The Murderer’s Maid: A Lizzie Borden Novel
The Murderer’s Maid is a fascinating retelling of the hacking to death of Lizzie Borden’s father and step-mother as seen through the eyes of the family’s Irish maid. Like any novel based on an historical incident, it faces the problem of making a known narrative fresh and exciting. One way is through language, and in this regard, The Murderer’s Maid succeeds brilliantly. The writing is elegant and evocative, with an abundance of metaphors and similes, one or two perhaps a little jarring and misplaced but the vast majority apt and vivid. Another is through plot. The means chosen in this case is a parallel story about Brooke, a modern-day young woman apparently on the run from some unspecified pursuer from her past. The link between the two tales, however, is forced and improbable in the context of the norms governing late nineteenth-century society, and the conclusion to Brooke’s part of the story rests on incredibly coincidental relationships among the cast of characters surrounding her. Plot weaknesses notwithstanding, The Murderer’s Maid is a first-rate read that combines a gripping account of the tension simmering in the Borden household with a thorough detailing of the evidence leading to Lizzie’s trial.