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

Charlotte Gray. HarperCollins Canada (HarperCollins Canada: Canadian dist.), $33.99 (314p) ISBN 978-1-44340-923-0
Novels about Canadian true crimes by Margaret Atwood (Alias Grace) or Lynn Crosbie (Paul's Case) might capture public attention, but this book by one of Canada's top biographers and historians (Gold Diggers) captivates as an evocative and eye-opening history lesson. Set in the bourgeois world of 1915 Toronto, the expertly-paced procedural follows the fate of an English-born servant, Carrie Davies, whose characteristic "hard, hard life" as one of the city's nearly 12,000 domestics underwent a sudden and radical transformation when she shot Charles Massey, the scion of an influential family, claiming he'd ruined her character. Depicting rapidly changing Canada as a place "riddled with anachronisms and paradoxes" where "seams of hypocrisy and prudery ran deep," the story winds from the Toronto's Women's Court in the heyday of maternal feminism and warring newspapers to a bitter, alcoholic defense attorney, self-important judicial functionaries, courtroom mobs filled with morbid curiosity, and families with unchallenged patrician attitudes. The unfolding drama was a welcome distraction from the "pitiless meat grinder" of war in Europe. While the two-day trial featured competing "gothic horror story" theatrics, the jury of Carrie's 12 social peers eventually obeyed a peculiar logic, reflecting the nation's shifting values. Agent: Hilary McMahon, Westwood Creative Artists. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/19/2013
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Ebook - 250 pages - 978-1-4434-0925-4
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