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See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt – An Atmospheric True Crime Read

11th August, 2017

Book Review : See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Based on the 1892 murder of two members of the Borden family, See What I have Done is true crime novel at its best.

Review

“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 is one of the many rhymes that has it’s roots in the Borden murder case. These rhymes were often sung by newspaper sellers to enhance the sales of the papers with the sensational news item printed in them. The cover art with the pear on the front and rhyme on the back of the jacket is just stunning. Yeti is one of my favourite cover designers now (Yes, you guessed it. One of the 14 Delicious covers of 2017). You will understand as you read further why this is such a brilliant cover.

Based on a real life murder

Lizzie Borden was acquitted for the murders of her father and step mother in Massachusetts in 1892 (See more). See What I have Done was my first book based on a real life murder case. I did my bit of ground work to learn more about the trial which was fascinating (although I am not sure if fascinating is the right word to use for such a gruesome act).

Book Review : See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt

A clever structure

The book spans over the few days of the murder and each chapter is told from the POV of one of the many characters involved with the Borden household. We get an all rounded view of the Borden family by putting together the statements given by different members. But as a reader, the inevitable question of ‘should there have been a murder?’ nags you throughout the book. There is repetition of facts and description of the atmosphere in each of the chapters which strengthens the setting of the book and make it seem as real as it can be.

A chilling read

There is a gloomy, persistently secretive atmosphere throughout the book that sent chills down my spine. Schmidt’s finesse is in making the dysfunctional Borden household come to life. I could taste the rotten mutton stew and cringed my nose at the foul smell as I was reading. I kept wiping my hands on my clothes to get out the sticky pear juice (mentioned in the book) from my hands. The cover with the half eaten pear started haunting me. The book felt that real.

Book Review : See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Promising character sketches

The novel has excellent character sketches that make the reader easily acquainted with the characters. I was able to empathize with them, feel irked by them and it almost felt as if I was a member of the same household.

An unlikeable heroine

Lizzie is selfish, scheming and manipulative. To me she sounded like that child in school we all would be cautious of. She somehow gets her way all the time. I could never picture her as an adult woman. She seemed like a grown up child. Yet I could not stop myself from reading about what could have possibly lead to the murders.

Final Verdict :

Sarah Schmidt has put forth a fine work to be devoured by all kinds of readers alike. If you like atmospheric reads, I would highly recommend the book.

Title : See what I have Done
Author : Sarah Schmidt
Publisher : Tinder Press
Publication: 2017
Language : English
Pages : 336
Rating : 4/5

Disclaimer : Much thanks to Tinder Press for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

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See What I Have Done
This Post Has 27 Comments
  1. Hi Resh, I recently watched ‘Cleveland abductions’, an adaptation of a true crime book. A very disturbing film, but it is narrated from the victim’s pov- a memoir. I see that the book you read is narrated by an unreliable narrator. I have been thinking about abnormal psychology especially because I just finished reading and watching Lolita. I also saw ‘Berlin Syndrome’ recently which is based on a book.

    1. Thank you for the recommendations. I have not seen Cleveland abductions or Berlin syndrome but they sure sound interesting and disturbing. It must have been quite an experience to watch a true crime from the victim’s perspective. Truly horrifying.

  2. I remember reading about the Borden’s years and years ago and the case is absolutely chilling. At the risk of sounding morbid, I’m really keen to read this one. True crime is something I’m interested in but the fictional story behind the family sounds fascinating and I’m hoping will buffer how confronting a read this will be. So glad you enjoyed it Resh, brilliant review sweetheart <3 <3

  3. Thank you so much for your excellent review of this book that I recently read. I was enthralled and annoyed by the book in equal parts. At times, the very graphic and sensuous writing made me feel as if I were in that weird and dysfunctional family home; quite disturbing. At other times, the “shorthand” nature of the writing seemed more “clever” than authentic to the character/s. And I found the ending a bit of an anti-climax. Still, to produce such a gripping new take on a very well known murder was quite a feat. Definitely worth a read.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts on the book. I am glad you enjoyed parts of it. And yes, that is one dysfunctional family out there. I was horrified and unsure by the ending. I wanted to scream and say “No, tell me clearly. X killed Y. Tell me like that’. Haha.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  4. First of all, it makes me so happy that you are identifying cover artists by name. I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t ever really thought about who designs covers! I’ll need to dig more into that, for sure.

    Your review is really intriguing! I haven’t heard of this book before, but I love idea of each chapter being from a different perspective. Is this literally every chapter is from the perspective of a different character? Or do characters make repeat appearances as narrators?

    1. Yes, I have been paying more attention to covers these days. Though I don’t remember all the names of the designers, I remember some of them and I am glad about that.

      Yes, each chapter is from the POV of a character. The other characters would make appearances. For eg Lizzie would be giving a statement about meeting her sister. In the next chapter, her sister would be giving a statement about Lizzie coming to meet her. So we read about the inconsistencies in the statements as well

  5. You’re right about how well she wrote it. I’ve never eaten Mutton in my life and I could feel it myself. She is certainly talented and I am so glad you liked it as much as I did!

  6. I didn’t know this was true crime, and I also didn’t know this was the same book as the one with the pigeon on the cover. 😮 I’ve seen mix reviews for this, but your book edition and your review makes me want to give this a shot in the future. I’m definitely a sucker for a good true crime story here and then. You got me curious about this case now. Great review! 🙂

    1. Thank you. I think some readers did not like it since there is no definite closure. But that’s because there was none in the original Borden case as well. It was never solved. I like the writing skills of the author. She builds up the atmosphere.

  7. I’m really looking forward to reading this story. Something about the LIzzie Borden case has always held my attention and I can only imagine how fascinating/creepy it would be to follow the family knowing that the story is leading up to the murders.

  8. I think I read a review of this one not that long ago on another blog. I don’t know much about this case, but there is something utterly fascinating about it. May need to satisfy my curiosity and check this out. Thank you for your review.

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