by Elizabeth Engstrom
Genre: Historical Mystery, Thriller
A hundred years ago, it was the Trial of the Century. A young woman stood accused of brutally murdering her father and stepmother in a crime so heinous that it became a benchmark in human tragedy.
A hundred years later, the Lizzie Borden case still resounds in the imagination. There are those who staunchly defend Lizzie’s innocence while others vehemently declare that she did it, and that the murder was justified.
In Elizabeth Engstrom’s brilliant novel, the dark psychology of the Borden household is laid bare. Lizzie, her sister Emma and their parents Andrew and Abby Borden, are sharply illuminated—as are the paranoia and concealed hatred that secretly ruled the family. Domestic violence and dysfunctional families are not inventions of modern times.
“Every door in the Borden house is metaphorically locked, and each room holds the terrible secrets of its occupant…Engstrom skillfully and subtly builds a psychological plot, moving the reader inexorably toward the anticipated savage denouement.” —Publishers Weekly
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It had been intensifying lately, that feeling. That terrible feeling that something was about to happen. The present status could not remain so for very much longer; everyone seemed to be strung just a little bit too tight. And when people are just a little too close, just a little too crowded, well, things begin to happen.
Like jewelry and money disappearing and reappearing in the barn.
A shiver ran through Abby. It was such a violation, that little robbery. It was such a slap in the face by some member of this household. That was a day she almost gave the ultimatum to Andrew: We move or they move. But the tensions had eased some after that, and of course, there had been no repeating offenses, nor had Abby any reason to think there would be. The point, whatever it was, had apparently been made.
The thought of the robbery was inseparable from this feeling of dread that she had, this moving black shadow that was just a little darker than the dark, when nothing was there. The robbery was an omen, she thought, of ominous things to come, and if she were a real wife, and a real mother, she would insist that Andrew take her out of this house and save them all from themselves.
But she was not a real wife, and Andrew knew that, and she was not a real mother, and both Emma and Lizzie knew that.
So she would make do, as she always had, spending her time with Sarah and her many troubles, and the occasional birthing that came along in her little circle of acquaintances, and she would hope that when the end came, whatever it may be, that it be swift and sure, silent and without warning.
After eight years on Oahu, she moved to Maui, found a business partner and opened an advertising agency. One husband, two children and five years later, she sold the agency to her partner and had enough seed money to try her hand at full time fiction writing, her lifelong dream. With the help of her mentor, science fiction great Theodore Sturgeon, When Darkness Loves Us was published.
Engstrom moved to Eugene, Oregon in 1986, where she lives with her husband Al Cratty, the legendary muskie fisherman, and their Duck Tolling Retriever, Jook. Liz holds a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing and a Master of Arts in Applied Theology, both from Marylhurst University. A recluse at heart, she still emerges into public occasionally to speak at a writers conference, or to teach a class on various aspects of writing the novel, essay, article or short story. An avid knitter and gardener, she is on faculty at the University of Phoenix and is always working on the next book.
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My editor at Tor Books called me one day and said they were interested in publishing a book about Lizzie Borden, and wanted to know if I knew about the case. Of course I knew. Everybody knew. It remains one of America’s great unsolved mysteries. She said, “Who do you think did it?” I told her my theory, and she said, Wow, I’ve never heard that one before.” And we struck a deal.
Then I had to write a factually-correct book that ended the way I speculated. Not an easy task. I combed through old newspaper articles, trial transcripts, speculative articles published in psychological books and magazines—everything I could find about her and the case. There are certain undisputed facts, but there was hardly anything known about the personalities of the Bordens. So within that realm, I was able to design the characters who could accomplish the denouement of that Fall River tragedy.
Fun fact about this book
The editors at Tor, the original publisher of Lizzie Borden, went through this book with a fine-toothed comb, and made certain that every word in it was in use during 1892. Many of the words we use in American society were coined during by journalists during WWI and WWII, and they are so much a part of our lexicon, that we tend to think they were always in use. Not so.
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