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

The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Country - Charlotte Gray In February of 1915 Charles (Bert) Massey was returning home after work only to be surprised by Carrie Davies standing in his doorway. Carrie was the Massey’s 18-year-old housemaid and she was holding a gun. She fired the gun into Bert Massey three times and succeeding in killing the son of one of Toronto’s richest ruling elite. She confessed to police, was removed from the residence and spent time in the “Don Jail” awaiting her trial.

Seems rather cut and dried? Add to that the fact that not much is left in the way of records or transcripts other than newspaper articles and the occasional diary entry and it seems that Ms. Gray may have chosen a difficult murder trial to write about. I grant you this book may be a bit misrepresented by the title. Yes, it is about the Massey murder but that story is only the stepping-stone into this book and the thread the ties together the important people in the book; the Toronto elite; the movers and shakers; the disturbers of the calm and of course, the immigrants and the poor. When WWI is factored in as well as the perspective from the several newspapers operating at the time Ms. Gray gives us an accurate representation of Canada’s largest city in the early 1900’s.

This book was chosen as Waterloo Region’s “One Book – One Community” book for 2014. A committee made up of the booksellers, librarians, booklovers and the public, chooses one book each year from a long list of 75 entries. The book must be written by a living Canadian author with a known body of work, it must appeal to the broadest possible audience and needs to encourage the exchange of ideas, including community building and program potential. Ideally it must have some element of the “WOW” factor and must be in print and available in paperback to make it affordable and accessible for all. The aim of the program is to have as many people as possible discussing the same book … to build a community of readers.

I try to read the “One Book – One Community” selection every year and I enjoyed this year’s book very much. There have been quite a few negative reviews written, based on the title, but I felt the book delivered so much more than just a retelling of a long ago murder. I lived in Toronto for several years and have walked on the streets mentioned in the book, have visited some of the locations and have even dined in what was once the Massey Mansion (now know as The Keg Mansion, Restaurant and Steak Houseä). I concede that this may have made it a little more interesting for me personally, yet I would still recommend it as an excellent read and I applaud the committee on their choice.