About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Monday, November 30, 2020

A Curious Incident by Vicki Delany

(41. - 1066.) A Curious Incident by Vicki Delany - Gemma Doyle is doing her best, though not well, to not be annoyed with Lauren, a young girl, who wants Gemma to help find her lost kitten, Snowball. Proclaiming she is not a consulting detective, Gemma grudgingly agrees to keep her eye out for the cat.

Gemma, part owner of The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, in West London on Cape Cod, has an insatiable curiosity but not for lost cats. When she accidentally finds Snowball her reputation as a detective is secured for an adoring girl.

Shortly thereafter the West London Garden Club descends into violence. The garden of a leading contender for best garden, Sheila Tierney, is cruelly “pillaged”.  Sheila, blaming the actual winner, Anna Wentworth, confronts Anna. Blows are exchanged. That evening Anna is murdered. Worried for her mother, Lauren who is Sheila’s daughter, pays Gemma $10.00, as an advance on fees, to find the killer.

The real Sherlock Holmes never had to deal with the tempestuous conflicts swirling beneath the genteel surface of passionate gardeners.

Merely curious, not investigating, Gemma speaks to prominent members of the club and visits the scene of the crime.

As well, she learns by listening:

“Can’t help it. A branch of the West London grapevine runs directly through the tearoom and from there into the Emporium.

Detective Louise Estrada of the West London police maintains her disdain for Gemma. The handsome detective Ryan Ashburton remains uncertain about Gemma. He is  conflicted, attracted, distracted, fascinated, unsettled, comfortable, frustrated, at ease and wary of Gemma. In an earlier book her deductive skills led her to announce to Ryan that he was about to propose. The ill fated remarks left her a non-fiancee. Yet Ryan still loves her.

Gemma is caught off guard by Lauren’s hero worship. The 11 year old girl, the child of somewhat indifferent parents, even begins to emulate Gemma.

She completely wins Gemma’s heart when, while helping out at the bookshop, she keeps it tidy. For Gemma:

…. my life and possessions are a mess, but at the shop I need everything to be neat and tidy and well organized. Otherwise, how would I keep track of it all? My worst nightmare is people who take things out of their proper place and put them away incorrectly.

The investigation proceeds amidst the hustle and bustle of West London’s busy summer season. The relationships between the ladies of the club are more complex than Gemma had expected.

I would have preferred more of Gemma’s observational and analytical skills. Her investigation is more snooping around than thinking but the ending sees Gemma at her deductive best. The solution is very clever and appropriately Sherlockian. But for Gemma a killer would not have been found.

I continue to appreciate the characters of the series. All have families. None are desperately dysfunctional. They work hard. They play less hard. They do their best to enjoy life. And Gemma continues to be more intriguing than infuriating.

(The book will be available in early 2021. Thanks to Vicki for sending me a copy.)

****

Delany, Vicki - 

     1.) Const. Molly Smith - (2013) - A Cold White Sun

     2.) Fiona MacGillivray - (2014) - Gold Web

     3.) Writing as Eva Gates the Lighthouse Library Series  
     with Lucy Richardson - (2014) -  By Book or by 
     Crook and Bodie Island Lighthouse; (2015) - 
     Women v. Men in Clothing Descriptions

     4.) The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries
    with Gemma Doyle - (2017) - Elementary, She Read and Fictional and Real
     Life Bookshops and Sherlock and Where is "Gemma" From?
     (2018) - Body on Baker Street and The Inspiration for Body on  
     Baker Street; (2020) - There's A Murder Afoot and
     D
ressng to Impress

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Reading of the Marais Simultaneously


Square George-Cain
One of the joys of reading is an unexpected connection. Recently I read Murder in the Marais by Cara Black. Deciding to read more than one book at the same time a few days later I started reading All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny. It was a pleasant surprise to find both books are set in the Marais of central Paris. Though they take place about 25 years apart with Black’s book in 1993 and Penny’s book at the present time it was fascinating to read of their descriptions and connections with the Marais.


In Murder in the Marais, Aimée Leduc has a modest apartment which she inherited from her grandfather on Ile St. Louis:


“Drafty, damp, and unheated, her seventeenth century hôtel particulier had been the mansion of the Duc De Guise …. The ancient pearwood trees in the courtyard and the view from her window overlooking the Seine kept her there. Every winter, the bone-chilling cold and archaic plumbing almost drove her out.”


