Every family has its secrets…
One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become zombies?
Thrust into a horrific world where the walking dead are part of a shocking conspiracy to infect not only Fall River, Massachusetts, but also the world beyond, Lizzie battles to protect her sister, Emma, and her hometown from nightmarish ghouls and the evil forces controlling them.
Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter by C.A. Verstraete is an engaging horror story covering the axe murders of Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother in 1892 and the consequent trial of Lizzie Borden, but with the sci-fi twist of adding zombies into the mix. When Lizzie finds first her step-mother, and then her father rotting on their feet, she is thrown into a tale of grief, danger and scandal, all the while attempting to hide the truth convincingly from the public eye. She suffers scrutiny and judgment by her peers as she wages war against the undead alongside her sister and a few allies belonging to a secretive organization called the Society.
C.A. Verstraete did a masterful job of portraying both the era within which the story takes place, and the characters themselves. It is easy to envision the setting given the details provided, and never is the reader overwhelmed with excessive adjectives or flowery prose. In fact, ‘flowery’ is possibly the worst possible descriptor for how the book is written, with its appropriately stomach-turning imagery and gritty atmosphere. It’s remarkably easy to allow yourself to be dragged into the pages and be wrapped up in the characters, who feel less like characters and more like people.
Lizzie, the main protagonist, has a good head on her shoulders. Given the time period and the fact that women were only just transitioning from less dominant roles as homemakers to breadwinners, Lizzie’s independence and strength of character are unexpected but refreshing. She’s very reasonable and takes an analytical approach to most things, refraining from petty or foolish behavior that would have most horror movie connoisseurs sighing in disappointment. At the same time, she is prone to bouts of grief and emotion, which makes her feel all the more believable and worthy of sympathy. The reader feels fear through the character as they go through the trials and tribulations she does, and it’s hard not to cheer for her. Her development is noticeable but Lizzie never becomes someone the reader wouldn’t recognize, which is a respectable feat of fiction as many authors tend to take it too far, or not far enough.
The story itself never feels stale, and it’s hard to gauge how the book will end until the reader is within a few pages of the conclusion. Something that can detract from a book like this is an overbearing romance arc, and while there is some romance explored within the pages of Lizzie Borden, it never distracts the reader from the real plot. It does occasionally distract the protagonist, but in an unobtrusive way that adds rather than takes away from the book as a whole. The conclusion itself is satisfying in that it doesn’t stray far from belief nor from the book’s genre. It isn’t a rosy happy-ever-after where the reader is all but guaranteed that nothing bad or challenging would ever happen to the good guys again, but the author wraps up the plot while leaving you with a taste of what could lay in Lizzie’s future.
All in all, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter is a wonderfully-written piece and a delight to read. The editing is spot-on as there were no obvious spelling or grammatical errors to be seen, and the verbiage used was excellently-chosen and appropriate to the era. The setting is artfully portrayed and the plot covers its bases while wrapping up in a satisfying ending. The characters are consistent, and most importantly the protagonist is a likeable and believable heroine. If you are looking for a solid read, horror or otherwise, this is a book worth considering. Reviewed by Kaitlin