Book Review: The Lizzie Borden “Axe Murder” Trial

12 Feb

”Live life liberated! Better to be direct and honest than false and phoney. Image and reputation are transient perceptions of what other people think, not what they know.”

The following is from an book review done nearly 8 years ago.  I still haven’t changed my mind, but it is worthy of purchase for hard core collectors.


The Lizzie Borden “Axe Murder” Trial
by Joan Axelrod-Contrada

3.0 out of 5 stars Runs the Gamut from “A-C”., Aug 26 2000

The Lizzie Borden “Axe Murder” Trial – A Headline Court Case, by Joan Axelrod-Contrada, Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2000, 106 pages, is a short, one session read. Have a snack nearby because you won’t get much of a bite out of this one.This is one of a series of famous court cases designed for the (I assume) Junior High or High School student studying famous cases. It’s just enough to provide a fairly good overview of the basics of the case, sufficient enough to write a school report – simple essays, but certainly no term paper. Joan A-C manages to convey all the primary and essential aspects of the case presented in a crisp, concise order. In almost bullet-like paragraphs it covers the Inquest, Preliminary, Grand Jury, and Trial. Those four proceedings probably account for this particular case being a good one for a class study. It ends with very brief comparisons of the OJ Simpson case and Louise Woodard cases (yawn). However, handled well, I thought, given the consistent brevity throughout, was the information on the investigation into insanity and the question of what dress did Lizzie have on between 9:00 and 11:00 that morning.

The end notes indicate more research than probably was necessary considering the resultant shallow substance. The author extracted information from many websites on the subject, and for the first time in a new book on Lizzie, the Chapter Notes/Biblography citations have a generous sprinkling of the “.org” and “.html” references. “Bordenia” websurfers will recognize many of them and may even be surprised, as I was, for a couple of new and very interesting sites.

The book has a handsome cover but, alas, the many photographs are all those that we’ve seen dozens of times in dozens of books. The picture of Lizzie taken in 1905,when she was 44-45 and with pinch-nez glasses, is probably the least reproduced of the lot.

I’m always appreciative of anything new published on the case, even if the content is a regurgitation in synopsized format. For me, the striking disappointment is that it is so obviously “series-formulated” that it lacks any incentive or motivation to compel the uninformed reader to seek out other works on this extremely compelling and facinating case. While I give credit and due respect to Joan Axelrod-Contrada for achieving what was obviously the publishers intent with this series, as a book of substance, it ran the gamut from “A to C”. (Forgive me Dorothy Parker).


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