The Gamaches, in All the Devils Are Here, have a comfortable apartment that Armand inherited from Zora, the Jewish woman from Poland he knew as his grandmother, who had purchased the apartment with “restitution” money she received after the war.


By contrast:


The Gamaches’ small apartment, with its wooden beams, fresh white walls, and large windows, was already welcoming, but the scent of garlic and basil made it even more so.


Black sets a meeting place, just off the rue Payenne for Sarah, her young Jewish heroine, and her German soldier during the war. It is a bench in the Square George-Cain with its Roman pillars and some ancient marble busts. Sarah is hiding out in the Roman catacombs below the Square after her family was rounded up and sent to the concentration camps. They meet again at the bench 50 years later.


Gates of Hell
Armand’s favourite place in Paris is the Musée Rodin which he

started visiting as a boy with his godfather, Stephen Horowitz. In fact, he planned to propose to Reine Marie in front of one of the sculptures, the Gates of Hell. It is a memorable, though far from romantic, place for a proposal. Thankfully Horowitz convinces him to propose at a nearby garden.


Penny vividly describes the area:


It was one the many peculiarities of Paris. Hidden behind many of the simple wooden doors were these courtyards and secret gardens.


It was a city of façades. Of beauty, both obvious and obscure. Of heroism, both obvious and obscure. Of dreadful deeds, both obvious and obscure.


The real life Hotel Lutetia has respectively a dark and light role in the books.


In Murder in the Marais, after the war ends Lili Stein, who was the only member of her family to escape deportation, stands outside the hotel where she “waited every day after school to find my family”.  The Lutetia “rundown, boarded-up” at that time was “the terminus for trucks bringing camp survivors. Maman said she held up signs and photos, running from stretcher to stretcher, asking if someone had seen her family. Person to person, by word of mouth, maybe a chance encounter or remembrance ….” None of her family returned.


Restored the Lutetia became and remains a fine hotel.


Following a tradition established when he was a boy, Armand and his family go to the Lutetia for its wonderful ice cream. Peppermint with hot fudge for Armand’s godfather, Stephen Horowitz.


There is a further reference in All the Devils Are Here to the hotel being the headquarters of the Abwehr (German Intelligence) in Paris during the war where members of the Resistance were tortured.


Lastly the question of collaborators decades after the end of the war occupy each book with complex questions on the issue of collaboration.


As the intrigue in each book stretched back to WW II I had to concentrate on not confusing the two plots.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

(43. - 1068.) All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny - Paris in the fall. Sitting in the sculpture garden of the Musée Rodin, his favourite place in Paris, Armand Gamache reflects back 50 years. His godfather, the industrialist Stephen Horowitz, raised him after the deaths of his parents when he was 9. Horowitz gradually earned the boy’s trust:

And slowly young Armand realized he was safe, would always be safe, with this man. And that he would get to the other side.

As a young man Armand brought Reine-Marie to Paris where he proposed to her. Now they are back in France for the birth of a grandchild. Their daughter, Annie, and her husband, Jean Guy (Armand’s long time second in command) have moved to Paris where Jean Guy has an executive position with a major company.

For the first time readers learn about the Gamache’s son, Daniel. Through the series he has been a far away figure in France. Daniel has been distant from Armand since he was 8 years old. Distance became an emotional “chasm” that became a physical ocean when Daniel moved to Paris. Despite Armand reaching out Daniel has refused to say why. 


Armand knows that Daniel resents the depth of his relationship with Jean Guy. Daniel can see a father-son connection between them.


Horowitz, a billionaire, has spent his career between Paris and Montreal. He has a large apartment in the Marais. In addition to being a very successful investor he is well known for calling out corporate frauds such as Enron and Bernie Madoff. (It was interesting the examples used were from America rather than Canada.)


Was it an accident or deliberate when Horowitz is struck by a van in a hit-and-run incident? Armand is certain it was deliberate. His belief is supported by finding there has been a hurried search of Horowitz’s apartment and the discovery of a body professionally slain.


