Monday, August 6, 2018

Based on a True Crime Story: Bury Me Deep and See What I Have Done

 Reviews by Christy

Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott
            In 1931, two suspicious trunks were reported at a Los Angeles train station. When police opened them they were surprised and horrified to find that they contained two dead women – later identified as Agnes LeRoi and Hedvig Samuelson. It didn’t take long to trace the trunks back to the woman who had been traveling with them: Winnie Ruth Judd. Winnie had been friends with the women but she claimed the murders were committed in self-defense (though police believed it was over the affections of a man). Judd’s story changed throughout the years so there has never been a definite answer as to what happened that night.
            Megan Abbott fictionalizes a version of events in her book Bury Me Deep. Abbott tells the story of Marion who has been left in Phoenix by her doctor husband while he goes to work in Mexico (after repeatedly losing his license in the U.S. because of his morphine addiction). After finding work at a medical office, she quickly becomes friends with her co-worker Louise and Louise’s roommate Ginny. Louise and Ginny are wild and fun and quiet Marion takes to them immediately. At one of their many parties, Marion meets Joe, a successful businessman and supposed upstanding family man. She falls for him quickly, and everything goes downhill from there.
            Abbott’s version of events is interesting and quite plausible. Marion is written as a good girl in over her head, taken in by the dastardly Joe. The hold Joe has over Marion is described repeatedly though I never quite felt that reading it. She can barely control herself with her overwhelming desire for him but aside from their secret rendezvous we don’t really see them interact that much. It’s hard to see what attracted her to Joe in the first place. Perhaps she’s excited by his overt advances because despite his addiction, her husband is kind and overly proper.
            Though I wasn’t particularly blown away by this novel, it did keep me turning the pages, and I did feel a little sorry for Marion despite her poor choices. A lot of Abbott’s earlier works are in this noir-style, and I look forward to checking them out.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
            In 1892, Mr. and Mrs. Borden were murdered in their Massachusetts home by an unknown assailant with an ax. Suspicion quickly fell on their daughter Lizzie Borden; investigators found her behavior afterwards strange and her answers contradictory. Though she was eventually acquitted in her subsequent trial, the reality of Borden’s guilt or innocence was never definite, and interest in the murder case continues to this day – over 125 years later.
            Schmidt recounts these events in her novel, and imagines what really happened that fateful day. I loved the idea of a fictional account of the Borden murders, and I was excited to read it. But I really did not like this novel. Schmidt’s style of writing is overwrought and tedious. The chapters are told in alternating viewpoints (Lizzie, older sister Emma, maid Bridget, and stranger Benjamin), and Lizzie’s chapters are the most tiresome. Especially in the beginning when she is given a sedative after finding her father dead. Her thoughts are meandering, unfocused, and I’m not sure why the author felt readers needed to spend multiple chapters in her sedated mind.  I did enjoy Bridget’s chapters and to a lesser extent Emma’s as well but I think just reading a nonfiction telling would’ve sufficed.

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