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The female bonding in this clan is something special.

Bitter Almonds: Mothers, Daughters and the Seattle Cyanide Murders

In the hands of a lesser writer, this would be simply depressing. Fortunately we have Gregg Olsen on the case and no one is better at depicting the underclass of America. He's neither preachy nor faux-sympathetic. The more of his work I read the more convinced I am that Gregg Olsen is a brilliant combination of Darcy O'Brien another true crime great and filmmaker John Waters in his ability to show us what we'd prefer to avoid while showing us a little of ourselves in the process.


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Gregg Olsen gives Stella Maudine and the rest of the Stephenson girls what they would probably most want: their dignity. He shows them at their trashy worst but always shows their strength. Of course, that strength can take the form of dumping your kids, turning your mom into the FBI or poisoning your husband but then life's not for wimps.

Sep 05, Jim Thomsen rated it it was amazing. This is my favorite of Gregg Olsen's true-crime books — a deliciously nasty, trashy Puget Sound story, well-told through authoritative research and reporting. The story: In the mids, two Puget Sound-area people, totally unknown to one another, die within days of another from cyanide poisoning after purchasing and taking what they thought were Tylenol capsules.

Suspicion centers on one surviving spouse who behaves plenty suspiciously , but more methodical investigation eventually puts a spot This is my favorite of Gregg Olsen's true-crime books — a deliciously nasty, trashy Puget Sound story, well-told through authoritative research and reporting. Suspicion centers on one surviving spouse who behaves plenty suspiciously , but more methodical investigation eventually puts a spotlight on the other spouse, Stella Nickell.

Nickell makes a fabulous suspect, all right: The rural Auburn resident is a white-trash diva of the first order, with a long history of torrid romances, homewreckings and high-maintenance histrionics. And she behaves hilariously once she becomes aware of law enforcement's interest in her, running around in hysterics, backtracking like mad, trying to keep everybody in her life working off the script she makes up as she goes. So over the top is he behavior, both before and after the crime, that we, like she, almost forget about the husband, the victim. She acts guilty, but is she? Could the victim's stepdaughter have been a part of the plot?

Olsen skillfully suggests that it's possible — maybe even more than possible — without stepping over the line and steering us toward saying it's so. In the end, we're a convinced we have most of the necessary information; b impressed by the pluckiness and fortitude of the few people who manage to rise above the muck; c satisfied that the primary evildoer got what she deserved; and d tantalized by the possibility that someone else not only got away with murder but did so by selling out her own mother.

Oh, and e wildly entertained. I know it sounds like a blase thing to say about murder, and Olsen deftly balances the black comedy of the The Gang That Couldn't Loot Straight with the touching torment of the other victim's family, but it's true all the same. This book's purpose is a little elusive.

Bitter Almonds: The True Story of Mothers, Daughters, and the Seattle Cyanide Murders | Gregg Olsen

I'm getting very close to done, and unless there is a plot twist coming I just don't understand why it's going on the way it is. I mean, Olsen has established the evidence the state had against Stella Nickel, yet, we are going on and on and on about the testimony given at the trial regarding the evidence already established. I had decided long ago I didn't care for Olsen's style of writing.

After hearing a preview of the audio of this book I thought I'd gi This book's purpose is a little elusive. After hearing a preview of the audio of this book I thought I'd give him another chance. I'm regretting it. It was a 20 hour book that should have been about 14 hours. The repetition is past daunting, it has progressed into something in the realm of slogging through the book rather than listening.

This could have been an excellent book. What we know is that Bruce Nickel died of cyanide poisoning. We know that the wife, Stella's finger and hand prints were found on encyclopedias researching cyanide.

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We know she purchased the cyanide. We know when, and where it was purchased. We know her daughter testified against her. We know her behaviors were more than strange after Bruce's death. We know that only 3 bottles of capsules were tampered with. One was replaced at the store, the other two were found in the Nickel's home. The rest of the book is an abundance of "he said", "she said". In the end I am going to rate this book with 4 stars.


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Because despite Olsen's need to drag a 14 hour book into 20 hours of belaboring work it is still an interesting case, it was still very well researched, and one must assume that just because I don't care for his style of writing doesn't make it bad. This is quite an accomplishment in the true crime canon.

Olsen's detailed account of the Seattle Cyanide murders at times reads with scarcely believable behind the scenes dialogue, like a Bob Woodward book. At one point the detail - around the 80th chapter - I felt was too much, this was the role played by the one recalcitrant juror and her possible motives.

This came after overly detailed courtroom chapters including quoted testimony which I find in length too banal and tedious to be as compell This is quite an accomplishment in the true crime canon. This came after overly detailed courtroom chapters including quoted testimony which I find in length too banal and tedious to be as compelling as the rest of the book.


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  6. It is very compelling to read of the walls closing in around product tamperer as witness interviews and technology uncovering fingerprints, library checkouts, algaecide, and more work to bring her down. From crime to post-sentencing fallout that includes reward payout and incriminating discoveries in Stella'a trailer, Olsen brings to life the lives and crimes here in a way that will have me reading more of this work.

    Jun 06, Nancy rated it it was ok Shelves: true-crime. I really wanted this to be a better book than it turned out to be. I was thinking of just putting it down and walking away from it forever several different times. In the end I stuck with it out of some sort of loyalty. The story is about some Excedrin capsules laced with Cyanide in the 's, shortly after the Tylenol poisonings; I actually thought this was the story about the Tylenol poisonings which contributed to my disappointment in reading this.

    The first pages or so are backstory, sp I really wanted this to be a better book than it turned out to be. The first pages or so are backstory, specifically the story of one family, with multiple family members at least one of whom changed her name halfway through the book , and lots of boyfriends and friends and children. It really had too many family members for the average reader to keep straight, which in my opinion is its fatal flaw. If you can keep up with a large cast of characters and an achingly slow start, you'll like this, if not, pass and just look up the crime on Wikipedia or something.

    View 1 comment. Jun 29, Katie Scofield rated it it was ok. I had high hopes for this one, but alas, I made it halfway through and had to give up.

    Stella Nickell | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers

    Very interesting story The narrative jumped around so frequently from story to story and year to year that it felt like a lot was left unexplained or unfinished. I looked online to find out how everything worked out in the end, but didn't have the energy to finish the book. Also, the errors typographical and punctuation error I had high hopes for this one, but alas, I made it halfway through and had to give up.

    Also, the errors typographical and punctuation errors were most frequent were a big issue for me Listened to in audio format. I love true crime books. I enjoy the background of the crime, the Police investigation and the court case. Unfortunately I found Bitter Almonds too long, it took me 2 weeks to listen to this which is not a good sign. I think it would of been better had there been less about Stella Nickell's mother and her sisters. Sep 07, Lauren rated it did not like it. Way too much detail mostly because it is either repetitive or inconsequential to the story.

    Needs to be edited there were several Paragraphs repeated in different chapters. I believe story could be told in pages. Apr 29, SouthWestZippy rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction , true-crime. Had some repetitive parts and kinda dragged along on others but overall a good book.

    I read this thinking I enjoyed this book for the most part. It was well paced overall, and I really liked that it didn't simply end with the verdict, but went a bit past that to add some additional information that was important to understanding how very strange and complicated everything was. I did find that there were times when it seemed to switch abruptly from talking about the Nickell family to the Snow family, but this might have made more sense in a written copy rather than the audio book.

    I was also a little I enjoyed this book for the most part. I was also a little put off by constantly switching from referring to people by their first name and then moments later by their first and middle name e. Jan 24, Serena G rated it it was ok. This was the longest book ever, it was soooo boring.

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