I have an affiliate relationship with Bookshop.org and Malaprop's Bookstore in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site. Read more on my affiliate page.
We meet Lizzie and her sister Emma shortly after the notorious murder of their father and stepmother. The women are living in fear of an unnamed horror that is taking over their hometown. They’re trying to research it and combat it as best they can but Emma is an invalid and Lizzie is–well, notorious Lizzie Borden. The horrors unfold slowly and the women reluctantly involve more characters in their research as the madness spreads.
A lot of authors whom I really like consistently list H. P. Lovecraft among their influences. Accordingly, I read a collection of his short stories several years ago and found myself disappointingly underwhelmed. I’ve never been able to pinpoint why. Short stories written by horror authors will generally scare me infinitely more than their novels. I have enough imagination to take a premise and run with it once the lights are out. I also prefer horror that doesn’t spell out too many details. Again, give me just enough to scare myself and I’ll be happy to fill in any blanks. H. P. Lovecraft does this. And yet I mostly find his stories overwrought and hysterical for no real reason. Maybe there aren’t enough details? Maybe Cthulu and his ilk are beyond my powers of imagination? Or maybe his characters irritate me in the Gothic manner of Victor Frankenstein, who is mostly incapable of anything more than the vapors once he creates his Monster? Whatever it is, I’m most definitely not among Lovecraft’s fans.
But this mashup of Lizzie Borden and Lovecraftian horrors absolutely worked for me.
The horror elements are clear enough to scare me yet they leave my imagination plenty of room to play. The tension builds and builds to the inevitable stormy conclusion. There’s no real resolution because frankly, no one really knows what the hell just happened, but the immediate Problem is wrapped up nicely enough to satisfy most readers while leaving plenty of room for a sequel.
The–epistolary? not exactly the correct word, but close enough–format allows first-person access to many characters’ thoughts and motivations, which adds some nice depth to relatively minor yet important characters. At the same time, it takes time away from Lizzie and Emma’s development. I wish I had more time in their heads, so I knocked my rating back a star.
This was a perfect read for my annual October spooky-book-fest and I’ll be searching out the second book in the Borden Dispatches.
If you liked Maplecroft, you might also like my reviews of
- Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (this is more of a character study than a review)
- Dreadnought by Cherie Priest
- Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez
Buy Maplecroft from Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC.
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site.