All The Blood We Share by Camilla Bruce is a creepy murder story inspired by the very real Bloody Benders in Kansas. This book will have you locking your doors at night and looking at your neighbors in a different light. How much do you actually know about them and what they do in the night, anyways? Continue reading to get my review of this upcoming release!
A sinister novel based on the real Bloody Benders, a family of serial killers in the old West bound by butchery and obscured by the shadows of American history.
The winds shift nervously on the Kansas plain whispering of travelers lost and buried, whispering of witches. Something dark and twisted has taken root at the Bender Inn.
At first the townspeople of Cherryvale welcome the rising medium Kate Bender and her family. Kate’s messages from the Beyond give their tedious dreams hope and her mother’s potions cure their little ills—for a price. No one knows about their other business, the shortcut to a better life. And why shouldn’t their family prosper? They’re careful. It’s only from those who are marked, those who travel alone and can easily disappear, that the Benders demand their pound of flesh.
But even a gifted seer like Kate can make a misstep. Now as the secrets festering beneath the soil of the family orchard threaten to bring them all to ruin, the Benders must sharpen their craft—or vanish themselves.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
It was an interesting choice to have two of the three perspectives be from the Bender family – spoiler alert: they are serial killers. (I promise it’s not actually a spoiler alert) Since All The Blood We Share is not a whodunit and is instead when/will they be caught a type of story. We know they are the antagonists in the story, but their perspectives are incredibly different. The mother and daughter do not see eye to eye on much of the goings on in their stint in Kansas. Although they are both willing participants to a degree, they provide diverse perspectives for the reader.
I am glad Bruce used a third perspective from outside of the family. This individual is close-ish to the family (both in distance and familiarity), but still far enough away to bring in the doubting perspective. “Well, there is no way it could be the Benders! They are my neighbors! We would know if something nefarious was going on.” I liked how this character, Hanson, was not directly opposed to the perspectives of Kate and Elvira Bender, the daughter and mother.
Truth and Fiction
I have heard of the Bloody Benders and listened to some podcasts about them. Due to the lack of certain details (this did occur in rural Kansas in the late 1800s), it makes for a fascinating true crime story on its own. To me, what makes All The Blood We Share a successful novel is the fact that while it is based on a true story, there is enough ambiguity of the real story that Bruce is able to weave a story of their own. The afterward makes it clear where Bruce intentionally diverts from the truth and where they had to supply their own information, such as the names of certain victims.
Bruce could get creative to a certain extent with familial dynamics, relationships outside of the family, and individual motivations. At the same time, there was a certain point in the middle where the story slowed down. It seemed that since Bruce wanted to include a number of victims similar to what has been recorded it caused the plot to drag on. That would be my largest critique.
All The Blood We Share was a fascinating fictional account of real events. Camilla Bruce did a great job of researching and inventing to have this story unfold before the readers. While the plot did sag a bit in the middle, Bruce did create an interesting tale from the bits of fact and rumor that had to be sorted through. If you are interested in true crime at all, I’m sure you would enjoy this book. If you are not, it may be a bit gruesome, but I’d still recommend you branch out!