"For a moment I wondered what it would look like to see inside of her, all the red."
How timely that I finished reading this novel just as it took out the inaugural MUD Literary Prize for Debut fiction - you know how I do love to read a prize winner!
If you are familiar with the Lizzie Borden story, or like I was prior to reading this - vaguely aware of an infamous axe murder that gave birth to a gruesome children's song, you will perhaps begin with a greater awareness of what is going on here. I think that might detract from the story a little as much of the creepy mood comes from the sense of uncertainty supported by a group of very different narrative voices. Should you wish for some historical background, you may wish to check out the following link.
I particularly enjoyed the insight into Schmidt's writing process at the end of the novel by her essay How to meet the Bordens.
To return to the story, prepare yourself reader for some grim and unsavoury proceedings be they poisoning, vomiting or the main subject matter of the grizzly murders of Abby and Andrew Borden. Is Lizzie to blame, she certainly comes across as disturbed. Come to think of it the whole family is a little disturbing. Who do you believe when none of your narrators seem to possess a firm grip on reality, or, whose motives seem tainted by the need to escape or to wreck havoc?
Funnily enough, I had recently watched an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode with the same subject, the episode is called The Other Sister and provides another interesting take on the infamous events that occurred in 1892. Ironically a murder tale that just won't die, more recently being brought to life by Christina Ricci. Perhaps the mystery that surrounded the deaths, the gruesome nature of the attacks, and Lizzy Borden's acquittal combine to provoke the incredible longevity of this murder mystery and the continued interest in it.
It is perhaps a sign of how scary this particular novel is that I had trouble getting to sleep when I finally finished reading it in the wee hours of the night. Every bump in the night had me on edge and it took 2 sessions of a meditation app to finally get me to sleep. I will avoid Pears and Pigeons for a little while longer.
5 out of 5 - Don't mess with a girl's pigeons!