Jan 222014
Review: Old City HallOld City Hall (Detective Greene #1) by Robert Rotenberg
Published by Touchstone on Jul, 2010
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Format: Paperback from Purchased
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

Kevin Brace, Canada’s most famous radio personality, stands in the door 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. Meantime, much to everyone’s surprise, the Leafs are making in unlikely run for the Stanley cup.

This is a quick paced crime story that is part police procedural, part courtroom drama. With narration from the lead detective, the first officer on scene, the Crown attorney and the defense lawyer, this is a full view of a complex and mysterious murder investigation.

Each of the characters is well developed and distinct, right down to the secondary characters that only appear occasionally. Only a few of the lawyers are a bit one-dimensional; the majority of the characters are believable, even if they sometimes seem unnecessary.

One of the highlights of the book was the intense focus on the setting. The story is set in Toronto, Ontario, with a lot of the city featuring prominently in the story. It’s exciting to read about places you know, and this was a prime example. While some of the history was not pertinent to the story, it did help set the groundwork for non-Canadians to more fully understand the characters and their lives, while also providing a little something extra for readers who know the setting already.

I greatly enjoyed this dip into a murder investigation. It progressed slowly but surely, the way I suspect most investigations do. The ending was a bit open-ended and surprising, but likely realistic. My only complaint is that the likelihood of the Toronto Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup is basically zero, so the author definitely took some liberties there, but the reaction of the city is believable, although maybe a bit more subdued than what reality would be.

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