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Next Verse, Same As The First

January 29, 2014

The Massey Murder by Charlotte Gray

“The Massey Murder” by Charlotte Gray

Although the tragic “servant kills master” tale isn’t a recent invention, it’s always interesting to find a story that not only mirrors one we’re familiar with, but happened in the area where we live. The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial That Shocked a Country is similar to Alias Grace in that it occurred in Toronto, the “master” was the black sheep from a well-to-do family, and the killer was a servant girl. But the books themselves could not be more different.

I’m currently reading The Massey Murder and while it outlines the story of the trial and all the people involved, the city itself and the time period the murder happened in is described in much detail. It’s a fascinating record of the prevailing thoughts and attitudes of the early 1900s – a time when “he tried to ruin me” was all that a police officer needed to hear in order to know that the accused meant she’d been compromised in some way by her employer. The Torontoist/Historicist gives a fantastic, condensed account of what the book covers, including commentary on women’s issues during the time period and should tempt you to pick up Charlotte Gray’s book.

There are photos, maps, newspaper articles, family tree pull-outs, and stories that span from history to gossip to headlines. The event and subsequent trial was so sensational that it overtook headlines of the upcoming war. Like our celebrated murderess Grace Marks, Carrie Davies also told different versions of what happened. But the different eras, and of course authors, make for two completely different books. And, of course, there doesn’t seem to be a single mention of a quilt in the Massey book 😉

If you’re looking for a great read that makes the history of Toronto come alive, while digging into the sordid affairs of a single event that animated everyone’s tongues almost 100 years ago, this is your book. I’m enjoying the writing so far and would definitely recommend it as a book club read or for anyone who enjoys a story of people behaving badly.

On Amazon:The Massey Murder by Charlotte Gray - available on
The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial That Shocked a Country


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