The Secret Lives of Sgt John Wilson: A True Story of Love and Murder


224 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 1-55054-442-X
DDC 364.1'523'092






Reviewed by J.L. Granatstein

J.L. Granatstein is a professor of history at York University, the
co-author of the Dictionary of Canadian Military History and Empire to
Umpire: Canada and the World to the 1990s, and the author of The Good


This is a true tale of love, betrayal, and murder, based on contemporary
records. Just before World War I, John Wilson left his wife and children
in Scotland and came to the prairies, intending to call for his family
when he was settled. But failure, war, and love intervened and, now a
member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Wilson found a new love in
Canada. He might well have disappeared from view had his wife not
crossed the Atlantic in wartime 1918 to search for him. When she located
him, he murdered her so he could stay with his prairie bride. Eventually
he was found out, tried, and hanged.

There is a good story in this sensational case. Simmie has done her
research, and she writes well. The difficulty is in her decision to
invent dialogue—to create “thoughts and speech ... based on what I
believe would be natural in the situation.” It is either nonfiction or
fiction; and what the author finds natural, this reader often found
jarring. Still, this is a worthy re-creation of motive and murder that
leaves one wondering if just anyone could join the Mounties.


Simmie, Lois., “The Secret Lives of Sgt John Wilson: A True Story of Love and Murder,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024,