Yet Armand does his best not to tunnel in on his opinion repeating to himself what he warns every young police cadet:


Don’t believe everything you think.


More tendrils with the past are added as Horowitz was born in Germany and spent at least part of the war in Paris. Armand describes him as a “humanist”.


Armand consults the head of the Préfecture of Police, Claude Dussault, a long time friend. Dussault’s second-in- command, Irena Fontaine, greets Armand with the touch of condescension common among Parisians hearing the Québécois accent. Taking over the investigation she grudgingly accepts the presence of the colonials.


I was completely caught up in the story when the lingering scent of a distinctive cologne provides a startling twist in the plot. Even more remarkably the question of the scent undergoes a further, even more clever, twist.


There is a remarkable scene where the Gamache family is interviewed, more accurately interogated,  by Comamander Fontaine. It becomes a personal word duel between Fontaine and Armand.


The plot delves into family history to a depth unlike any other in the series. For those readers who have found Armand too perfect there is a scene about the long lasting pain of secrets overheard.


A conspiracy needs to be unraveled in the plot. Penny handles that delicate task well. There is an inexorable building of tension for all of the Gamaches.


We are back to the best of the Gamache series featuring history, relationships and intelligence rather though there are more violent confrontations than needed.

****

Penny, Louise – (2005) - Still Life; (2006) - Dead Cold (Tied for 3rd Best fiction of 2006); (2007) - The Cruelest Month; (2009) - The Murder Stone (Tied for 4th Best fiction of 2009); (2010) - The Brutal Telling; (2011) - Bury Your Dead (Best Fiction of 2011); (2011) - A Trick of the Light; (2012) - The Beautiful Mystery (Part I) and The Beautiful Mystery (Part II); (2013) - "P" is for Louise Penny - Movie Producer and Review of the Movie of Still Life; (2013) - How the Light Gets In; (2014) - The Long Way Home; (2014) - The Armand Gamache Series after 10 Mysteries - Part I and Part II; (2015) - The Nature of the Beast (Part I) and The Nature of the Beast (Part II); (2016) - A Great Reckoning - The Academy and Comparisons and The Map; (2017) - Glass Houses - Happiness and Unhappiness and Getting the Law Wrong; (2019) - Kingdom of the Blind and Irreconcilable Dispositions; (2019) - A Better Man; (2020) - All the Devils are Here and Relationship Restaurants in Fiction and Real Life; Hardcover

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Murder in the Marais by Cara Black

(42. - 1067.) Murder in the Marais by Cara Black (1998) - I have walked by, sometimes glanced at, a few times picked up but never bought an Aimée Leduc mystery until I was in the Westgate Used Bookstore in Saskatoon a few weeks and saw they had Murder in the Marais available for $5.00, half the original price. I brought it home and have been wondering why I did not start reading the series 22 years ago when Murder in the Marais was first published. 

In the fall of 1993 Soli Hecht, a Holocaust survivor, wants to retain Leduc, a private investigator, to seek proof a family was not deported to Buchenwald in WW II. She is resolute about refusing to search for missing persons as she is limiting her cases to corporate security until Hecht advises her father had told him to come to her if he needed help. It is a matter of honour. Hecht secretly retains Leduc, there are no records and he pays in cash. 


Her hacking skills are challenged by the encrypted document provided her but she finds a way through and there is a photo from Paris of a cafe showing members of the SS and undistinguished civilians.


When she goes to give the photo to the elderly Lili Stern, as agreed with Hecht, she finds Stein dead in bed with a swastika carved in her forehead.


Hecht offers her more money to solve the murder. Now she tells her partner, René Friant, “ a handsome dwarf with green eyes and goatee” that she does not do murder but their finances leave her no choice.


Lili’s son said his mother lived by the motto “Never forgive or forget.” In a breath taking moment he described his mother, as a teenager, at the end of the war, having been missed in the roundup that took her family away, standing day after day after school at the hotel where those who survived the camps arrived back in Paris.


Werewolves, Nazis who went underground after the war, re-appear pursuing the goals of National Socialism.


What happened 50 years ago that could lead to an elderly Jewish woman being murdered?


Aimée carefully probes the world of contemporary fascists. Les Blancs Nationaux are a violent collection of Hitler worshiping neo-Nazis. Have they embarked on killing Jews?


