November 4, 2014

Book Review: Maplecroft

The Borden Dispatches, Book 1
Cherie Priest

Published: September, 2014

ROC, paperback, 435p.
ISBN: 978-0-451-46697-6

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me.  Perhaps rightfully so.  I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial.  With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents.  Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place.  It originates from the ocean's depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me.  No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it.  With an axe.

As an avid reader and book lover, I understand the effort, blood, sweat and tears that the author puts into their books.  I hate it when I come across those rare few that really rub me the wrong way, but I feel that I have to be honest in my opinions as I review these books.  I say this because as much as I wanted to, I really did not find any redeeming qualities to Maplecroft.

This was the final book from my book club's Sept/Oct/Nov selections and I was looking forward to reading this paranormal retelling (with gothic overtures) of the acquited American murderess, Lizzie Borden - it being Halloween and all.  However I was so disappointed with Maplecroft that I actually had to put it down half way through.  I needed an few hours to get myself out of this book - and that rarely happens!

Sadly, the very inviting and mysterious cover art could not save Maplecroft.  I just was not a fan of the multiple POVs.  Yep, there are over six voices that each take turns in telling us exactly what happened to Lizzie, and how the evil menace was created/found, and set loose on the town of Fall River.  Now one or even two POVs would be okay.  The synopsis on the back cover made it seem like it would be from only Lizzie's POV, but having all those characters was so confusing.  It just ended up as one big mess as I couldn't differentiate between most of the characters - and by the half way mark, I didn't really care either.

All the characters were so annoying.  Even our main character, Lizzie Borden, was nothing special.  She's in her early 30s (32yo I think).  Average height, sturdy, strong - a lesbian in this retelling - with no qualities to recommend herself by.  Her manner is short and sharp and I found nothing in her that engaged me as a reader.

Dr Seabury was also not an engaging character, let alone one of heroic proportions.  He's in his early 60's and more often than not spends part of his chapters pondering the possibility that he has been lax in his professional care of the community.  He dithers and flounders and unfortunately after Lizzie, he also has the most chapters.  Even Emma (the sister), and Gertrude, aka Nance (the lover), were flat and un-engaging.  Nance is a sneaky cow that sees nothing wrong in drugging her lover so that she can satisfy her curiosity and spy on what is happening behind door to the basement.  A door that Lizzie keeps locked.  I felt absolutely no sympathy for Nance when she got her comeuppance.  Even Lizzie's total devotion to her didn't evoke a reaction in me other than indifference and a wish for this book to be over.

Be aware that although there is a lot of axe swinging and body disposal in this book, gore does not make up the majority of the content. 

I wanted to like this book so much as the basic premise was quirky and twisted and dark (hmmm, perhaps Tim Burton should consider a Lizzie Borden retelling ;-D).  However, the reality is that I won't be buying any more of the books in this series.


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