Pride and Prejudice and Zombies may not have been the first historical zombie novel but it did bring the idea into the mainstream. There is something about an undead uprising before the advent of modern technologies that is endlessly entertaining to read about. Of course Pride and Prejudice's big thing was that it was the original text from Jane Austen but with extra parts slotted in. Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter is slightly similar, though this time around a fictional book has been written about real world Lizzie Borden who was on trial in the late 19th Century for the axe murder of her father and stepmother in Massachusetts, and who was acquitted of the charge. This book theorises what if she really did commit the murders, but with the twist that it was down to her parents both being zombies.
After finding her parents infected with a strange affliction that causes them to try and violently attack her, Lizzie Borden is forced to kill them. John Fremont; a member of a secret group named 'The Society' introduces himself to Lizzie and tells him that people have been returning from the dead all over the city, and that his group are dispatching them in secret so as not to cause a panic. However due to the clandestine nature of their actions they can't stop Lizzie from being arrested for murder. Without even knowing if she is going to be locked away for her perceived crimes she must work with John and others to investigate just how this plague came to the city, and what part her father may have had to play in all this.
This book starts off with no slow introduction, instead we are thrown straight into Lizzie's first contact with the undead. This abrupt start didn't really resonate with me as I felt more confused than anything at what was going on. Not at the actual events, more that the main character is in the midst of action with no feeling of what sort of person she was. However the book then settles down into something more familiar with the main bulk being the investigations that Lizzie, her sister Emma, and John carry out on various properties her father once owned. This leads to a lot of localised zombie fighting. I liked the idea of a secret society trying to contain an undead apocalypse from coming to pass and I liked what they did with the character of John. Initially it seems he is to be Lizzie's love interest, for me I couldn't stand his character as it felt like he was using her for his own ends, so it was good to see him fade out the story, I had worried this off putting nature of his was accidental on Verstraete's part, but it wasn't at all. Of the other main characters it is Lizzie who stands out as the best one. She is strong willed, but there was also a vulnerability to her character on the many occasions she bites off more than she can chew. The less said about her sister Emma the better though, she came across as a perpetual damsel in distress whose meek nature and poor sensibilities just created no end of situations where she need to be rescued from the ghouls.
I did wonder if basing this character on a real life woman was a good move, she may have been acquitted of the charge but there are many to this day who believe she was guilty of murder. However it has been over a hundred years so is not exactly like it matters too much in modern day. It leads to most the chapters starting with a real excerpt from her trial that was fun with the twist this story gives her motivations. There was a decent sense of Crime and Punishment at times with Lizzie living in fear of being arrested, but that whole element of the story is dealt with at around the halfway point. With the verdict already known it was less being worried about what would happen to her and more wondering how she would manage to avoid jail. The story is simple, but it is fun to read and leads up to an escalation, even if it does all get resolved frustratingly off the page for the most part.
As always it is cool to see how people of a different time deal with the undead, here it is mostly pistols and bats that leads to a lot of exciting scenes. There are comparisons of the zombies to things more well known of at the time such as Dante's Inferno, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which was a nice touch, while with the corpses themselves there is a little addition in that they are so full of insects that they often spill out upon the reanimates passing.
After a sudden start Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter slows down into a more structured read, one that doesn't create too many memorable characters but is still a good yarn told in a well written and engaging style. If your after a fix of olden days zombie slaying then this should do you fine, the book can be found here.