Aimée’s weakness for handsome bad boys puts her at risk.


An aging German man contemplates a love that ended in 1943. 

The ancient Marais was long the historic Jewish quarter of Paris. During the war Jews were collected from the apartments and sent to the concentration camps. Some were missed in the collections. Who lived was often random.

There remain dark shadows in France over the Nazi Occupation. Many were not in the Resistance. Some were collaborators. Others were BOF (buerre, oeufs, fromage) engaged in the black market. Consequences will continue for the survivors of the war no matter their age.

Following another semi-American tradition Aimée is a physical sleuth. She is injured several times. As the book neared its conclusion I found myself hoping for more intellect and less violence. She had gone over the edge of credibility issue in how many times can a sleuth be beat up in one book. She does however show the consequences of her dramatic encounters. Aimée has a badly scarred hand from an explosion some years before that killed her father.

The number of bodies in the book was excessive. As I expected, when I read about the author after I was done with the book, Black is American. Whenever I read a mystery with more dead than I would expect for the plot I anticipate an American author. I will read the next in the series in the hope of a lower body count and because of Black’s skill in exploring history and emotion.

There are powerful scenes in Murder in the Marais when the past intersects with the present. Dreams for some can be nightmares for others. We do not often reflect on the meaning of collaboration with occupiers at a personal level. More often the condemnation is focused on the political and econcomic collaborators. Should love exact retribution?

Love lost and a never ending hatred interwine in a complex mystery. 


Monday, November 9, 2020

Relationship Restaurants in Fiction and Real Life

Weeping Willow

We all have different relationships. Most are personal. Some are with places. All relationships involve memories.


Armand and Reine Marie Gamache, in All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny published earlier this year, have a special relationship with Juveniles, a bar à vins, they visited for the first time 35 years ago when they became engaged in Paris.


As they have many times before, they return to the restaurant, still owned by the same family. They sit at their “regular long table by the wooden bar”. A carafe of their favourite red wine is upon the table and:


Warm baguettes were placed on cutting boards on the table, with a terrine de campagne, a whipped butter, and small bowls of olives.


Margaux, who first served them as a serious five year old, takes care of the Gamaches.


Sharon and I have a relationship with Murray’s Restaurant in Minneapolis that extends back 41 years to 1979 when we visited Minneapolis on our honeymoon. Where Armand and Reine Marie had run into Juveniles because of an “unexpected downpour” we had looked for a restaurant where we hoped to have a special meal to celebrate our time in the city.


Murray’s was a wonderful decision. Always elegant, at that time already open for 33 years, it had the feel of the late 1940’s.



We shared the Silver Butter Knife Steak for Two, a sirloin roast perfectly cooked.


We have returned to Murray’s each time we have been back to Minneapolis and have never been disappointed.


Servers spend decades at the restaurant. On our last visit our server advised us she had been serving at Murray’s for 35 years.


Each visit takes us back to that time when we were just starting our lives together.


New restaurant relationships are made throughout life.


In the Gamache series Armand and Reine Marie love going to the bistro in Three Pines owned by Gabri and Olivier. 


Whether for a fine meal or just a croissant they enjoy sitting near the fireplace.


Their hosts know them well.


In Melfort Sharon and I have been developing a relationship with RJ’s Urban Garden Cafe in recent years.


Set in an old building, lovingly restored, Raianne has created an inviting restaurant to which we make frequent visits.


Their chippers, homemade potato chips with chipotle dip, are a part of every meal we have there. They are usually ordered when we sit down.


Dakota and other servers start writing down a Pepsi before I speak as they take our drink orders.


This past summer a lovely deck was added. Upon the deck now stands a work of art, a weeping willow tree, sculpted by Rob Jüng’s MetalArt of Melfort. Raianne told us it is their family tree and a sign of their resiliance during the challenges of life that come to all of us. 


On her Facebook page she stated:


“The willow tree gives us hope, a sense of belonging, and safety. Furthermore, the ability to let go of the pain and suffering to grow new, strong and bold.


The image of the willow tree is our path to stability, hope and healing” - unknown


The sacred willow reminding us to bend and not break.


