I put this title on my library’s Overdrive wishlist months ago, waiting until my current books on hold ran out. I assumed it was historical fiction (Doesn’t the cover give that impression?), but it’s actually a nonfiction account filled with court transcripts and newspaper stories — a book with twenty years of research behind it.
My only knowledge of Lizzie Borden was that she’d been accused of murdering her parents with a hatchet. This book really fleshed the story out. Lizzie certainly had the motive: She had always disliked her stepmother and was angry her father had recently given that stepmother property. She had a shaky alibi, a story that was always changing (was she upstairs or downstairs on the day of the murder? Ironing or in the barn?). Her stoic demeanor during her hearing and trial convinced many she was to blame (though if you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s latest, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know, you know this perception isn’t a fair one). She claimed she believed her stepmother wasn’t home on the day of the murders, since Mrs. Borden had received a letter to visit a sick friend (though no letter or sick friend were ever discovered). Most damning, in my opinion, was that Lizzie, who’d changed clothes on the day of the murder, later burned a dress not long after she was named a prime suspect. Was it blood splattered, or paint splattered, as she claimed? Also, a historical burning question: Did all houses in 1892 have as many hatchets hanging around as the Borden household?!?!
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
This is book six in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series set in Quebec (and largely in the fictional town of Three Pines). I’d read two or three other Gamache books before this one, all earlier in the series. Bury Your Dead is unique in that it mainly takes place in Quebec City. It opens with a murder of a local amatuer archeologist whose obession is finding the burial site of Samuel de Champlain. Gamache isn’t directly a part of the case but is in Quebec City to rest and recover after a hostage situation gone terribly wrong. (Of course, he gets involved!) Gamache is a man who leans heavily on his instinct, something that failed him in the botched rescue. Realizing this, he urges his second in command to revisit a murder in Three Pines; Gamache now fears the wrong man is in prison.
What’s interesting is four different stories are happening at once — Champlain’s murky life and mysterious burial, the murder of the amatuer archeologist, the botched kidnapping rescue, and the revisited murder in Three Pines. There is a definite coziness in this series (the setting, the recurring characters, the cafe au lait) — though I wouldn’t call them cozy mysteries. Gamache is complex (he reminds me somewhat of PD James’s Adam Dalgliesh). I like learning more about the various characters who work for the Surete du Quebec and their relationships with each other (reminds me of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad). I like how the past and present collide in this book and the metaphor of unfinished business tied up with death and burial. Also, knowing only a teeny bit about Quebec history, I now know a teeny bit more. But why oh why are there so many murders in the quaint and charming Three Pines??
This delightful historical middle grade follows three orphans into England’s countryside during evacuation from war-torn London. The children’s solicitor tells them they will find a good home, but as they face cruel foster siblings, prejudice, and hunger, they aren’t too certain. The children find joy in the local library and in the company of the librarian, Mrs. Muller. She would be a dream foster parent, but her missing German husband makes her unsuitable in the eyes of the community.
Oh, this was charming! Very cozy, very nostalgic. I loved that Kate Albus (check out the interview she did here last year) chose to use third-person omniscient for narration. It made the book all the more reminiscent of so many of my childhood books (making it very much of the era, I felt), and it was a great way to connect with Anna, Edmund (whose name is a nod to Narnia), and William. It’s a tribute to books and a tribute to family and is heartwarming, indeed. At a time when the world feels like a pretty sad place, I found this book such sweet bit of hope.
What have you been reading lately?