I'm reviewing THE BURN FARM, a true crime book written by Michael Benson.
I bought it on amazon as 'used but very good' for £2.81p (inc P&P). New costs approx £5.
But is available in most online bookstores with "true Crime" sections.
It is in paperback format. Measures 110mm x 180mm x 30mm.
There are 370 pages and pictures are included,but nothing graphic in the least.
Set in New Hampshire, USA.
Sheila LaBarre was a decidedly odd woman.
Born Sheila Kaye Bailey on July 4th 1958, she now claims she was abused as a child. Maybe she was,but one thing is for sure....she had a totally weird way of talking about sexual issues.
She'd say things like "I'm very tight. I'm very small. I think I have an introverted uterus.Might even need a C section." This to policemen during interviews where she sat in the police station clutching one of the multitude of rabbits that ran wild round her now dilapidated home......while the rabbit urinated on her lap causing not a flicker of an eyelash from her. She simply used some paper towel to wipe the urine from her leg & then wiped her mouth with the same piece of towel. No problem.
Talking of a boyfriend---"...he would put it in me just that much "(gesturing with a thumb & finger) "He had a long tapered penis". She says he told her she was the tightest girl he'd ever met & was afraid he'd "split" her. So he didn't penetrate her. Doesn't sound like a horny teenager to me,but if she says so.......(rolls eyes)
Other things are too graphic for this review. Suffice to say she was decidedly freaky in how she spoke to men who were basically strangers to her.
She was constantly using graphic,but yet childishly crude terms for sexual perversions etc.
*** HOW THINGS EVOLVED IN THE BOOK***
Sheila married a few times,but the name she finally took, and which she was tried under, was not from a husband,but from a much older man she had 'met' through an ad in a sex magazine.....Wilfred LaBarre. LaBarre was wealthy & had property & a lucrative Chiropractic Practice. When he died suddenly a few years into their relationship, at age 72, Sheila claimed his property as his common law wife. This despite being married to another man during that time & having a live in lover as well as casual one night stands all over town. And it was in the lovely old farmhouse on 115 acres of land that her excesses REALLY hit their heights.
Once she was totally alone again she managed to lure a number of men to the farm . As lovers & farm hands.But she chose them carefully for their slight build & need of care & attention and one of her sources was a very convenient local homeless shelter. Men who were easy to manipulate with drink & drugs & promises. Needy men wanting love & a roof over their heads.
Once in her home & in her power she abused them appallingly & taped them "confessing" to paedophilia ,incest & all sorts of awful things while she screamed bible quotes at them. She thought of herself (and indeed openly spoke to police of herself)as an avenging angel ridding the world of perverts & she took her mission from God VERY seriously.
In a nutshell....... she was caught,tried & sentenced and the book covers it all quite well.
*** MY TAKE ON HER***
She was simply never right mentally. Call it what you like, but the woman was/is crazy. I suspect it was always within her,but as time went on it gathered momentum. Maybe had she not inherited the isolated farm & with it the privacy needed for what ensued then she'd just have been "Old Doc LaBarre's arm candy "....extremely promiscuous & one to be avoided. Yet when her defense team pleaded an insanity defense she was deemed sane !!! It beggars belief that anyone could read her story & declare this woman sane. She never put on any act for the cops etc,in the way some criminals do when hoping for an insanity plea at trial, & her excesses were well known & documented through police complaints & litigations she instigated over the years. Sane is NOT a word I'd use for her. Even murders aside,she was definitely in need of psychiatric intervention.
Her way of speaking about sexual issues & obsession with men abusing little children screamed at me that this was a woman trapped mentally regarding sex (despite being physically very VERY promiscuous.). A strange dichotomy.
***THE STYLE OF WRITING***
I found the style OK. Nothing to write home about (pun intended). Yes,the author skips around a bit,but in stories like these that is a necessary evil that as a true crime buff I'm used to, and it fleshes the story out....for example Sheila's sister claimed at her trial that they were sexually abused as children by their father & his friends,something not mentioned earlier in the book. Some authors might put that in the chapter on her childhood,but Benson kept it back till discussing the trial,when it became more relevant.which is fair enough.
There is plenty of detail,but definitely not as much as I'd like. I guess I'm used to the minute detail author's like Ann Rule provide,so I'm kind of greedy that way. But I'd definitely look for more books from Michael Benson.
All in all it was a good read for what I paid for it,but I wouldn't pay the full new price.
Thank you for reading & I hope my review was helpful/interesting. ~~~myloh