cover image Miss Lizzie

Miss Lizzie

Walter Satterthwait. St. Martin's Press, $17.95 (342pp) ISBN 978-0-312-03400-9

Using the notorious Lizzie Borden as one of its characters, this competently written novel is set in a Massachusetts seaside resort three decades after Lizzie has been acquitted of the axe-murder of her father and stepmother. Narrator Amanda Burton recalls the events of the summer when she was 13 and established a friendship with the infamous, ostracized Lizzie, who lived next door. When Amanda awakens one morning to discover that her own dreaded stepmother has been bludgeoned to death, it is to Lizzie that she turns. With the help of some colorful secondary characters--a dapper local lawyer, a well-meaning Pinkerton man, the one-armed police chief who holds a longstanding grudge--Amanda and Lizzie battle the thickets of small-town prejudice and innuendo to uncover the murderer, though Miss Lizzie herself remains everyone's favorite suspect. Though Satterthwait ( Wall of Glass ) is sometimes clumsy in his effort to evoke the atmosphere of the 1920s and its flapper culture, he delivers an entertaining amalgam of memoir-cum-murder mystery that rehabilitates (however improbably) the reputation of a woman who has become an enduring legend. (Aug.)