Review: Old City Hall — Robert Rotenberg

Read: 70
To Go: 30

Book List:
61. The Very Thought of You — Rosie Alison
62. Possession — A.S. Byatt
63. Maine — J. Courtney Sullivan
64. Winnie the Pooh — A.A. Milne
65. Brokeback Mountain — Annie Proulx
66. 44 Charles Street — Danielle Steel
67. The Perfect Gentleman — Imran Ahmad
68. And Laughter Fell from the Sky — Jyotsna Sreenivasan
69. The Sentimentalists — Johanna Skibsrud
70. Old City Hall — Robert Rotenberg


Kevin Brace, Canadas most famous radio personality, stands in the doorway of his luxury condominium, hands covered in blood, and announces to his newspaper delivery man: “I killed her.” His wife lies dead in the bathtub, fatally stabbed.

It would appear to be an open-and-shut case.

The trouble is, Brace refuses to talk to anyone — including his own lawyer — after muttering those incriminating words. With the discovery that the victim was actually a self-destructive alcoholic, the appearance of strange fingerprints at the crime scene, and a revealing courtroom cross-examination, the seemingly simple case takes on all the complexities of a hotly contested murder trial.

I can’t believe I’m actually 70 per cent of the way done, and I still have a month left! I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it this far, but there’s looking like a teeny tiny possibility that I could actually finish my challenge after all — save for three projects, December is looking like a good month for reading!

Anyway, onto Rotenberg. I’ve been longingly passing his trio of books in Chapters for probably months now (yes, I do that), and I was so happy when Dad bought me the first in the series. Now I’m hooked, and I’m going to have to get the other two.

What I loved about Old City Hall — other than the fantastic mystery with an unexpected twist ending, of course — was how very Toronto it was. When I was in San Francisco, I was talking to two of my ONA newsroom buddies who liked Michael Connelly novels as much as I did. One of them lived in L.A., and he said that what he liked most about Connelly novels was that they were “gritty” like L.A., and for anyone who’s lived there, the books are true to the real feel of the city. Robert Rotenberg did for Toronto what Michael Connelly does for L.A. I recognized my city in his words — not just picking out all the places I know, but in things as small as mentioning the ridiculous parking prices, and the overcrowded food courts below Bay Street office towers.

Plus, there was enough city history — backstory on the Don Jail, Old City Hall, and Nathan Phillips Square — in there to satisfy a nerd like me. (Obviously that’s not why I picked up the book, but it was still interesting!)

Unlike Michael Connelly, Robert Rotenberg did something different with his characters that I really liked: he didn’t focus in on just one. Each chapter bounced around between a full cast of characters, from detectives and policemen to lawyers to a Toronto Star reporter, who each had insight into the case, and played a part in solving it. I hope that in The Guilty Plea, the next book in the series, most if not all of those characters will return.

Next book: I’m not sure yet; I have 18 to choose from. (Yes, 18. Yes, my apartment has become a miniature library.)

– Kelsey


One thought on “Review: Old City Hall — Robert Rotenberg

  1. Pingback: Review: The Closers — Michael Connelly | The Independent Review

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