Old City Hall Paperback – Mar 6 2012
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Quill & Quire
For years, Robert Rotenberg has been one of Canada’s foremost criminal defence lawyers. Now, taking a page from his older brother David (author of the Zhong Fong mystery novels and the historical epic Shanghai), he applies his courtroom knowledge to a clever debut that modifies the legal thriller template into a larger study of the vagaries of human behaviour. When Gurdial Singh arrives at radio host Kevin Brace’s house to deliver the morning newspaper, he finds the man in hysterics, covered in blood and shouting that he has killed his wife in the bathtub. What appears at first to be an open-and-shut case proves far more complex, however. Rotenberg’s writing style is understated and fluid, enhanced but not overwhelmed by his insider knowledge of Toronto’s criminal courts and the streets surrounding “the Hall.” He also takes care to show off the city’s charms and frustrations, whether describing Front Street’s “comfortable, almost European feel” or the traffic-clogged “Don Valley Parking Lot.” What is most evident in Old City Hall is the breathing room Rotenberg gives his story. The twists and turns unfold briskly, but the author allows sufficient time to develop his cast of characters in three dimensions, rather than simply giving them a series of quirks. The generosity also augers well for future novels – with the burden of proof solely on Rotenberg to turn his initial promise into a lasting second career as a crime writer.
Breathtaking ... and all the more so because this is the author's first novel. A tightly woven spiderweb of plot and a rich cast of characters make this a truly gripping read. And of particular interest is the setting: Robert Rotenberg does for Toronto what Ian Rankin does for Edinburgh. Jeffery Deaver An amazing debut novel. Robert Rotenberg's Old City Hall has everything a legal thriller should have, and more: absolutely engaging characters, a tight, taut, and believable plot, a heart-quickening pace, and, best of all, some of the finest writing I've read in years. This one has winner written all over it. Nelson DeMille Robert Rotenberg's Old City Hall is one of the best books I've read in ten years. I devoured it in two sittings. Rotenberg is a criminal defense attorney, defending lowlifes and celebrities alike in Toronto, and he really knows his clients. His characters are stunningly good. They're real people. His Toronto settings make this most multicultural city in North America come alive. He writes with assurance and panache. He has a series of characters who may well become a classic. He even has a sense of humor. This is one of those novels where you only need to read the first chapter to be swept away. If Old City Hall doesn't win an Edgar, I'll trade in my pen for a fishing rod... Douglas Preston 'Clever, complex and filled with an engaging cast of characters ... ' Kathy Reichs 'There is nothing in Old City Hall to suggest that it's Robert Rotenberg's debut. The middle-aged Canadian criminal lawyer has got it all -- pace, good characters, tension and an intriguing plot ... The resolution is clever and surprising.' Marcel Berlins, The Times 'Written by a real-life Canadian defence lawyer, this sweeping debut, with a vast, colourful cast, focuses on the apparent murder of his wife by talkshow host Kevin Brace. Then suddenly, he stops talking ...' Henry Sutton, Daily Mirror 'Apart from evoking the seasonal rhythms of life in the city, the novel offers a convincing portrayal of backstage operations in the justice system ... Old City Hall is an enjoyable addition to the literature of urban crime.' H.J. Jackson, TLS 'Each character is lifelike and credible; the scenes are exciting as the murder investigation zigzags slowly forward; and the Canadian setting is very well described. In crime fiction's minute sub-categories this is a legal thriller, but there is much more to the story than law and clues -- a skilful, tasty concoction.' Jessica Mann, Literary Review 'Another debut novel, this is tremendously readable and well-plotted, providing a mystery which intrigues almost to the last chapter' Morning Star 'Highly-tipped in the awards stakes this year is Canadian Robert Rotenberg's Old City Hall. Part legal-thriller, part murder investigation, Rotenberg (himself a lawyer) really gets under the skin of that fine city of Toronto' Shots 'Old City Hall is proof that Robert Rotenberg is one of the most striking writers on the current crime scene' Crime Time 'The atmospherics, and especially Rotenberg's affection for the city of Toronto and involutions of law, make this a fast-paced, appealing addition to genre' Kirkus Reviews 'A roller coaster of a legal thriller that's got it all -- an outstanding and fast-paced plot, well-developed characters with depth and personality, great dialog, plenty of courtroom and investigative drama, and an explosively satisfying conclusion.' Library Journal starred review 'Rotenberg creates a legal thriller that recreates the growing tension of a major murder investigation incorporated by a wonderful cast of characters' Greenock Telegraph 'As a mix of both detective work and legal thriller, as both a puzzle and a study of characters, Old City Hall delivers ... it's certainly the best first novel I've read since Child 44, and that's high praise' Crime Time & Irresistible Targets blog 'This is a first-rate debut thriller for Rotenberg, who weaves Toronto into the plot as a character to this intriguing crime, 4 STARS' Manly Daily (Australia) 'Highly tipped in the awards stakes this year ... Rotenberg really gets under the skin of that fine city Toronto ... it is already being said that he does for Toronto 'what Ian Rankin does for Edinburgh' Deadly Pleasures 'A big book in more senses than one...it is intriguing how it develops in the skilled hands of the author' Yorkshire Gazette 'This engaging thriller is wonderfully assured' Western Daily Press --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The setting in Toronto was good, and the fact that it doesn't try to Americanize the process. The judge was probably my favourite character, although his role is minimal.
Gum shoe detectives (think Bernie Gunther, Martin Beck) are my preferred genre, if that's your thing I wouldn't recommend this. If you're more into the court room scenes you might like this.
The book is well paced and the characters fully developed: the detectives; the accused and his family; the prosecutor, and witness Mr. Gurdial Singh; none are cardboard characters or placeholders.
It was a rare pleasure to read, and I hope for more novels from this very talented Canadian author.
I also loved the insider's view of the Toronto court system and the affectionate descriptions of the city itself. Also available in audiobook format, which is how I "read" it. Enjoyable read either way.
Side note: This author was recommended by Joan Barfoot during a writing workshop entitled "Romancing the reader."
Most recent customer reviews
it was enjoyable. i liked knowing the locations and the cityPublished 4 months ago by Sharon Clavir
I read. Stranglehold to prepare for the author r engaging presentation at the Lakefield Literary Festival July 2015. I read his other 3 books in August! They were superb.Published 5 months ago by joan Maynard
It was a pleasure to read a Canadian crime novel that was not only well written but paced and planned perfectly. It was fun to visit Toronto and area.Published 17 months ago by Kristine Parker
Very entertaining. I read way past my bedtime: instead of relaxing me, the story just kept getting better. Read morePublished 17 months ago by P. R. Trust
I attended a Robert Rotenberg reading at Kitchener Public Library in the fall of 2013. He piqued my interest in his book with his humour and wit in person. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Susan
I can take him or leave him. Not a bad writer for a lawyer, probably should have changed his name, if that's his real one, wouldn't seem to inspire much confidence to a potential... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Oldie Goldie
It seems to me Robenberg could not decide on weather to write a novel about Toronto, it's culture, history and multiculturalism or a crime novel so he just through the two... Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2014 by Jessica Brisbois
Recommended by a friend and I quite enjoyed it. Fun to read a story based out of your home country.Published on Dec 27 2013 by kbruynzeel