Release-Day Review: Maplecroft by Cherie Priest (The Borden Dispatches #1)


Maplecroft by Cherie Priest // VBC ReviewMaplecroft (The Borden Dispatches #1)
Cherie Priest
Published: Sept. 2, 2014 (Roc)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amanda

Rating (out of 5): 3 stars

We all know the story of Lizzie Borden, how she allegedly chopped up both her father and her stepmother with an axe. The subsequent investigation and trial was a huge media draw, and still encourages speculation to this day*.

Maplecroft takes the story of Lizzie and twists it around. What if the murders were the result of some horrific, unexplainable supernatural phenomenon? What if whatever caused their deaths was still running rampant two years later?

I’m a history nerd, so when I reached the end of Maplecroft, I took a quick look at Wikipedia for information on the real Lizzie and the trial. Do you know what one of the coolest things about this book is? The historical accuracy and what Cherie Priest did with those details. Yes, Emma and Lizzie lived in the same house as their parents, but rarely shared meals. Yes, the entire household was violently ill in the few days prior to the killings. Everything about the murders, from what Lizzie and Emma called their stepmother to the placement of the bodies, was in there. The geek in me cheered.

Priest chooses to focus on the mysterious illness as the explanation for not only what happened to the Bordens, but the subsequent weirdness in the town of Fall River, Massachusetts. Its fantastical and a little gross. Somehow I found myself eating a lot of the time while I was reading, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Seriously. Gross. Things are slimy, smelly, squishy, and just plain vile.

We get multiple viewpoints throughout the story. For me, that made it difficult to get attached to any of the characters. The narrative is mostly split between Lizzie, her sister Emma, and the family doctor, Owen Seabury, with occasional side trips into the heads of a professor acquaintance of Emma’s and Lizzie’s lover, Nance O’Neil (also a real person!). The pace is slow at times, as the three main characters struggle to make sense of what’s happening around them and trying to find the strand that connects them all.

For all its vivid creativity, though, Maplecroft falls into the “not for me”category. This is absolutely a book that will appeal to a wide audience—those who crave strong world building, intriguing mysteries, and don’t mind a bit of horror and nastiness. For myself, I found it interesting, but it took me a week to finish—and considering I finish most books in a few days, that’s a pretty good indicator of my interest. Still, I can think of at least five people I know personally whod like this book, and Im absolutely going to recommend it to them.

Sexual content: references to sex


*Note from VBC: Lizzie Borden was acquitted at trial for the 1892 axe murders.

2 Responses to “Release-Day Review: Maplecroft by Cherie Priest (The Borden Dispatches #1)”

  1. Amy says:

    The whole mystery of Lizzie Borden and the murder of her parents has always been so interesting to me (for whatever reason I don’t know).

    This book sounds very good (even with the “horror and nastiness”). I like what you said about Cherie Priest using historical accuracy. I think it makes books like this, books that twist history, that much more plausible when you can use the truth as much as possible.

    Great Review!

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