See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Reviewed by Gillian, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale
Lizzie Borden's grizzly tale is hardly the obvious story for a librarian from regional Victoria to retell as a debut novel - but Sarah Schmidt makes a suitably chilling job of rendering the last days of Andrew Borden and his wife Abby.
Covering the period leading up to the murders and the weeks that follow, the story is narrated from four different points of view. Volatile and spoilt Lizzie veers from sweet compliance to shrieking tyrant and is the prime suspect; sister Emma away from the house at the time of the murder has plenty of reasons to be jealous of her sister; the housemaid Bridget is unnerved by the residents of the Borden house and wants to leave but Mrs Borden has found her savings and is withholding them from her. Benjamin is a thug hired to frighten Mr Borden, with Lizzie's doting uncle paying the fee. The household is plagued by unease, vermin, illness and bad feeling.
Sarah Schmidt became obsessed by Lizzie Borden's story. Speaking to booksellers at a recent conference she told of being visited by Lizzie in her dreams. She researched the case in the US and even spent the night sleeping in Lizzie's room in the Borden house. No wonder this book is so tangibly creepy. A spine tingling thriller.