See What I Have Done

see what i have done

 

See What I Have Done

by Sarah Schmidt

 

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling. 

 

I do love books that take actual events and weave a story around them. Bring characters to life that you only know the very best or very worst about.  In this case Sarah Schmidt takes the infamous Lizzie Borden: accused of axing her father and step-mother to death, she was then acquitted, but still remained the prime suspect.

Most people are familiar with the old, rather gruesome, schoolyard rhyme:

 “Lizzie Borden took an axe, 

and gave her mother forty whacks, 

when she saw what she had done,

she gave her father forty one.”

This book is told from four viewpoints; Lizzie, her sister Emma, the maid Bridget and Benjamin, who gives an outsider’s perspective.

Lizzie’s voice is childlike, coming across as whiny and selfish and sounding much younger than her 30+ years. The relationship with her sister Emma is completely unhealthy; Lizzie is needy and dependent and Emma is staying at relatives to give herself much needed distance.

The whole family exists in a state of disfunctionality and Sarah Schmidt’s writing is engrossing, bringing out the mistrust and perceived slights between the family members. The whole atmosphere of the Borden household is claustrophobic and brooding in the extreme. This is not helped by being inside Lizzie’s head, a disturbing and unsettling place to be and we are soon glad of the differing viewpoints.

The book is awash with sensory overload; the descriptions of taste and smell leave a disgusting taste in your mouth: the rancid mutton stew, the sickness, Lizzie’s need to wallow in the blood and gore as she tries to come to terms with the fact that her father is dead.

Lizzie was put on trial for the murders but was acquitted for no better reason than the jury did not believe that a woman was capable of committing such a crime. Sarah Schmidt tells Lizzie’s side of the story and you can make your own mind up, there are other possibilities and the different viewpoints are fascinating.

This is a completely compelling read and if you enjoy true-life historical drama you are probably going to enjoy this.

High;y recommended

Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy.

The Man Who Loved Islands *Blog Tour*

the man who loved islands cover

I am really pleased to be part of the blog tour for this final chapter in David Ross’ fabulous trilogy. Many thanks to Anne Cater at  randomthingsthroughmyletterbox and to Karen at Orenda Books for sending me a copy of the book.

 

In the early ’80s, Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller were inseparable; childhood friends and fledgling business associates. Now, both are depressed and lonely, and they haven’t spoken to each other in more than ten years. A bizarre opportunity to honour the memory of someone close to both of them presents itself, if only they can forgive … and forget.

Absurdly funny, deeply moving and utterly human, The Man Who Loved Islands is an unforgettable finale to the Disco Days trilogy.

 

The Man Who Loved Islands is the final book in the trilogy about working class life in Scotland in the 1980s. In this book we are transported forward to the present day and the starry-eyed lads are now middle-aged men with lives falling apart: collapsed relationships, failing health and depression taking hold.

Bobby Cassidy has been living in Ibiza and Joey Miller, his erstwhile best friend, has travelled the world over with his job; but neither is happy and neither has spoken to the other for 10 years. When another friend Hammy May, conspires to bring the two together it starts a new chapter in their lives and with the help of the impossible Max Mojo they embark on re-uniting The legendary Miraculous Vespas for a one-off music festival.

I have read and loved both the previous books:   The Last Days of disco review here which was one of my top 10 books of 2015 and The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous vespas review here  so I was obviously looking forward to this final book, and it was like meeting up with old friends. Friends who have had trials and tribulations but are essentially still the people you know and love.

David Ross definitely has a way of putting the human into his characters, they live and breathe, and you feel every emotion with them. He is totally in tune with the zeitgeist of the 80s and the mood of working class boys and men: their arguments and banter, but also their fierce loyalty and need for each other.

The final book is a fitting end to the story of Bobby and his family and friends, perfectly told in tone and pace. The humour in amongst the sadness; the wit and charm; the music – everywhere the music; but above all the love, tenderness and friendship.

A perfect human trilogy. I can’t wait to see what David F. Ross does next.

 

David Ross photo 2

David’s Bio

I was born in Glasgow in 1964 and I lived in various part of the city until the late 70’s. I subsequently moved to Kilmarnock where I have lived since. Following a frankly ludicrous early foray into sporadic employment (Undertakers, Ice Cream Parlour, Tennis Groundsman, DJ…I’ll save these stories until I know you better) I found myself at Glasgow School of Art, studying architecture. I am now the Design Director of Keppie Design.

I have worked all over the world and I led our practice strategy for projects in countries as diverse as China, Egypt, Malaysia, India and Libya. I am a designated business leader for East Ayrshire Council, a Board Mentor for Entrepreneurial Spark and I was design advisor to Strathclyde Passenger Transport for their modernisation programme of the Glasgow Subway in advance of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

I’m married to Elaine and I have two children, Nathan and Nadia.  I’m a Chelsea fan – from long before the cash-rich days – and I occasionally write stream of consciousness rubbish for @ByTheMinSport feeds on Twitter.

My most prized possession is a signed Joe Strummer LP, and The Last Days Of Disco is my first novel.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour!!

new blog poster

The Restless Dead

the restless dead

 

The Restless Dead

by Simon Beckett

 

It was on a Friday evening that forensics consultant Dr David Hunter took the call: a Detective Inspector Lundy from the Essex force. Just up the coast from Mersea Island, near a place called Backwaters, a badly decomposed body has been found and the local police would welcome Hunter’s help with the recovery and identification . . . But Hunter has his doubts about the identity of the remains. The hands and feet are missing, the face no longer recognisable. 

With its eerie and claustrophobic sense of place, explosive heart-in-mouth moments, and viscerally authentic forensics and police procedural detail, coupled with David Hunter’s own uncanny ability to understand the living as much as the dead, The Restless Dead stands as a masterclass in crime fiction and marks the stunning return of one of the genre’s best.

 

Dr David hunter is called by Essex police to assist with the recovery of a body in an area of marsh land known as the Backwaters. Being out of favour with the police due to circumstances in his past, he is hopeful this could be a turning point in his career.

The remains are thought to be those of the son of local businessman and landowner Sir Stephen Villiers, who has used his power and influence to hamper the investigation from the moment his son went missing. But when the body is recovered Hunter is not convinced that it is Leo villiers, and when more bodies are discovered, the mystery deepens.

This is crime writing at its intelligent best with superb characters, meaning the pages practically turn themselves.  Dr David Hunter as the main character is very well drawn, he has been the subject of previous books, but this can easily be read as a standalone, you get just enough back story to get a feel for the character but not too much to be over-whelming.

The setting of the Essex Backwaters is creepy and atmospheric, it is almost a character in itself and the introduction of the family through the setting is excellently told. This family have secrets abound and David Hunter finds himself entangled in the middle of it, to the detriment of his job. The twists and turns come thick and fast and, thanks to the calibre of the writing, are totally surprising. The denouement was totally unexpected and original.

The forensic detail is absolutely fascinating and this book will appeal to fans of Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs.

Highly recommended

 

Many thanks to martin Myers of Penguin/Random House for sending me a copy.