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A gruesome and fascinating tale of history’s first female serial killer
By Rebecca Johns
Praise for THE COUNTESS
“Johns’s creepily enticing second novel…is a carefully researched story, gothic in tone and grimly atmospheric, with subtly handled psychology and an initially unassuming tone. Unlike most serial killer stories, this rewards patience and close reading.”
In January 1611, one of the highest-born members of the Hungarian nobility, Countess Erzsébet Báthory, was walled inside her castle tower and imprisoned for the rest of her life. Her crime—the brutal torture and murder of at least thirty-five women and girls, mostly servants in the countess’s employ. Nicknamed the “Blood Countess,” Báthory is the first and one of the most prolific female serial killers in history. While her story is horrific, her legend has nevertheless persisted in the popular imagination—inspiring a well-established cult following intrigued by her strange gothic legacy. The real-life countess was one of Bram Stoker’s two inspirations for Dracula, and her character has appeared in film, video games, and classic and contemporary literature. She was even referenced on a recent episode of True Blood.
The Countess: A Novel (Crown, October 12, 2010) by Rebecca Johns re-creates Báthory’s story in her own words, detailing how this daughter of a noble family is betrothed at age ten but rebels against her mother-in-law by bearing an illegitimate child. She is forced to marry Count Nádasdy, a man she barely knows, and resorts to spells and potions to give him a child. While the Count toils on the battlefield, the Countess wages a constant war in her household, relying on strict discipline and severe punishments to keep her servants in line. After the count’s death she conducts an ardent love affair with the man who would eventually imprison her. After he spurns her, she turns to the vicious torture and murder of her servants. The Countess offers an intimate, strangely sympathetic, and ultimately disturbing account of one of the most reviled women in history—a woman who was capable of gruesome acts of torture but also intensely passionate love.
Author Rebecca Johns paints a riveting portrait of Countess Báthory’s story with evocative prose and chilling restraint. Her insights into the inner life of this horrifying, yet fascinating historical figure make The Countess the fullest exploration of the “Blood Countess” to date.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
REBECCA JOHNS is an assistant professor of English at DePaul University and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her first novel, Icebergs, was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Hemingway Award.
By Rebecca Johns
Crown Publishing ? On sale date: October 12, 2010
304 pages ? $25.00 ? ISBN: 978-0-307-58845-6