Infamous Lady, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Kimberly L.Craft, 2009. Updated edition 2014.
Ahhh! The blood countess. One of my favourite historical subjects. The so-called “most prolific killer of all time”. She bathed in blood (not really)- surely you’ve heard of her name, Elizabeth Bathory?
Kimberly L. Craft’s Infamous Lady shows great premise in that it gathers the most detailed information possible on the “Blood Countess”. Through research and translation, Craft gives us what is quite possible the most complete book and source on countess Elizabeth Bathory.
Infamous Lady is without a doubt the most complete book on Elizabeth Bathory available today. Unlike most books about Bathory, this is not a fictional story. It’s rather a journey to discover who the countess really was, it is not trying to perpetuate some myth.
Huge aspect of the book include the “if” and “why” Bathory committed those atrocities for which she has become a legend. It all comes from an unbiased and documented approached which appealed to me very much. Craft worked hard to separate the legend from the myth. For instance, the amount of victims by the Countess is not as high as it actually was claimed and there was no indication that she ever bathed in blood for instance. The author wants to paint an accurate portrait of her as much as possible and I believe it succeeds rather well at doing so.
At first glance you can tell this is an independent, self-published book not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s also one of the more scholar works on the Countess you will find. A quick of the author will reveal her credentials and expertise on the subject.
The content is fantastic for a reader who desires to learn about the Countess Bathory; her tale is dark, fascinating and has been passed down through generations. Infamous Lady covers the origins of her family, the Bathory name, introduces her parents, siblings and members of her family, the situation in Hungary and Europe, her childhood, her marriage, teenage years, rise to power, her husband Frederick Nadasdy, her children, the events that lead her to commit those atrocities, witnesses, servants… everything up until Bathory’s arrest and death.
And then when it’s over, there’s more. A glimpse into Bathory’s mind, the court trial, testimony of witnesses and so on. It’s a terrific book although it may seem a bit complicated to the average reader at the beginning. I found myself going back a few pages many times when the author was going through the family history in the beginning because there are so many names and they’re in another language and it gets hard to keep up. It becomes more straightforward, be assured.
When I say this Infamous Lady is complete, well researched and is possibly the definitive work on Countess Elizabeth Bathory I do mean complete. As much information available on her as there is (and believe some of it must have been hard to find and needed translation), it’s in this book.
It took a great deal of effort from the author to translate all those original documents to the English language and the fruit of her work can be enjoyed in this book. Almost the entirety of the book comes from translation of documents and letters. Ms. Craft a very scholar approach to this work. I particularly enjoyed reading some of the letters translated, it was interesting to read Erzebet’s own writing and some of the letters she sent and received.
However, one point is lacking. I would have liked for the author to go into more details and examine the possible conspiracy against Elizabeth. Some believe Bathory to be a victim. Craft never goes into details on this theory and never seems to consider it as a possibility. Is it plausible that she might have been framed at all? Not that I’m more inclined to believe it was a conspiracy (especially not after reading this work on Elizabeth), but some people support this theory.
Some of the pictures are portraits of the people mentioned often in the book, we also get maps of the castle and what it looked like, Erzebet’s childhood home and such but what disappointed me were the photo pictures. Just looking at them you can see they’re pixilated when on a computer screen so one has to wonder why she chose those not so great pictures to be in the book when there are plenty of better choices (or perhaps she couldn’t use others for some reason?) and looks amateurish. That’s the one of the few real complaint that I have on this book and it’s not even that big but it would have looked more professional is all I’m saying.
As for the author’s sources, she states them in the bibliography, lists some of her translations and it seems as most of it is just that; the author’s own translations is the core of the book but somehow it doesn’t seem complete.
This is fantastic reading on Elizabeth Bathory for those who are like me, fascinated by the tale of the Blood Countess. I can’t say that I’ve read many books on Bathory because there are very few books on the subject. I would highly recommend this one. It seems to me that this is the closest account of what actually happened. It would be worth it even if only for the accounts of witnesses, court documents and such papers.
There’s really not a whole lot to criticize, Infamous Lady is the best book on Bathory out there and it has things like letters and testimonies that separate it from the rest. In addition, it’s hard to put down. I would also recommend Craft’s other books on Bathory; The Private Letters of Erzebet Bathory and Elizabeth Bathory: A Memoire. 4.5/5*
[Note that for her book Craft chose to use the countess’ Hungarian and birth name Erzsebet instead of the anglicized Elizabeth. She states her reasons to do so at the beginning of the book.]