See What I Have Done

"Someone's killed Father." On August 4, 1892, 32-year-old Lizzie Borden found her father dead and called for the family maid, Bridget, giving rise to one of the most notorious American crime legends. Despite more than a century of lore, there is no legal certainty Lizzie bludgeoned her father and stepmother to death. Sara Schmidt has re-imagined that infamous day in her wonderfully bonkers debut novel, See What I Have Done. Schmidt deftly weaves history into mystery, giving the mix an unusually ghoulish take that renders it both arresting and squirm-inducing.

It was no secret in Fall River, Mass., that the Bordens were a little peculiar. Lizzie and her older sister, Emma, still lived at home with their father and his second wife. The four were a compellingly toxic group of codependents, engaged in a constant tug-of-war between loving and hating, slapping and hugging, needing and repelling.

The majority of the novel takes place on the day before and day of the murders, from the perspectives of Lizzie, Emma and Bridget. Schmidt also includes Benjamin, an acquaintance of the girls' Uncle John, cleverly used to infuse both more mystery and credibility into the story. Although the narrative is boldly macabre, it's written with such a proper New England sensibility that even blood licking feels almost crazily quaint.

The Borden girls' minds are uncomfortable places to be--particularly Lizzie's, portrayed as fragmented and childlike yet sinister and calculating. Sprinkled with hatchet misadventures, potential poisonings and odd fascinations with pears and fingernail clippings, Schmidt's storytelling is mind-blowingly atmospheric and unsettling. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

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