The Trial of Lizzie Borden, Cara Robertson’s powerful debut, is a bracing and insightful take on a famous double murder ... Robertson remains scrupulously impartial and has an understated but gripping style ... Robertson also expands on her story to vividly portray its Gilded Age setting and its social issues—still with us today. Among them: class and gender inequality, our relentless appetite for scandal, and, in the trial’s breathless media coverage, the blurring of serious reportage with histrionic opinion.
Robertson weaves the facts and her analysis into a fast-paced, page-turning read. While she speculates on who the real murderer was, she lets readers make up their own minds, tantalizing them with one final surprise that will leave readers wondering. More than 60 pages of footnotes and an extensive bibliography round out this must-purchase for public libraries, and a must-read for fans of Kate Summerscale’s The Wicked Boy (2016).
... enthralling ... Robertson does not work for the prosecution or the defense. She marshals us to no conclusion. She only reopens the case and presents the evidence afresh, all those alluring details out of an Agatha Christie novel (the mystery of Lizzie’s burned dress, the curious disappearance of a hatchet handle). The reader is to serve as judge and jury ... Robertson is a scrupulous writer who stays tethered to the archives, but I often wished she had permitted herself to rove more freely, to speculate and imagine. The real riddle of Lizzie Borden isn’t whether she did it, or why, but can be found in the dark fascination she continues to exert.
... [the book] is heavily researched and uses as much contemporary information as it can gather ... Robertson has clearly done her research, and while the actual trial material is absolutely fascinating with its statements and witnesses and arguments by the prosecution and the defense, it was the journalists' takes that kept me most riveted ... For true-crime enthusiasts, The Trial of Lizzie Borden is a deeply satisfying read that will give us plenty of fodder to disagree over who-really-dunit.
Robertson has approached the story from a different angle. Although the first part of the book is dedicated to the murder, it is the second part of the book that is so fascinating—the trial, in all its truths and mistruths ... Without giving away the end, Robertson guides the reader through the maze of false starts and abrupt stops, unexpected turns, and frightening revelations ... In The Trial of Lizzie Borden, Robertson displays her writing and researching skills in this piece of creative nonfiction that reads almost as a novel. It’s hard to put the book down from the very beginning through to the end.
Ms. Robertson writes well, and the book’s pace is lively ... [Robertson] does illustrate why the jury reached its not guilty verdict, and the reader will likely agree with that finding given what was revealed in court ... Legal scholars may enjoy reading about court maneuvering, but other readers may not. This reviewer found it difficult to keep straight the many people involved in the case. Plus, the courtroom theatrics obscure the chief mystery of the story: discovering who killed Andrew and Abby Borden.
Robertson is an attorney, and she weaves the dead transcripts into new life, producing a tale nearly as riveting today as it must have been then ... But most of what Robertson captures is familiar to the contemporary reader—the surprise exhibits, the chatty witnesses, the struggles over admissible and inadmissible evidence ... [The case remains unproven], and will remain so, despite the excellence of Robertson’s legal, analytical and narrative skills.
... highly readable ... Readers will feel as though they’re part of the investigation and trial ... The Trial of Lizzie Borden is a welcome addition to the lore [of this tale], the perfect starting point for modern-day readers to launch their own inquiries.
Robertson presents the story with the thoroughness one expects from an attorney, but she manages to avoid the tedious repetitiveness inherent in a trial by providing close looks at other contemporaneous elements such as Lizzie’s attempt to buy poison, a newly discovered hatchet, and the contradictions of the prosecution’s witnesses. Readers are given every bit of evidence available and will be hard-pressed to reach a verdict; it’s fun trying, though. Fans of crime novels will love it.
Lawyer Robertson debuts with the definitive account to date of one of America’s most notorious and enduring murder mysteries ... Robertson methodically rebuts the numerous theories advanced at the time and since ... The end result is a superior, page-turning true crime narrative that will leave most readers believing that the jury got it wrong.