The Man with the Black Valise

Tracking the Killer of Jessie Keith

Reviewed by Tanja Hütter

Posted January 22, 2021

The Man with the Black Valise could best be described as two halves of an unusual whole. The first half is a sensational police procedural set in 1894, centring on the murder of thirteen-year-old Jessie Keith. The brutality of Keith’s murder was such that locals were convinced that the notorious British killer Jack the Ripper was hunting in rural Canada.

With dogged determination, Detective John Wilson Murray was able to capture Keith’s killer despite having only a modest clue to follow: a black valise. Fans of the television show Murdoch Mysteries will be interested to know that the detective working Keith’s case served as the inspiration for the fictional TV detective William Murdoch.

The second half of the book is a historical tour highlighting places of interest that you would find if you were to trace the steps of this nineteenth-century murder mystery. Picturesque scenery, loving memorials, knowledgeable heritage interpreters, and quirky community events (a swan parade, anyone?) set the scene for this sad and sordid story.

While John Goddard’s book includes conventional elements like a bibliography, images, and an index, I suspect that those who enjoy mysteries will appreciate the unconventional nature of this volume.

Buy this book from Chapters-Indigo

This article originally appeared in the February-March 2021 issue of Canada’s History.

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