Sharon and I have enjoyed many restaurants around the world. We are very glad to have personal relationships with Murray’s and the Urban Garden.


Monday, November 2, 2020

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

(39. - 1064.) Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse - In 1870 Mycroft has just started his career in the Secretary of War’s Office and Sherlock is yet a student.


Mycroft is a handsome young man with a powerful intellect and a comparable ego. He brazenly addresses the Cambridge rowing team on how to break a 9 year losing streak in their annual race with Oxford. Backing his words with his money he places a significant bet upon the Cantabrigians. When, of course, he is successful he celebrates the win in style with the finest Cuban cigar and the finest French Armganac at the shop of his friend, Cyrus Douglas.


The money will build his marriage fund. When I learned Mycroft was engaged to the lovely Georgiana I almost gasped aloud. Even if the book had been less than splendid I would have had to read it in full to learn what happened to the relationship. I do not recall from Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories any hint of romance about Mycroft.


When his beloved learns that mysterious deaths involving the supernatural are occurring on her home island of Trinidad she feels compelled to return there.


Mycroft, disconsolate over her departure, manipulates his superior Sir Edward Cardwell, into sending him to Trinidad to investigate purported racial unrest upon the island.


Joining him is his good friend, Douglas, another Trinidadian. The dark skinned Douglas, a man “in his middle years”, takes the guise of a servant to Mycroft. As much as any mortal can be a partner to a Holmes, he works with Mycroft.


I was disturbed when they left London. Too many stories have faltered when their sleuths leave home. Most books are better with the sleuth interacting with the characters and the environment where they are resident.


Yet Mycroft finds fascinating opportunities aboard ship to exercise his deductive skills. It is a subtle adversary who uses poison to incapacitate rather than kill.


His eidetic memory provides him with boundless information for analysis.


Mycroft’s plans to aid Georgiana go awry in a completely unexpected way. The shock is beyond his comprehension. Even his vaunted intellect struggles to understand what is happening. Mycroft has emotions. I doubt Sherlock was ever afflicted with Mycroft’s doubts.


Douglas is no mere able aide. He calms Mycroft in times of agitation and provides solid advice. He is far more an equal than Watson. Were the book written 125 years ago I doubt Douglas would have been given such an intellect. An assistant to a Holmes in Victorian times would have been assigned a lesser role in the relationship with their sleuth.


In Trinidad the intrepid duo find an evil conspiracy I had not anticipated. It is all too credible.


There is a dramatic confrontation that has more violence than needed but consistent with the American tendency to Hollywood. At the same time there is a satisfying use of logic and deduction by Mycroft to solve the conspiracy. Less violence would have made the book perfect.


In a few deft passages Mycroft sets up aspects of Sherlock’s life.


The pages glide by smoothly. There are plausible twists in the plot. I will read more of the series. Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse are a skilled team of Holmesians.


Monday, October 26, 2020

Comparing a Poor Woman with a Wealthy Young Woman Facing Murder Charges Early in the 20th Century

Carrie Davies
In my last post I wrote a review of The Massey Murder A
Maid, Her Master and the Trial That Shocked a Country
by Charlotte Gray. I partly read the book to see how a young servant woman, Carrie Davies, was dealt with by the judicial system of early 20th Century Ontario in contrast to the treatment of Florence Kinrade, a wealthy young woman, investigated for the killing of her sister in Hamilton six years earlier. I wrote about the Kinrade case in reviews of Florence Kinrade - Lizzie Borden of the North by Frank Jones. As this post will reveal the verdict in Carrie’s case readers wishing to find out from the book what happened had best read no further.


Florence Kinrade
Carrie is questioned at length by the police immediately after the killing. She is given a standard warning about any statement being used against her but, in shock and with no experience with the law, seeks no legal assistance. She answers all the questions but the Police Sergeant in his haste to deal with the paper work of her arrest forgets to get her statement signed. She explains killing her employer, Bert Massey, because he tried to ruin her.


In the Kinrade case when Ethel is killed at home Florence and Ethel are the only family members present. Florence maintains a tramp entered their home and shot Ethel.


In contrast to Carrie’s treatment, Florence’s initial interview with the police is cut short by her father, Tom Kinrade, a distinguished educator  in Hamilton who simply insisted to the police she has had enough for the day.


