See What I Have Done
Lizzie Borden, famed murderess of 19th century Massachusetts, has reason to wield her axe in Sarah Schmidt’s novel See What I Have Done. But, did Lizzie do it? Her father, Andrew, and stepmother, Abby, don’t treat Lizzie well, from her point of view, but Lizzie’s older sister, Emma, sees the younger girl as petulant and demanding. Who is correct?
These questions drive the plot as each chapter reveals some new wrinkle in the events of August 4th, 1892, the day Andrew and Abby were found murdered in their home. Told through the voices of four different characters–the Borden sisters, Emma and Lizzie, their Irish maid, Bridget, and a ne’er-do-well for hire named Benjamin–the story unfolds slightly out of chronological order. The days before and after the murders are chronicled from all different angles, and it is unclear who the true killer is, though all signs certainly point to Lizzie. Her hatred of her stepmother and need for attention are prime motives, as is an unspeakable act of violence by her father, but she isn’t the only one who may wish the wealthy Bordens ill. It is the question, the whodunit, that makes the book un-put-down-able.
Schmidt’s tension and artistry, particularly as crafted by Lizzie’s attentiveness to her pet pigeons, is eerie and masterful. If historical fiction or crime-thrillers are your style, you cannot go wrong with See What I Have Done.
Atlantic Monthly Press