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Old City Hall Hardcover – Mar 3 2009
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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.
"Clever, complex, and filled with an engaging cast of characters, Old City Hall captures the vibrancy and soul of Toronto." -- Kathy Reichs
"Robert Rotenberg knows his Toronto courts and jails, he knows his law, and he knows his way around a legal thriller. Old City Hall is a splendid entertainment." -- Andrew Pyper, author of The Killing Circle
"An amazing debut." -- Nelson DeMille
"This is one of those novels where you only need to read the first chapter to be swept away." -- Douglas Preston
"Old City Hall is a wonderfully written and intriguing murder mystery by Robert Rotenberg, a criminal lawyer practicing in the largest city in Canada. The book provides a genuine insider's view into the psychological and legal chess games portrayed by all of the various characters in the criminal justice system." -- Edward L. Greenspan, Q.C.
"Breathtaking.... A tightly woven spiderweb of a plot and a rich cast of characters make this a truly gripping read...Robert Rotenberg does for Toronto what Ian Rankin does for Edinburgh." -- Jeffery Deaver
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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 10 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 11 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 22 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 23 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 on June 28 2014 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 on May 19 2014 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