Tag Archives: murder mystery

Lizzie Borden: Sifting Fact from Fiction

20 Apr

I first learned about Lizzie Borden in 1975. I remember sitting with my mother and sister, watching the TV movie The Legend of Lizzie Borden starring Elizabeth Montgomery.


Up until that point, she’d always been Samantha from Bewitched,  and my mom made a big deal out of her change of roles, and this movie. In retrospect, I can see it as the made for TV movie that it was, but it has colored my view of Borden’s guilt.

A much more evenhanded presentation of the facts can be found in The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller.


 Goodreads Summary: In linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4, 1892, murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. Most of what is known about Lizzie’s arrest and subsequent trial (and acquittal) comes from sensationalized newspaper reports; as Miller sorts fact from fiction, and as a legal battle gets under way, a portrait of a woman and a town emerges.

The book opens on the morning of the murder and takes us through Borden’s arrest, imprisonment, trial and the acquittal. In these days of Law & Order  in all it’s incarnations, it is interesting to see the lack of  forensic evidence and clear police procedure we have come to expect. Miller’s story is engaging, unfolding like a thriller and full of newspaper reports about the sensational “trial of the century”. There are actual photos of the murder scenes and other photos and diagrams. Additionally, Miller has numerous sidebars that give us a clearer glimpse into life in Fall River, MA in August 1892.

Middle grade readers on up will find this a fascinating read.



The Dark Side Down Under

12 Aug

The art deco font on the front cover called to me.


And I wondered, what could be inside this marvelously designed book?

I checked it out, having skimmed the description on the inside flap and had a vague notion that it was a steampunk novel. It wasn’t. It was something way cooler.

Razorhurst,  by Justine Larbalestier, is set  Sydney Australia”s deadly Razorhurst neighborhood in the early 193o’s. Kelpie, a street urchin, stumbles upon a murder and the book is about the 24-hours following this event.

Goodreads summary: The setting: Razorhurst, 1932. The fragile peace between two competing mob bosses—Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson—is crumbling. Loyalties are shifting. Betrayals threaten.

Kelpie knows the dangers of the Sydney streets. Ghosts have kept her alive, steering her to food and safety, but they are also her torment.

Dymphna is Gloriana Nelson’s ‘best girl’, experienced in surviving the criminal world, but she doesn’t know what this day has in store for her.

When Dymphna meets Kelpie over the corpse of Jimmy Palmer, Dymphna’s latest boyfriend, she pronounces herself Kelpie’s new protector. But Dymphna’s life is in danger too, and she needs an ally. And while Jimmy’s ghost wants to help, the dead cannot protect the living . . .

The novel is inspired by real events which Larbalestier describes in her blog. This is the history of Australia that we never hear about. Fortunately, Larbalestier’s writing really gives you a sense of what it was like to live in that particular time and place. There are some very bad people, but Kelpie’s blend of street-wisdom and naiveté soften the edges.

This is a very serious novel. If it is too much for you, you might prefer seeing Australia’s underside in the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries series, which is set in the 1920’s. I had this in my mind as I read Razorhurst.

So, as summer vacation winds down, think about taking a last-minute murderous vacation Down Under through a book or television.

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