts and severe headaches the rest of her life, as well as suffering from depression. This is briefly touched on as a reason for her behavior, perhaps, but truly only briefly. The book indicates she often flew into rages after the accident, though there is mention that she was not exactly always even-tempered before the accident either - though she was much worse afterward.

The story itself is an interesting and horrifying one, but I can not recommend this book. In the future I may seek out other texts that will give a much clearer picture of the murders as a whole.


  1. I take back what I said about this sounding like something I would like. I listened to another book by this author and was concerned about where the author got his information. I was more generous in my rating than I should have been, largely because I thought that the narrator did a good job. I don't plan to read anything further by this author. I hope your next read is better.

    1. That is entirely my issue as well. No way can I trust an author who speaks from a person's perspective without knowing what the source material is. He has some really interesting titles that I would be willing to read if there were bibliographies provided, but I am with you on this one - no more for me either!

  2. Replies
    1. It was! And even the title doesn't make sense. The title makes it almost sound like she giggled maniacally as she killed people. Nope. She just giggled at the police station a lot when they brought her in, I guess. This book was terrible.


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