The Case of Valentine Shortis: A True Story of Crime and Politics in Canada


324 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-8020-2606-0




Reviewed by Gerald J. Stortz

Gerald J. Stortz is an assistant professor of history at St. Jerome’s
College, University of Waterloo.


Martin L. Friedland is a law professor at the University of Toronto. He is the author of a number of legal texts and The Trials of Israel Lipski, winner of the Crime Writers Award for Non-Fiction in 1985. One suspects on the basis of this work that a repeat award might well be expected. The Case of Valentine Shortis, a true sensational story, is presented in the most academically correct way yet Friedland avoids the didacticism which often pervades academic works. As with Ramsay Cook’s The Regenerators (Toronto, 1985), despite its academic credentials this reads as well as any best-selling novel.

Valentine Shortis was an Irish immigrant who shot and killed two men and wounded a third at a textile mill in Valleyfield, Quebec. There was no question that he committed the murders. The question was did he do so intentionally in the course of a violent robbery designed to avenge grievances felt against a former employer as the prosecution claimed or was he, as the defence claimed, insane? The trial, the appeals for clemency, and Shortis’s life after the trial are the subject of this monumental work. Although the sensational event occurred long ago, the reader feels, through Friedland’s extensive research and exquisite prose, the consuming interest the trial held for Canadians. There is even pathos, in Shortis’s bewildered parents, and a love interest, and irony in that after Shortis was ultimately released under an assumed name, he became well known in Toronto as an eccentric although no one was aware of his past.

This is a work well worth the purchase price and one guaranteed to please.


Friedland, Martin L., “The Case of Valentine Shortis: A True Story of Crime and Politics in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,