Friday, September 7, 2018

Review - The Borden Tragedy

The Borden Tragedy (A Treasury of Victorian Murder)
by Rick Geary
Date: 1997
Publisher: Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing
Reading level: A
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 82
Format: e-book
Source: library

"Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one!" In this third volume of Geary's Treasury, the famous Lizzie Borden double murder is explored with as much attention to well -researched detail as in his Jack the Ripper. This is another celebrated murder of last century, the one that lead to the infamous school rhyme.

The parallel between this old case and OJ Simpson's is striking: both defendants had unblemished reputations; the double murders were gruesome; there were no witnesses and no weapons found; the cases took the media by storm. Both wealthy defendants hired expensive lawyers who convinced the jury of reasonable doubt. Both remain under a cloud of suspicion...

(synopsis from Goodreads)

As I'm working through some of our local library's collection of graphic novel e-books, I've picked up a few that I never thought I would read. Earlier this year, I read one about the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, and I actually found it fascinating. So I thought this book about the infamous 1892 murders might interest me as well. And it did.

After so much time has passed, we might never know what actually happened in that house. There are arguments both for and against Lizzie being the killer... and some arguments even overlap. Was she really trying to buy poison to kill her father and stepmother the day before the murders? Or was she simply wanting to clean a sealskin cape, as she said? How would she have managed to gruesomely kill both victims with an axe or hatchet--an act that surely would've resulted in a large amount of blood spatter--without getting a drop on her? (A witness who was at the scene within ten minutes saw no blood at all on Lizzie's clothes, skin, or hair... hair that was dry and styled, so couldn't possibly have been washed.) What of the carriage that was seen outside the house on the morning of the murders, or the mysterious man who was lurking around?

There were all sorts of interesting facts presented in the graphic novel format. (For example, I was surprised to learn that Lizzie was actually charged with three murders: one for her father, one for her stepmother, and one for both of them together!) The story of what happened--as far as anyone knows--is revealed at a nice pace, without too much in the way of excess information that might have bogged things down.

The included newspaper clippings at the end of the graphic novel part of the book were rather eye-opening. Journalism back in 1892 wasn't what it is today. There was so much conjecture, and so many worthless details, that the articles went on for pages (and they're in rather fine print, which made them a chore to read). But it was interesting to see how attitudes have changed. Even though Lizzie stood accused of murder, she was still treated as a delicate flower who needed to be protected from the rigours of the world... and the prison system. (She was given the matron's comfortable bedroom at one point, because she was deemed too ill for a regular cell.) It certainly didn't help matters that she was continually dosed with morphine for her anxiety after the murders; some of her contradictory statements could very well have been a result of being drugged!

All in all, this was a fascinating look at an incident that happened so long ago, yet still captures the imagination. The black-and-white illustrations may be simple, but they work well with the subject matter. This would be a strong addition to any true crime book collection.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 3.63 out of 5 ladybugs

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