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Jones, Frank.

Toronto, Irwin, c1985. 337pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-7725-1540-9. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Brenda Watson

Volume 14 Number 1
1986 January

Frank Jones is an English-born, Canadian journalist who also wrote Trail of Blood (McGraw-Hill, 1981), a collection of Canadian murder cases. This novel is a fictionalized account of the murder of Charles "Bert" Massey in 1915, in Toronto, by a seventeen-year-old housemaid. The victim was the son of Charles Albert Massey, who ran the Massey business in the 1870s, but who died at the age of thirty-seven. His wife remarried, and his son, Bert, found himself out of favour with his grandfather, Hart Massey, and a poor relation to cousins Vincent and Raymond. The Massey family, and their political influence in Toronto in 1915 is one ingredient in the novel. Another is the murderess, Carrie Davies, an honest, hardworking, naive girl from Bedfordshire, England. She came to Canada to find a position in order to send money home. The Masseys' and Miss Davies meet in the courtroom, and in the newspapers, after Carrie shoots Bert rather than face his sexual advances. She becomes the people's choice and is acquitted of the murder.

Jones imagines Carrie's thoughts, the lawyers' strategies, the psychologist's opinion, and the Masseys' concerns. He examines the issue of exploitation of young, powerless females by men of position. Is Carrie guilty or is she a victim? Jones's conclusions are surprising, and more complex than the arguments of either the prosecution or the defence. This case has few really sensational elements. The drama of the courtroom proceedings, of Carrie's self-examination of conscience, and her confidences to friends, seem anti-climactic to her crime. The novel recreates another era in Toronto, and examines the vulnerable position of women in that era. It is a good read for court-case fans.

Brenda Watson, Victoria, B.C.
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