Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

Historical Fiction
4*s

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

On 4 August 1892 Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally murdered in their own home where they lived with Andrew’s daughters Lizzie and Emma and their housemaid Bridget. Lizzie was put on trial for their murder but was exonerated of the crime at her trial three months later.

Sarah Schmidt has recreated the scene on the morning of the murder, and in the months leading up to it using four different narrators: Lizzie, Bridget, Emma and the mystery character Benjamin. These four give us different views of a household which was undoubtedly full of tension with Lizzie and Emma only deigning to call Abby, Mrs Borden.
The thing that struck me most was how young Lizzie’s character seemed to be. The voice is actually a woman in her thirties, unmarried in an age where that was unusual, but she sounds far more like a petulant child. This just adds to the weird atmosphere recreated by Sarah Schmidt with many references to smells and tastes, particularly of the mutton stew which was endlessly reheated. Was this the cause of the sickness that all the members of the household, bar Lizzie were afflicted with? Or was the cause something more sinister? The stickiness of the day, the juiciness of the endless pears that were consumed from the arbour and the meticulous locking of the doors even during the daytime all add to the feeling of claustrophobia that set this household in Fall River, Massachusetts from the rest of the world.

All the best known details of the investigation into the brutal slaying of Mr and Mrs Borden are included, some in the present day narrative which runs throughout the book, some in the flashbacks that give the background to past conflicts that are still running, no doubt because the two daughters should have left long ago. We are given some insight as to why Emma stayed, which was due to the unnaturally symbiotic relationship with Lizzie, but no clue was offered as to why none of the local men had asked for Lizzie’s hand in marriage.

The style of writing took a little while to acclimatise to, but once I got into the stride of the book I was eager to see what theories as to what happened on that fateful day the author would propose and I’m glad to say that no single theory held sway over another, with Sarah Schmidt giving the reader the chance to come to their own conclusions based on the evidence produced.

I have to admit I only really sympathised with one of the characters who narrates this story and that was Bridget, the Irish housemaid who crossed the ocean for a better life and has been saving money to return home to her family but maybe that was because she had the most ‘normal’ of voices. Andrew is presented through the eyes of all of the characters as a harsh father and Abby as a spiteful and bitter step-mother. The undercurrents of distrust and outright hostility are then thrown into focus by the appearance of John Morse, the brother of the Sarah, Andrew Borden’s first wife and mother to Emma and Lizzie. In some ways by the time I completed the book, whoever the murderer was, the deaths seem almost inevitable.

In conclusion See What I Have Done is an unusual and fascinating read, but far from a comfortably one; the writing so vivid I feared sensory overload and as a result I foretell a pearless future for this reader!

First Published UK: 2 May 2017
Publisher: Tinder Press
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Historical Fiction– True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (April 19)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

My current read is another from my own bookshelf; The Scent of Murder by Felicity Young which is the third in the Dr Dody McCleland series set in London during the Edwardian era.

Blurb

‘If a black dog appears along the old corpse way, the route a funeral procession takes to the churchyard, it is thought to be escorting the dead soul to the afterlife. A black dog sighting without a funeral procession, however, is supposed to foreshadow death.’

For Doctor Dody McCleland, the unearthing of an ancient skeleton in a dry riverbed is a welcome break from the monotony of chaperoning her younger sister at a country house near the isolated hamlet of Piltdown. But when she begins her analysis of the bones, Britain’s first female autopsy surgeon discovers they are much more recent – and they are the result of murder. With Chief Inspector Matthew Pike’s help Dody begins to investigate.
Soon she finds herself pitted against ugly traditionalism, exploitation, spectral dogs, a ghostly hunt and a series of events that not only threaten her belief in scientific rationalism, but threaten her life itself. Amazon

The last book I finished was Mother Knows Best by Netta Newbound, a contemporary psychological thriller of novella length.

Blurb

All her life twenty-two-year-old Ruby Fitzroy’s annoyingly over protective mother has believed the worst will befall one of her two daughters. Sick and tired of living in fear, Ruby arranges a date without her mother’s knowledge.

On first impressions, charming and sensitive Cody Strong seems perfect. When they visit his home overlooking the Welsh coast, she meets his delightful father Steve and brother Kyle. But it isn’t long before she discovers all is not as it seems.

After a shocking turn of events, Ruby’s world is blown apart. Terrified and desperate, she prepares to face her darkest hour yet.

Will she ever escape this nightmare? Amazon

Next up is a book that I have been eagerly anticipating for some time, See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt which was inspired by the infamous Lizzie Borden


Blurb

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbours struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling. NetGalley

So I have a reading week full of murder and I’d love to know what are you reading?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (January 29)

Weekly Wrap Up

This Week on the Blog

On Monday I awarded five stars in my review for the psychological thriller Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch, a masterpiece of plotting and misdirection. Her Husband’s Lover starts with a car crash and the death of Louisa Williams’ husband and children.

My excerpt post on Tuesday was from a standalone book Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham which sounds like it will be a very interesting read.

This Week in Books had me spotlight my upcoming read, a book that I’ve owned since September 2015; The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This book is widely perceived to be one of the important pieces of feminist literature, first published in 1892.

On Thursday I hosted an Author Post by Caimh McDonnell as part of the blog tour for The Day That Never Comes, where Caimh talks about the inspiration for the book.

