Published by Atlantic Monthly Press on August 1st 2017
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“Someone’s killed Father”
Someone indeed! Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered in their home on August 4, 1892 between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m in Fall River, Massachusetts. Abby was killed first and then Andrew. Their bodies were found in different rooms – Abby upstairs and Andrew in his office. Lizzie Borden was arrested for the murders and spent 10 months in jail and after an hour and a half deliberation, the jury acquitted her of Murder.
Most people have heard the rhyme:
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
**In reality Abby was only hit 19 times and Andrew hit 10 or 11 times.
In this debut Novel, Schmidt paints a picture of the not-so-perfect Borden family. Andrew Borden was a wealthy man but was extremely frugal and his family lived without indoor plumbing or other comforts he could have easily afforded. His relationship with his daughters was tenuous at best due to him getting re-married after their Mother’s death. He also gifted his new wife’s family with real estate which further angered his daughters. There were also issues surrounding Mr. Borden killing Lizzie’s pigeons. Lizzie appears to be quite immature and at times I felt she came off as a 13 year old girl versus a grown woman. Was she immature due to living a sheltered life? Did she have mental health issues?
The Borden family comes off as quite dysfunctional with both sisters locking up parts of the home at various times. Both adult daughters spent time in Europe after arguments with their father. When home they rarely at meals with their father and step-mother. The book also paints the sisters as having a love/hate relationship with each other. Emma was away at the time of the murders but only by 15 miles or so. Did she suspect her sister of killing their father and step-mother?
“I looked at my sister, looked at blood. That grief inside the heart.”
What is interesting is that Bridget and Lizzie were both home at the time of the Murders. Bridget was quoted as hearing Lizzie say “Quickly. Someone has killed father.” Lizzie burned a dress several days after the deaths were committed. An axe with a missing handle was found in the basement but the handle was broken off and the blade was clean. Could this have been the murder weapon? Why did Lizzie give conflicting statements? Was the door in the basement unlocked? Could someone have committed the murders without anyone in the house knowing?
This book is told through the point of view of various characters: Bridget (the housekeeper/maid), Emma (the oldest daughter), Lizzie, and Benjamin (hired by Uncle John). Their POV’s jump around a little so one has to keep track of when they are giving their perspective (pre-Murder vs. post murder)Who had a motive? Was Lizzie the real killer? What was going on with the food? Why was the family getting violently ill before the murders? This family does a lot of vomiting in this book! There is also a lot of talk of blood – maybe the squeamish may have an issue with it. If you are reading a book about murder it is to be expected IMO.
I thought this book was a very good fictionalization of the real life murders of the Borden family. It is evident that the Author did a lot of research and wove her tale around the real life time frame of the important events in this book. These murders are very famous – at least in the United States. The murders have never been solved and many people could have had motives for the killings. Most people believe that Lizzie did commit the murders. I believe the fascination with this “cold case” is that at the time, it was “shocking” that a woman could or would commit such a crime. I think crime and/or history buffs will really enjoy this book.
I was torn between a 3.5 and a 4 so I rounded up to a 4. I wish the ending would have been a little more exciting. I found it to fizzle rather than to end with a BOOM. Yes, I realize that the Author cannot re-write history but I would have liked to have seem more of Lizzie and
Emma’s perspectives at the end. Maybe a blow out fight between them. I was left wanting something more.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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