by Cherie Priest
Series: The Borden Dispatches #1
Genres: Historical Fiction, Horror
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Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.... The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny. But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness. This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.
Maplecroft the first in the Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest offers a dark twist on the Lizzie Borden murders in Falls River Massachusetts. Priest offers answers to the age-old question, “Did Lizzie murder her parents with an axe and if so why?” Dark, creepy and superbly twisted the tale that on unfolds in Maplecroft will raise the hair on the back of your neck.
Delivered from multiple first person perspectives including those of Lizzie Borden and her sister Emma, Maplecroft weaves a story that may be a more frightening explanation of the events that occurred within the walls of the Borden home. After reading this you may prefer to believe Lizzie was mad as it might allow you to sleep better at night. Lizzie is cleared of the brutal murders of their parents, and they purchase a seaside mansion on the other side of town called Maplecroft. Here the sisters share a dark secret and fight a battle against evil. Something malevolent has found its way to Fall Rivers and it is consuming residences.
It is not often we read historical fiction laced in horror, and Priest’s twist on the Borden series is creepy. While I was never truly afraid, I did squirm. The reader is kept on edge as we learn details about what happened to Lizzie’s parents while, Lizzie and the others share events, as they are unfolded a year later. Through the town doctor, we see his patients slowly transform into something offsetting. He is afraid of what he is witnesses and fears that accepting it will drive him to madness. Reluctantly he himself drawn into the action. Emma sends a sample of a sea organism to a professor, and we get a firsthand account of what he discovers. Unexplained murders and missing persons soon have a Boston inspector by the name of Wolf investigating crime scenes and examining bodies that defy explanation.
Priest’s talent is evident from the action scenes to the voice she gives her characters setting a tone of madness, desperation, fear and darkness. From the beginning, we get a sense of the wrongness around Falls River and slowly we along with the character’s piece together and being to understand, although neither they nor we will ever fully understand what has occurred. Lizzie is an unexpected hero in all of this. She is an axe wielding, intelligent woman who with the aid of Emma has set up quite an elaborate laboratory and library at Maplecroft. Priest fleshed Lizzie out showing us both the strong and weak side of her, she even presents a lover into the mix, and I loved the drama and complications it caused. Much like the Overlook Hotel (Shining, Stephen King) we slowly see these characters unhinge as the full reality of what is occurring comes to life and their desperate attempts to stop it had me flipping the pages. For me, the multiple perspectives both enhanced the tale and hurt it. By using multiple perspectives, we can see what is happening in a larger sense as it provides firsthand accounts. All of this added tension and a creep factor that will make you squirm. It allowed Priest to create scenes that were unsettling and gory. You could feel the wrongness as it took hold, and I enjoyed it. However, the multiple perspectives also keep me from fully immersing myself in the tale and characters creating a disconnect.
Maplecroft was an interesting start to the Borden Dispatches, and it wrapped up fairly well, I am quite curious to see where Cherie Priest intends to take this series.