Sarah Schmidt

Books Pippa Masson, Curtis Brown Australia Email Pippa Masson

See What I Have Done

book | Fiction | May 2017
ANZ → Hachette Australia (Ed. Robert Watkins)
UK & Comm → Tinder Press (Ed. Leah Woodburn)
US & Canada → Grove Atlantic (Ed. Corinna Barsan)

Fall River, 4 August 1892. Lizzie Borden calls out to the maid, ‘Someone’s killed father.’ A domestic nightmare begins. The brutal axe-murder of the Borden family patriarch forces sisters Lizzie and Emma to confront the ghosts of their past. When police arrive at the house they discover that Mrs. Borden, hated step-mother, has been killed, too.

From the outside, no one can understand why anyone would want to murder the wealthy and respected Mr. and Mrs. Borden. As the police struggle to find clues, Lizzie tries to make sense of the moments leading up to the discovery of her father’s body. As it becomes clear that Lizzie is incapable of telling the truth, the police remain unaware that there are other witnesses to the crime. Others who know what happened inside the Borden household. 

Based on true events, See What I Have Done is a psychological examination of the consequences of love and violence, family and self-identity. Highly claustrophobic, this character-driven novel balances sparse poetics and wild, vivid prose, and is a violent, haunting and original exploration of what it takes to be free and what it means to love.  


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The audio rights are handled by Pippa Masson.

Kate Cooper manages the translation rights for See What I Have Done

Translation Rights Sold

Hollands Diep
Editions Payot & Rivages
Piper Verlag
Edizioni Piemme

The real strength of the novel lies not in the richness of its research, but in the family dynamics of dependence and resentment it so evocatively details... [Schmidt’s] version of this well-trodden tale proves so dark, so disturbing, so difficult to shake.

Toronto Star

Schmidt is less interested in contriving a new version of what “really” happened on that fateful morning in 1892 than in plunging the reader into a claustrophobic nexus of family resentments and frustrations, probing obsessively at the faultline between love and hate

Justine Jordan
The Guardian

A portrait of a murderer that does not pretend the act of murder is explicable but instead captures the layers of denial and self-deception that surround it with chilling and frightening precision.

James Bradely
The Australian

[...] her protagonist comes more fully alive than almost any character in recent memory, and the final pages are a wild, mind-bending revelation. 

Leah Greenblatt
Entertainment Weekly

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

Schmidt seamlessly weaves fact and fiction… Her prose is clever and taut

New York Journal of Books

See What I Have Done is a barn-burning, fever-ridden first novel. It makes blistering reading out of first-rate historical fiction, which must walk the tightrope of established facts while fashioning a story anew….The writing is vivid to the point of hallucination.


Riveting, rich, totally chilling...


Creepy, feverish and impossible to put down, See What I Have Done is a summer read that will chill you to the bone.

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


[An] unforgettable debut . . . Equally compelling as a whodunit, ‘whydunit,’ and historical novel.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A dazzling debut novel that is as unsettling as the summer heat that permeates the crime scene . . . an unusually intimate portrait. 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)

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)

What better subject for a psychological thriller than one of the most notorious murders in U.S. history . . . A fresh treatment of Lizzie Borden.

Library Journal (starred review)

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

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, author of Orphan Train

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 Last Painting of Sara de Vos

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

[A] seminal voice of the future... A dark, dense visceral ride that proves that this former librarian could be on course to become one of the breakout writers of the decade... Donna Tartt, make room.


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

Disturbing and original.

Daily Express

A twisty, visceral, highly original novel that grips you from start to finish. An exceptional and stunning debut.

Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat

[A] gory and gripping debut.


What a book - powerful, visceral and disturbing. I felt like one of the many flies on the walls of that unhappy, blood-drenched house. 

Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love

Schmidt is especially good at the sweltering claustrophobia in which the Bordens lived. She is also great at portraying the pent-up frustration of the spinster Borden sisters.

Sunday Independent

I loved See What I Have Done. So ominous and creepily compelling. Utterly macabre, in a good way.

Sam Baker
The Pool

See What I Have Done is wonderful. Exquisitely-drawn characters, beautiful prose, a brilliant retelling of story. Every single sentence is perfect.

Emma Flint, author of Little Deaths

Vivid, sultry and engrossing.

Carys Bray, author of A Song for Issy Bradley

Lizzie Borden and her axe have fascinated since 1892, and this incredible reimagining is one you'll never ever forget.


“[Schmidt] tells a story not so much about money but about madness. . . The Borden house is, in short, a house of horror, as in its way is Lizzie Borden’s psyche. The dynamic interplay of these ideas and images works wonderfully in the first half of the novel, and goes far to create an atmosphere of truly grisly unwholesomeness. Schmidt convincingly establishes the conditions—as did Carter, in very different terms—in which that most unnatural of acts could occur, the apparent murder by a child of her parents. . .Sarah Schmidt has created a lurid and original work of horror.”—

New York Times Book Review

I am obsessed with this book. It chews you up and spits you out like one of the ripe pears in Lizzie's garden. Incredibly tense and claustrophobic... [an] amazingly accomplished tale of power, betrayal and revenge.

Stacey Bartlett
Fabulous Magazine

Total genius, dredging poetry from blood and guts and bodily functions and rancid mutton broth.

Tammy Cohen, author of When She Was Bad

[An] exquisitely crafted and chilling re-imagining of the gruesome 1892 crimes.

The Lady

Both disturbing and gripping, it is an outstanding debut novel about love, death and the lifelong repercussions of unresolved grief.

Hannah Beckerman