The Angel Makers

The True Story of the Most Astonishing Murder Ring in History

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Pub Date 11 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 26 Apr 2024

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A Financial Times Best Summer Book 2023 A Waterstones Best True Crime Book

Nagyrev, Hungary, 1929. Over 160 mysterious deaths. A group of local wives conspiring together, and one woman at the centre of it all…

In 1929, a dark secret at the heart of a Hungarian farming village was finally exposed. For more than 15 years, Nagyrev had harboured a group of serial killers, one of the largest murder rings ever recorded. They came to be known as The Angel Makers.

Led by a sharp-minded midwife known as Auntie Suzy, the local wives brazenly rid themselves of unwanted relatives, spooning doses of arsenic into soup and wine, stirring it into coffee and brandy. Murder was just another chore.

Over 160 mysterious deaths later, the unlikely gang of murderesses came to justice in a sensational trial reported the world over. With absorbing detail, Patti McCracken pieces together the lives of Auntie Suzy, her wide network of killers, the unsuspecting victims and the villagers who witnessed it all.

The Angel Makers is the utterly gripping account of an almost unbelievable – yet entirely true – moment in crime history.

A Financial Times Best Summer Book 2023 A Waterstones Best True Crime Book

Nagyrev, Hungary, 1929. Over 160 mysterious deaths. A group of local wives conspiring...

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ISBN 9780008579562
PRICE £10.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

This book is beautifully written and from the very first pages you get sucked into the story.

The author is a really clever storyteller with the ability to make facts and historical accounts come to life as if they were a novel and it almost made it more shocking every time I reminded myself that these events were real.

My main criticism is the constant descriptions of Auntie Suzy as being fat. We get it, she was a big lady but not almost every chapter needed to tell us how big she was or how she moved her chubby hands etc.

At first, I wanted to give the the author the benefit of the doubt, after all this was a woman who took whatever she wanted as payment by literally taking items from the poorest people who had next to nothing and making sure she was always well cared for on top of her wage. So in a sense I think the author wanted the reader to understand that greed was a motivation and so understanding her size added to this description. However, it was just overdone and I do not think it was needed so often.

The book was also really descriptive. I really enjoyed this side of the storytelling. The sights and especially the smells really made you feel like you were there this is something that you often don't get any understanding of in non fiction books or in historical writing on the whole. But I really felt like the history was coming off the pages reading the stink of some of the characters, the smell of the houses and the atmosphere of the village. However, I would add that at times this did slow the pace of the book down. I really wanted to get down to the nitty gritty of the interrogations but the last third of the book slowed quite considerably.

The author touches upon several important topics which really created a disasterous cocktail in this case. Firstly, the treatment of woman at the time. The beatings, rape and their treatment by some men was atrocious and add the fact that family planning was little to nothing meant that often unwanted pregnancies happened yearly. Is it little wonder that some women sought to end their suffering in the only way they could? Having said that, it also showed how women could use and manipulate the men in their lives and even at times when there was no evidence of poor treatment, these women could kill loved ones in the most awful way. In my opinion, they got away with it for so long because the men thought too little of the women to find them capable of these crimes.

It was also interesting to see some of the medical developments that were happening at this time right across Europe. We see this movement from the Victorian period and into the post-war era where many in the medical community wanted to end the traditional "wise woman midwifery" and see all midwives trained under Drs, Male doctors, who often had little to no experience in midwifery and even though women had been doing this job well for millennia.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, it was engaging and cleverly written and it kept me wanting more to the very end. Although it had it's downsides I would still recommend it to anyone who loves history and true crime with a touch of looking into social issues as well. That is of course if you can get past the fat shaming.

I want to thank the author, publishers and Netgalley for the ARC of this book. This review is my own opinion.

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Imagine a group of women (crows in this book) poisoning men left, right and centre and getting away with it for so long. To be honest, in those days life expectancy/health wasn't great so I would have probably ignored it too but the fact is Midwife Suzy was a cunning and manipulative serial killer. She was so good at it, no-one knew until women started getting a bit too casual with it.

This book was easy to read, no complicated sentences but I did find it a bit long winded. A good deal could have been chopped out and still made for a good book. The author did say they had to add some fiction to make up for it but the dog and her pups should have been omitted - it was horrible!

I enjoyed it but, like I said, could have been a bit shorter.

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The story, whilst excellent, is too long to hold the readers attention throughout. It’s almost unbelievable that these events really happened, and I think the author deserves commendation for bringing these events back to life, and retelling them in an understandable manner. That being said, there are too many unnecessary details that drag the story out and I must admit to growing weary of it 2/3 of the way through. If the boring bits were removed, this could be a 5 star book

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3.5 upped to 4
Even if I wasn't a fan of the style of writing I was fascinated by the story and the investigation. I think it was something happening also elsewhere even on a smaller scale: women married very young, they had to do everything their father or husband told them to do.
Abuse, violence, no way to control the number of children.
The portrait of an era more than a pure true crime.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine

Ps; sorry I already read and reviewed it. My fault

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