________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 2. . . .September 13, 2013


Moses, Me and Murder: A Barkerville Mystery. 2nd. ed.

Ann Walsh.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 1988/2013.
108 pp., trade pbk., PDF & Epub., $10.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-14597-0967-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-14597-0968-3 (PDF), ISBN 978-1-14597-0969-0 (Epub.).

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Dorothea Wilson-Scorgie.

*** /4



No one came into the barbershop as Moses told me his story. No one came in, and even the street outside, usually so noisy, grew still – almost as if it were listening. I sat on the bench, not moving. As Moses spoke it almost seemed as if the shop and Barkerville faded away. I felt as if I, too, were out on the trail, coming into the gold fields on foot, coming to search for my fortune, for a new life.


In 1866, 12-year-old Theodore Percival MacIntosh, preferably known as Ted, is pleasantly adjusting to the slow-paced and quiet life of the Cariboo gold fields in the interior of British Columbia. With similarly aged playmates lacking, Ted befriends Moses, a 50-year-old barber in Barkerville, who has a heart condition. Through his association with Moses, Ted unknowingly gets himself mixed up with a shady newcomer, Mr. James Barry. Moses is apprehensive of Mr. Barry when he discovers that he is wearing the “luck” (an oddly shaped golden nugget) of one Mr. Charles Blessing. Tension and mystery ensue as the disappearance of Mr. Blessing is confirmed. Ultimately, Ted’s courage is tested when he is summoned by the law enforcement to help bring justice to the potential murderer.

     Written in first person narration, Walsh’s historically based novel offers a glimpse into the times and temperaments of a small town community amidst a moralistic crisis. On the whole, the characters exude a genuine late nineteenth century feel. The mystery and intrigue of the case are filtered through the mind and musings of a faint-hearted 12-year-old boy. Personally, I found some of Ted’s internal struggle to be obnoxiously young and fearful, as well as, repetitive.

     While I found the trial, itself, to be fast-paced and very exciting, the lead up to it is paced a bit too slow and lost my attention from time to time. While the linear plot is credible, markedly as a result of its roots in actual history, Walsh’s historical creativity is especially evident in the accused’s surprising statement to the jury. Additionally, Walsh expertly weaves trial related terminology with explanations and situational contexts. Thus, the language used is appropriate for the intended audience.

     Ann Walsh, an accomplished BC writer, has been shortlisted for many prestigious awards, including the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction in 1989 for the first edition of Moses, Me, and Murder. In my opinion, teachers will find this well-researched resource to be a useful addition in their BC history lessons. As for young people, Moses, Me, and Murder is an enjoyable and quick read that will transport the reader back to the early days of British Columbia.


Dorothea Wilson-Scorgie is a teacher-librarian at an elementary school in Victoria, BC. She is also pursuing her MA degree in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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