My review on Friday was for the much hyped Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough complete with the hashtag WTFthatending. I was thoroughly entertained and gripped by this psychological novel.

Yesterday my final review of the week was for The Day That Never Comes by Caimh McDonnell, a mixture of crime and humour.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths, the eighth book in the Ruth Galloway series. In this novel the theme of Madonna runs strongly through the investigation into the death of a hospital patient found wearing a blue nightgown.

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover

The Woman in Blue

Blurb

A vision of the Virgin Mary foreshadows a string of cold-blooded murders, revealing a dark current of religious fanaticism in an old medieval town.

Known as England’s Nazareth, the medieval town of Little Walsingham is famous for religious apparitions. So when Ruth Galloway’s druid friend Cathbad sees a woman in a white dress and a dark blue cloak standing alone in the local cemetery one night, he takes her as a vision of the Virgin Mary. But then a woman wrapped in blue cloth is found dead the next day, and Ruth’s old friend Hilary, an Anglican priest, receives a series of hateful, threatening letters. Could these crimes be connected? When one of Hilary’s fellow female priests is murdered just before Little Walsingham’s annual Good Friday Passion Play, Ruth, Cathbad, and DCI Harry Nelson must team up to find the killer before he strikes again. Amazon

Stacking The Shelves

Let’s just say that I’ve been keeping our good old postie busy this week delivering books!

First to arrive was The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff which will be published with a huge number of other books on my pile on 23 February 2017.

the-orphans-tale

Blurb

In Nazi-occupied Holland, seventeen-year-old Noa snatches a baby from a train bound for the concentration camps, fleeing with him into the snowy wilderness surrounding the train tracks.
Passing through the woods is a German circus – a troupe of waifs and strays, led by the infamous Herr Neuroff. They agree to take in Noa and the baby, on one condition: to earn her keep, Noa must master the flying trapeze – under the tutorage of mysterious aerialist, Astrid.
Soaring high above the crowds, Noa and Astrid must learn to trust one another…or plummet. But with the threat of war closing in, loyalty can become the most dangerous trait of all. Amazon

And then another wartime novel When the Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea which will be published in paperback on 2 March 2017. I couldn’t resist this one because after bemoaning the fact that there are no books set in Jersey where I live, here’s another one.

when-the-sky-fell-apart

Blurb

Jersey, June 1940: it starts with the burning man on the beach just after the bombs land, obliterating the last shred of hope that Hitler will avert his attention from the Channel Islands. Within weeks, 12,000 German troops land on the Jersey beaches, heralding a new era of occupation.

For 10-year-old Claudine, it means a re-education under German rule, and as she befriends one of the soldiers, she inadvertently opens the gateway to a more sinister influence in her home with devastating consequences.

For Maurice, a local fisherman, it means protecting his wife at all costs. He has heard the whispers from France of what the occupiers do to invalids like Marthe and he is determined to keep them away from her – even if it means endangering his own life.

Edith, the island’s unofficial homeopath, is a Jerriais through to her bones. She sees her duty as caring for those who need her in their darkest time, but even she can’t save everyone, no matter how hard she tries.

And as for English doctor Tim Carter – on the arrival of the brutal Commandant, he becomes the subject of a terrifying regime that causes the Jersey locals to brand him a traitor, unaware of the torment he suffers in an effort to save them. Amazon

From the remainder of my Christmas voucher I bought a copy of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, another book I feel as an avid crime reader, I really should have read before now!

in-cold-blood
Blurb

The chilling true crime ‘non-fiction novel’ that made Truman Capote’s name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative published in Penguin Modern Classics.
Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote’s comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human. Amazon

And the final pennies were spent on Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham. A book that I first came across on Fiction Fan’s Book Reviews in April 2014 – and it’s been on the wishlist ever since but since I read Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge which was inspired by this crime, I thought it time that I read this one too.

anne-perry-and-the-murder-of-the-century

Blurb

On June 22, 1954, teenage friends Juliet Hulme better known as bestselling mystery writer Anne Perry and Pauline Parker went for a walk in a New Zealand park with Pauline s mother, Honora. Half an hour later, the girls returned alone, claiming that Pauline s mother had had an accident. But when Honora Parker was found in a pool of blood with the brick used to bludgeon her to death close at hand, Juliet and Pauline were quickly arrested, and later confessed to the killing. Their motive? A plan to escape to the United States to become writers, and Honora s determination to keep them apart. Their incredible story made shocking headlines around the world and would provide the subject for Peter Jackson s Academy Award nominated film, Heavenly Creatures.
A sensational trial followed, with speculations about the nature of the girls relationship and possible insanity playing a key role. Among other things, Parker and Hulme were suspected of lesbianism, which was widely considered to be a mental illness at the time. This mesmerizing book offers a brilliant account of the crime and ensuing trial and shares dramatic revelations about the fates of the young women after their release from prison. With penetrating insight, this thorough analysis applies modern psychology to analyze the shocking murder that remains one of the most interesting cases of all time. Amazon

In addition to those lovelies I was approved on NetGalley for See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

see-what-i-have-done

Blurb

Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Or did she?

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling. NetGalley

 

Have you read any of these? Do you want to?

 

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read a total of 4 books but gained 5 new ones making the grand total of 190
Physical Books – 111
Kindle Books – 67
NetGalley Books – 12