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Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks.


When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.


 Or did she?

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About the Book


In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done—which is already gaining outstanding acclaim—Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love. 

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence. 

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling. 




“[The] novel is compelling, scary—and gruesomely visceral.”

Entertainment Weekly, 23 Most Anticipated Books of 2017


“Debut novelist Sarah Schmidt tackles the murk and silence in this old tale, imagining the cruel secrets of a respected family.” Elle, 24 Best Books To Read This Summer


“A bloody good read . . . A taut, lyrical account of the destruction of the Borden family, both through ax murder and subtler means . . . Schmidt inhabits each of her narrators with great skill, channeling their anxieties, their viciousness, with what comes across as (frighteningly) intuitive ease. Everything about Schmidt’s novel is hauntingly, beautifully off. It’s a creepy and penetrating work, even for a book about Lizzie Borden.”

USA Today

“This palpable imagining of what led to the murder of Lizzie Borden’s parents will stay with you for as long as this historical mystery has enthralled pop culture.”

Redbook (one of the Best Summer Reads) 


“A gripping and still puzzling story . . . a credible imagining of a bizarre episode.”

—Wall Street Journal

“This fictional retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders is a domestic nightmare . . . [with] staggeringly gorgeous, feverish prose and the thrill of deep, dark, gruesome detail.”

BookPage, Six of the Brightest New Names in Fiction


“[A] moody, atmospheric tale . . . Superb.”—Washington Independent Review of Books


“Riveting . . . See What I Have Done is a stay-up-late novel for crime and psychological suspense fans. The profiles feel spot on. The drama is intense. The fetid atmosphere of over-ripening fruit, summer heat and festering emotional wounds is not for sissies. But brace up and dive in.”—Book Browse


“A terrifically dread-inducing, claustrophobic, nightmarish immersion in a fictional version of one of the most famous crimes in American history . . . a tense psychological study of family dysfunction, painted with a vividness bordering on the hallucinogenic . . . A gripping and accomplished novel.”—Tampa Bay Times


“Schmidt makes a case in See What I Have Done that feels truthful in its emotional intensity . . . [and] sheds a different light on what once seemed an open-and-shut case.”

—Portland Press Herald


See What I Have Done enters the murder house before and after that fateful August day and, with quiet intensity, creates a memorable place of horror.”

Forward Reviews (starred review)


“[A] sensual new novel . . A prickly, unsettling wonder: a story so tactile and feverishly surreal it feels like a sort of reverse haunting.”—Entertainment Weekly


“Schmidt brings to life one of the most unexpected and fascinating crimes in American History.”Refinery 29, Best Beach Reads of the Year


“A complicated, compelling tale . . . giving fresh life to a sensational crime of old.”

—Marie Claire


“Schmidt’s debut novel reimagines the crime and tells the story of a family in chaos.”

—New York Post, 29 Best Books of the Summer

“Everyone knows the rhyme. We’ve all heard the story. But not until you read See What I Have Done will you learn the truth behind one of the most spine-tingling horror stories of all time. In this stunning debut novel, Sarah Schmidt transforms the Lizzie Borden story from lurid infamy to flawed reality.”—Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train


“A dazzling debut . . . There are books about murder and there are books about imploding families; this is the rare novel that seamlessly weaves the two together, asking as many questions as it answers.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Schmidt’s unforgettable debut brings a legendary American crime to eerie new life . . . Equally compelling as a whodunit, ‘whydunit,’ and historical novel, the book honors known facts yet fearlessly claims its own striking vision . . . profoundly vivid and convincing.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)


“What better subject for a psychological thriller than one of the most notorious murders in U.S. history . . . A fresh treatment of Lizzie Borden, highly recommended for mystery and true crime fans and others who like smart, edgy works.” Library Journal (starred review)


“The elegant and evocative writing style, combined with a mesmerizing, subtly menacing thrum of psychological suspense, heralds the arrival of a major new talent . . . Nail-biting horror mixes with a quiet, unforgettable power to create a novel readers will stay up all night finishing.” Booklist (starred review)

“[A] gory and gripping debut.”—Guardian

“Lizzie Borden might be the archetypal transgressive female, and Sarah Schmidt has taken the 81 whacks and the parents that were dealt them and spun a mesmerizing reimagining of it all . . . Schmidt writes with precision and flair about the oppressive boredom of domesticity, the twisted intensity of sisterly love and the forlorn dreams of leaving and of personal reinvention . . . A glittering, gory fever dream of a book, See What I Have Done is a remarkable debut.” —Telegraph

“This novel is like a crazy murdery fever dream, swirling around the day of the murders. Schmidt has written not just a tale of a crime, but a novel of the senses.

There is hardly a sentence that goes by without mention of some sensation, whether it’s

a smell or a sound or a taste, and it is this complete saturation of the senses that enables

the novel to soak into your brain and envelope you in creepy uncomfortableness.

It’s a fabulous, unsettling book.”—Book Riot

“Believe the hype around [Sarah Schmidt’s] debut novel.

This gripping retelling of Lizzie Borden, an accused axe-murderess

in the 19th century, is suspenseful and scary.”

Marie Claire (AU)

“Eerie and compelling, Sarah Schmidt breathes such life into the terrible, twisted tale of Lizzie Borden and her family, she makes it impossible to look away.”

—Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train

“Sarah Schmidt's beautifully wrought See What I Have Done is a compelling, psychologically rich take on a well-loved tale, bringing new insight into the myth

of just who Lizzie Borden was. This glorious gothic novel brings to mind

the work of Sarah Waters and Patrick McGrath.”

—Sabina Murray, author of Valiant Gentlemen

“Haunting, evocative and psychologically taut, See What I Have Done breathes fresh life into the infamous 19th-century murder case surrounding Lizzie Borden.

This is a powerful, beautifully researched debut novel that brings us into contact

with the recurring American dramas of violence and retribution while

summoning the beguiling voices of the past.”

—Dominic Smith, author of the New York Times bestseller

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos


About the Author


Sarah Schmidt works as a reading and literacy coordinator at a regional public library. See What I Have Done is her first novel. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Follow Sarah on Twitter

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