Friday, July 17, 2009

OLD CITY HALL by Robert Rotenberg (2009)

This is Rotenberg's first novel and I hope not his last.

In the opening pages, Kevin Brace, Canada's most famous radio host of The Dawn Treader (surely modeled after the late, great Peter Gzowski and his show Morningside) announces to his newspaper man (a charming 70-something East Indian named Mr. Singh) at 5:30 in the morning that he has killed his companion, Katherine Torn. And, although it seems like an open and shut case with the corpse in the bathtub, having expired from a stab wound to the stomach, neither the police (including Daniel Kennicott and Detective Ari Greene) nor Brace's lawyer Nancy Parish is convinced.

As truths about Torn are revealed and we meet Brace's ex-wife Sarah McGill, his only neighbour, 83-year-old Edna Wingate (they have the two penthouses in the condo) and learn more about his family past, the case doesn't seem so cut and dry.

What I especially liked about this book in addition to the sympathetic and complicated characters including the very likable Daniel Kennicott and Ari Greene, is the way Toronto is a character itself here. You sit in the Don Jail, spend time in Old City Hall, walk along Front Street and up Bay.

As a criminal lawyer and former CBC employee, Rotenberg writes convincingly from the inside.

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