Everybody knew Velma Barfield as the perfect wife and a loving grandmother. But there was something about her that nobody knew.... Velma Barfield had a secret life and a sick urge to kill.
"Fast-paced...breathes new life into the true crime genre." (
Raleigh News & Observer)
"Bledsoe has written a detailed account of Barfield's troubled life and motives...holds the reader's interest with a true story that reads like a novel." ( Library Journal)
"Undertakes to answer the questions about the justice system and the motives that drive women to kill." ( Washington Post Book World)
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The trouble with true stories
The trouble with true stories is that the writer is given his plot, for good or bad, as it happened. The history of Velma Barfield's life may simply not lend itself to a satisfying story. If every good tale needs a villain, we would expect Velma, the serial killer of this true story, to take on that role. And what we expect is for the villain to come to a satisfying defeat, bringing closure to the book. In the case of Death Sentence that all starts getting muddled up about halfway through: Velma is arrested, tried and sentenced to the capital punishment. We have reason to feel justice, resolution and closure. But, yet... the writer carries on. We have dozens of chapters to go in which our "villain" is now humanized, made to seem pitiful, pious and even noble. As the book closes we are left with a decidedly mixed feeling. Should we sympathise with a woman who poisoned her own mother (among many others)? Or should we feel vindication that a woman who becomes a paragon of caring whilst in prison, is herself then poisoned by the State? I spent the days after finishing this story wondering what to think. Ultimately it was muddied story, with no clear hero, and only a feeling of disappointment with the state of humankind in general at the end.
- Michael Mathews