Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE, by Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done, by Sarah Schmidt. Published 2017 by Atlantic Monthly Press. Literary Fiction. Crime Fiction.

In 1892 Andrew Borden and his wife, Abby Durfee Gray Borden, were murdered in their Fall River home. Andrew's daughter Lizzie was tried and acquitted, but there was never really another serious suspect, and Lizzie was ostracized from her community following the trial. The Borden family was wealthy and both Lizzie and her sister Emma were able to live comfortably for the rest of their life.

Sarah Schmidt has written an absorbing and truly creepy book about the murders, oscillating in time and in point of view; we see the day of the murder, the build-up, the aftermath and the Borden family life from the point of view of Lizzie, Emma, their maid Bridget and an additional, fictional character, a professional killer named Benjamin with an agenda all his own. What emerges doesn't really shed any new light on the murders or offer any alternative theory of the crime, but it will make you want to keep the lights on just a little longer at night.

Schmidt brings the three women to life; Emma, the older sister, is devoted to the high-maintenance Lizzie but this devotion has come at a high cost to Emma and as the years wear on, she finds herself resentful and yearning for freedom. Bridget hates the Borden family more and more and also longs to escape. She has saved some money and hopes to leave as soon as she can arrange it. Then Abby Borden discovers her secret and her plans may come to naught. But the real star is Lizzie- of course- and Schmidt's Lizzie is a dazzling, hypnotic monster, a needy succubus who drains the life out of those around her, while herself locked in half lucidity, half madness. It is cliche to say Schmidt takes us inside the mind of a killer but this she does; Lizzie's chapters are manic chaos. She is a menace and a destroyer.

See What I Have Done is haunting and scary, a book to keep you up at night. You don't have to know a lot about the case to enjoy it but I would recommend perusing the timeline at the end of the book, or having a Wikipedia-level knowledge of it anyway. A great book for the beach bag, I have a feeling I'll be revisiting it at Halloween too.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review.

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