In Carrie’s case the coroner’s inquest could have gone badly for Carrie but for the interventions of two lawyers at that critical moment. Facing a coroner anxious to proceed with the inquest the day after the murder a non-criminal lawyer, Henry Wilberforce Maw, retained by her brother-in-law, Ed Fairchild, sought to obtain disclosure of the Crown case before Carrie would have to respond. With the coroner clearly unwilling to wait the scales tip in favour of adjournment Ontario’s Attorney General, in a remarkable intervention asks the coroner to grant the adjournment because:


“It seems to me a breach of the fundamental ideas of British Fair Play when a girl is not given an opportunity to instruct counsel …. The woman is young. She has not many friends in this country. Counsel has not been properly instructed by her.”


The adjournment was granted. When the inquest resumed Carrie had capable defence counsel in Hartley Dewart, K.C.

Carrie’s unsigned statement was  read at the inquest. It indicated her employer had kissed her twice the day before against her will and at the time of shooting “I seemed to lose control of myself”. (She was to add more to her story at trial.)

In Florence’s case the coroner’s inquest was the pivotal court proceeding.

With the initial investigation badly handled a prominent Toronto lawyer, George Tate Blackstock, K.C., was retained by the Crown to handle the inquest.

He aggressively questioned Florence over three long sessions. With the aid of her own skilled lawyer Florence was well prepared for the questioning. Blackstock draws forth details of her secret life as a vaudeville performer in Virginia under the name of Mildred Dale. He elicits her relationship with a fellow performer though she is engaged to a Methodist student minister in Hamilton. He gains acknowledgement of contradictions in her statements and shows the implausibility of her story. What he cannot get is any admission of wrongdoing.

With Carrie acknowledging the shooting of Bert Massey the case is bound for trial though the Massey family provided particulars of her alleged instability a year earlier. Her counsel rejected the clumsy attempt to have Carrie considered insane and the scandal covered up.

The case against Florence collapsed with her denials. The Crown had suspicions, strong suspicions, but a lack of evidence.

Defence counsel providing details to a trusted discreet reporter is not a recent contemporary approach. Cassie’s counsel made sure the Toronto Evening Telegram had all the information needed for sympathetic coverage.

There was considerable public sympathy for Florence, this well bred young woman recounting an attack by a tramp. The Hamilton Spectator spoke of the “tramp menace” to the community.

In my previous post I recounted the powerful closing address of Dewart. The Crown should have objected and the trial judge should have interrupted Dewart’s theatrical address to the jury. His blatant appeal to the emotions of the jury went well beyond the bounds of comment upon the evidence. Yet neither prosecutor nor judge raised their voices. For the prosecutor to have objected was a grave risk he would be considered to be challenging Carrie’s honour.

In his own closing the prosecutor, Edward Du Vernet, expressing personal sympathy for Carrie, tries to rehabilitate the victim asserting Massey was not a “worthless brute” but a defenceless man walking up the steps of his home. He states Massey was not engaged in an attack upon Carrie. He asserts she has no remorse for her actions.

The trial judge, Chief Justice Sir William Mulock, described Carrie as a “refined girl” who 

“Left alone with her thoughts, Mulock continued, “she brooded over the events of the day before, which she regarded as a terrible distress to her, added to, perhaps, by her idea of the fidelity she owed to her lover.”


He was clearly indicating to the jury, despite his pronouncements on what constitutes murder and manslaughter and excusable homicide where his sympathies lay in the case.


It is no surprise that the jury took but a half an hour in deliberation to find Carrie not guilty.

In both cases the defendants benefited from being young women of virtue. While Florence’s virtue was a touch tarnished by performing in vaudeville she was still a well respected member of a prominent family. It was clear the jury saw themselves as Carrie’s protectors. Her counsel had one so far as to prove, through medical evidence. she was a virgin.


Friday, October 23, 2020

The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray

(40. - 1065.) The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial That Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray - In 1915 Bert Massey, a Studebaker car salesman but still a member of the distinguished Massey family who were among the leaders of the Canadian Establishment, arrives at his home in downtown Toronto after a busy day at the dealership. As he goes to enter the house 18 year old Carrie Davies, a recent immigrant from England and the only servant Bert and his wife Rhoda can afford, shoots him twice. Massey is dead within minutes. When the police arrive she tells Sgt. Lawrence Brown that “[H]e ruined my character”. Later she states “he tried to ruin me”.


