The year is 1917. Less than two decades into the new century and already the Great War is occurring in the muddy fields of France. Soon there will be the Spanish Influenza which will kill many more millions. An inauspicious start to a new millennium, to be sure. In one of Canada’s largest cities, Toronto, there has been a murder. A cab driver is found dead in west-end Toronto, stabbed multiple times. The cabbie’s name is Carmine Lapello (AKA Tony Lapello, Tony Ross), an Italian Canadian. Inquests occur, but the murderer is never found.
Now, we take a leap forward to the year 1964 when a ten-year-old Joe Lapello is going through some cardboard boxes in his parent’s basement. He finds an old photo of a handsome young man (see book cover above). He takes the picture to his father and is told that the picture is of Joe’s great uncle, Carmine Lapello. Joe’s father was only seven years old at the time of the murder.
I was left wondering, my eyes lingering on the photograph in my hands. My great uncle stared back at me, forever trapped in monochrome, a mere memory lost in time. Still, his image seemed so alive. Perhaps it was his escaped smile or maybe the sorrow in my father’s voice, but for whatever reason, a single thought began to haunt me then. Even as I left Carmine behind, back in his box, and continued cleaning. Even as I closed my eyes when night came; for days to come the words would always echo in the back of my mind: who took my great uncle’s life?
Joe Lapello vowed to someday discover who had killed his great uncle. It would seem that “someday” would never come, for life intervened, forcing the deceased Carmine to take a backseat until the time was ripe for Joe to investigate. Ten years after discovering the photograph, Joe meets Joseph Pill, who was actually with Carmine the night of the murder. Mr. Pill, by this time, is quite old, and pretty much down on his luck. Incredibly, their paths cross in a downtown pool hall and Joe gets more information about that fatal night.
Take another leap forward to 2005 and Joe comes across Carmine’s photo once again while cleaning out his deceased mother’s house.
Up until this point my resolve to someday solve my great uncle’s murder had been no more than a child’s fantasy, an unreachable adventure that could only ever be a dream. After all, I was only a child when I first encountered Carmine and the stories of his unsolved homicide. Back then, clutching his photograph with hands too small to clean a storage shelf, I had looked at the unshed tears in my father’s eyes with a dismay I hadn’t yet properly grown into. But I was no longer that young innocent boy; I had grown up with my great uncle’s ghost following me periodically along the way. I now had the renewed inspiration needed to begin my quest. With these thoughts in mind, I took my great uncle’s picture and attached it to my computer’s monitor as a reminder of my decision. I would research this old murder with the sole intention of answering Joseph’s question. Sooner or later I would find who took Carmine’s life.
Murder Lost to Time was a captivating book to read. I think it is pretty safe to say that Mr. Lapello would have been hard-pressed to discover much information before the Internet came along. It was by using it that he was able to get leads on where to look, what archives to search and he even uses Ancestry.ca to assist in tracking various descendants and such. Mr. Lapello took a very methodical approach and used good old-fashioned faculties such as logic and reasoning to put together a complete picture of “the Ward” (St. John’s Ward) a poor immigrant section of Toronto now lost to high rises, condos and businesses. It was quite amazing how Mr. Lapello pieces it all together, narrowing down the list of possible murderers, the places they went, the people they knew and even their eventual ends. Prohibition, bootlegging and the “Black Hand” all figure into the grand scheme of things, too. I learned quite a bit about this time period in Toronto!
If you enjoy true crime stories, and especially ones that happened in another time period, then I know you will like Murder Lost to Time. I gave it 4 stars at Goodreads.
Murder Lost to Time is available in paperback as well as a Kindle edition.