See What I Have Done
by Sarah Schmidt (Tinder, £8.99)
A century and a quarter on, the case of Lizzie Borden – the American woman acquitted of killing her father and stepmother, by a jury unable to believe a woman could do such a thing – continues to fascinate. Sarah Schmidt’s novel is a feverish reimagining of the murders told by four voices: Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the maid Bridget, and a dangerous stranger called Benjamin. Many theories about motivation have been advanced over the decades, but Schmidt is less interested in contriving a new version of what “really” happened than in plunging the reader into a claustrophobic nexus of family resentments and frustrations, probing obsessively at the faultline between love and hate. The narrative lurches back and forth, with Lizzie giving us impressionistic snatches of her movements, narrated in a fervent babble somewhere between babytalk and the halting urgency of Emily Dickinson. The blurring of voices and repetition of words and symbols add to the momentum, making for a nastily effective debut.