The Borden Tragedy
by Rick Geary
(NBM, 1997)

Lizzie Borden was the O.J. Simpson of her day.

Rick Geary makes that clear on the back cover of The Borden Tragedy, a straightforward investigation into the infamous double murder in Fall River, Mass., in 1892. While the contents of the book focus strictly on the case, its victims and suspects, the back cover draws various amusing (and convincing) comparisons between Borden in 1892 and Simpson in 1994, from the celebrity surrounding the crime to the "not guilty" verdict that closed the trial.

Between the covers, however, Geary provides a wonderfully direct account of the incident, drawing on anonymous memoirs from the time that were discovered in a trunk in 1990. While using that typed manuscript as his source, Geary verified his facts with numerous other sources, compiling a fascinating summation to accompany his illustrated narration.

The terse account is filled with details that suggest it was written by a close associate of the family. The narrative is written formally, evocative of the time, and Geary's black-and-white illustrations provide a fly-on-the-wall view of events as they unfolded. The book draws no conclusions about the murderer's identity; the killer is always off-panel or shown only in shadow. And, while a small amount of blood is unavoidable in a story of this sort, the book never descends into tasteless levels of gore.

The book ends with several clippings from the Fall River Herald and other newspapers about the event. It is interesting to note how the story changed over time.

Geary has produced a series of books in his Treasury of Victorian Murder line, and this is an excellent addition to the collection. Pick this up for a fresh look at an old mystery that has puzzled people for more than a century.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 7 February 2004

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