MISS LIZZIE by Walter Satterthwait
Kirkus Star


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A second hard-cover outing for Satterthwait (Wall of Glass, 1988), this one with a novel twist managed with aplomb. The story is set in 1921; the narrator is perceptive 13-year-old Amanda Burton, spending a summer at the shore near Boston with stockbroker father, despised stepmother Audrey, and older brother William. And their next-door neighbor is the still-notorious Lizzie Borden, accused and acquitted of the ax murder of her parents years before. She's a benevolent presence to Amanda, who spends peaceful hours learning card tricks from her. One day, in the wake of a bitter quarrel between her stepmother and William, Amanda discovers Audrey's ax-torn body. Her father is at work in Boston; William has vanished. Miss Lizzie takes Amanda in charge--calls her father, a doctor, a lawyer, the police, and the Pinkerton detective agency, in the person of balding, chubby Harry Boyle. It develops that Police Chief Da Silva, Lizzie's old nemesis from Fall River, would like to connect her to the crime, as would some local yokels whose hostile presence keeps her a virtual prisoner in her own house. But, meanwhile, Boyle works at uncovering victims of Audrey's blackmailing ways; William is found and jailed; and Amanda learns that her father, too, has secrets. When Amanda becomes the murderer's next target, the leisurely pace quickens menacingly to a tensely melodramatic climax, ending a story that sweetly evokes a gentler time while reminding us that man's basest instincts remain unchanged. A gripping and unhackneyed tour de force.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1989
ISBN: 0595007945
Publisher: St. Martin's