Title and Author: Maplecroft (The Borden Dispatches), by Cherie Priest
Release Date: September 2014 Trade Paperback
Publisher: ROC published by The Penguin Group
Target Audience/Age Group: Adult
Part of a Series? Maybe, it's not clear.
Will the Reviewer Keep It In His/Her Library? Yes
I eagerly picked this up because it features Lizzie Borden. That's her on the cover, with her famous axe, which, it turns out, she is very good at using. Who isn't fascinated by her parents' murders?
The book takes place in 1893 and 1894, after Lizzie was acquitted of the murders. She and her sister Emma have moved from their father's house into the "mansion" they'd built for themselves. The new place features several enhancements built in secret to Lizzie's designs. She even has a laboratory in the basement.
Emma is secretly a prominent marine biologist, hiding behind a pseudonym because she's a woman. She's also very ill, dependent on Lizzie. They have no servants, for reasons that become clear as one reads more into the book. Their only friends are the local doctor, a biologist who received a sample from Emma and Lizzie's lover, Nance O'Neal.
In the world created by the author, the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden make perfect sense and were justified. So does the sister's voluntary isolation from society.
I liked it. The story was creepy, not terrifying, but it kept my interest through to the end.
I did find errors. On page 9 "that strange mass which dissolves by atoms on the back right table." Though as far back as the ancient Greeks people have theorized the world is made of tiny stuff, atomic theory wasn't known in the 1890's.
On page 159 a funeral is held at a funeral home. This wasn't done in the 1890's. Funerals were held at home.
On page 369 it's said humans evolved from water creatures. The fossil studies that result in this theory had not been done by the 1890's.
When I was done reading the book I wanted to refresh my memory about the murders, so I looked at the website for the Fall River Historical Society. They've published a 1100+ page book on Lizzie Borden (see Parallel Lives).
The Providence Journal published a series on the murders, available online at http://www.providencejournal.com/topics/special-reports/lizzie-borden-anniversary/content/20130621-part-one-to-me-i-see-nothing-but-the-densest-of-shadows.ece
A great blog on the Bordens and the town of Fall River, Massachusetts, is http://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com