""Lizzie Borden took an axe . . "". Or did she? One hundred years ago, Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally murdered. Their youngest daughter Lizzie was arrested and tried for the killings and--shockingly to many--was found innocent.
In Engstrom's fictional treatment of the famous Lizzie Borden murder case of 1892--in which Lizzie allegedly kills both her parents but is acquitted--every door in the Borden house in Fall River, Mass., is metaphorically locked, and each room holds the terrible secrets of its occupant. Emma, Lizzie's older sister, wracked by uncontrollable rages, periodically flees to New Bedford to assuage her surreptitious appetites for sex, drink and violence. Paterfamilias Andrew Borden, tyrannical and penurious in equal measure, loves nothing but money (which he hoards obsessively), concealing his sinful thoughts and acts from his obese second wife, Abby. Lizzie appears to be a serene young woman, but only because, in the author's view, she has repressed another self--angry and long denied, it burns to emerge. At first Engstrom ( Black Ambrosia ) skillfully and subtly builds a psychological plot, moving the reader inexorably toward the anticipated savage denouement. But the very same restraint and innuendo used to good effect in the novel's early portions ill serve the final bloodbath, which approaches anticlimax. Engstrom's supernatural solution to a crime so inimitably real is a cop-out. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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November 13, 2011
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