An attorney investigates one of the most sensational trials of the 19th century, in which mild-mannered Lizzie Borden stood accused of brutally murdering her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts.
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.