The notorious Lizzie Borden investigates a brutal axe-murder that’s strangely reminiscent of her own alleged crimes in this “entertaining” historical novel (The New York Times).
It has been thirty years since a Massachusetts jury acquitted Lizzie Borden of brutally murdering her father and stepmother. Now, at the start of the 1920s, she’s an aging spinster living a quiet, secluded life by the New England seashore.
Young Amanda Burton has heard all the stories, but nothing can dissuade her from spending time with the lonely old woman next door who shows her card tricks and smells of cigars. At age thirteen, Amanda’s been left to her own devices during a rather dull and swelteringly summer-long family vacation, and Miss Lizzie is the perfect distraction.
But when Amanda stumbles upon her own despised stepmother’s corpse, the brutal crime seems eerily similar to a certain double axe-slaying in Fall River three decades earlier. Naturally the whole town immediately suspects Lizzie. The local police, though, are open-minded enough to consider Amanda’s brother and father to be viable suspects as well.
To help her young friend and clear her own name (again), Lizzie must sharpen her sleuthing skills to find a fiendish killer with an axe to grind.
Using the notorious Lizzie Borden as one of its characters, this competently written novel is set in a Massachusetts seaside resort three decades after Lizzie has been acquitted of the axe-murder of her father and stepmother. Narrator Amanda Burton recalls the events of the summer when she was 13 and established a friendship with the infamous, ostracized Lizzie, who lived next door. When Amanda awakens one morning to discover that her own dreaded stepmother has been bludgeoned to death, it is to Lizzie that she turns. With the help of some colorful secondary characters--a dapper local lawyer, a well-meaning Pinkerton man, the one-armed police chief who holds a longstanding grudge--Amanda and Lizzie battle the thickets of small-town prejudice and innuendo to uncover the murderer, though Miss Lizzie herself remains everyone's favorite suspect. Though Satterthwait ( Wall of Glass ) is sometimes clumsy in his effort to evoke the atmosphere of the 1920s and its flapper culture, he delivers an entertaining amalgam of memoir-cum-murder mystery that rehabilitates (however improbably) the reputation of a woman who has become an enduring legend.