The next morning she is in Toronto Women’s Court where all women being prosecuted in the city appear. It is “a court to which no men were admitted, unless they were witnesses or officers of the court. All spectators, including reporters, had to be female”. I was not aware of Toronto Women’s Court early last century and will have more discussion in a subsequent post. Gray sets out the premise for the Court:


In the early twentieth century, most women and men believed that, while men committed crimes, women committed sins. The LCW (Local Council of Women) argued that, since women could be “saved,” they should be treated differently from hardened male criminals.


The presiding magistrate, the “Beak”, Colonel George Taylor Denison III, had been on the bench for almost 40 years. Imperious and decisive he remanded her in custody.


The public had no knowledge that Bert had no role and no share in the Massey farm equipment empire. His father had died when he was very young and his mother, after taking back her children from grandfather Hart Massey, with whom they had lived for some time, had displeased the patriarch.


The book delves into the lives of middle and upper class women who, while maintaining busy social schedules, were also organizing into groups to advocate for the needs of women. Servants, such as Carrie, had no role even if they would have had any time away from their long hours of work. Another section explores the lives of servants. It was interesting to learn about the efforts of  well-to-do women and the misery of servants but the sections could have been shorter.


I expect the detail was partly because there was so little information about Carrie. As an example she refused to name her soldier beau.


There was just a whiff of condescension with regard to Carrie as the author wondered if she had the ability to understand the legal proceedings.


As the trial swiftly approached the Massey family, determined to avoid scandal, assert Cassie had a history of mental instability and must have been temporarily insane, perhaps over not hearing from her young man serving in the Canadian Army in Europe. They stoutly deny any indiscretion by Bert.


Carrie had an excellent lawyer in Hartley Dewart, K.C. He was eager to play “the coveted role of defender of wounded womanhood”.


Carrie benefited from a newspaper war between the Evening Telegram and the Daily Star. In most matters the former was the more conservative and the latter the more liberal. In the Massey case it was the Evening Telegram who supported the “virtuous heroine” while the Daily Star “showed more sympathy to the murdered Massey”. 


How Cassie would pay for an expensive lawyer was partially resolved when the Evening Telegram supported a fund raising subscription for Carrie.


Incredible by current legal processes the trial for murder was held within 3 weeks of the killing.


At the trial Dewart placed the victim on trial. Bert’s prominence was turned against him. Lecherous conduct towards her was recounted by Carrie to explain her actions. Nothing was more important to her than her virtue.


Dewart reached oratorical heights with a closing address could not have been more dramatic. 


He said Bert’s advances upon her gave Carrie but “one alternative choice. If she did not defend herself against this man she would have been a fallen woman, an outcast, one more sacrifice to brutish lust”.


And then he paused for a minute - 60 seconds of silence - an eternity in a crowded courtroom with the jury intent upon Dewart and Carrie as they contemplated his words. 


Dewart continued stating:


“Let that sink into your mind. It was not manslaughter, it was brute slaughter!”


Dewart draws the jury into the mind of Carrie on that fateful day. Her fear growing throughout the day that she would face a renewed assault upon her virtue when Massey returned.


Amazingly he calls upon patriotism, Canada’s soldiers fighting in the Great War in support of Carrie:


“It was the honour of Britain for which they fought. If honour was the principle for which British troops and the prisoner’s soldier lover were fighing was not the prisoner herself fighting similarly?”


He calls upon the jurors’ sense of duty to acquit Carrie:


“Look the facts in the face. You have a wife, a daughter or perhaps a sister at home. You are married men and have children. Can you look them squarely in the face and with a clear conscience say that you had done your duty in the case if you leave a stain upon this girl by your verdict?


My next post will further discuss the case and consider Carrie’s case in the context of another contemporary case of a young woman facing potential murder charges. And the post will reveal the verdict.

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Gray, Charlotte - (2020) - Murdered Midas (A Millionaire, His Gold Mine and a Strange Death on an Island Paradise) and The Trial of Freddie de Marigny for the Murder of Harry Oates