Review: Old City Hall

Posted 24 March, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Old City Hall (Detective Greene #1)
By: Robert Rotenberg
Format: Paperback; courtesy of the publisher & GoodReads First Reads programme

Kevin Brace, Canada’s 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 received a copy of this novel thanks to the GoodReads First Reads program. What really drew me to this novel first and foremost was that it’s set in my city, which for me is pretty rare in the books that I read, let alone a crime/mystery novel. Plus, I was in the mood for a mystery novel for a change of pace so this was perfect. May contain spoilers ahead!

Old City Hall is an intriguing mystery introducing a number of fascinating characters. The mystery itself kept my attention and there are a few twists and turns that I was not expecting. I also enjoyed the pacing of the novel, which is pretty realistic I think with the way that the justice system works here.

However I was more intrigued by the characters, who they are and how they approach the mystery before them. This is the first in a series so it’s a nice introduction to Detective Ari Greene but other characters like Nancy Parish, Daniel Kennicott and Albert Fernandez also receive considerable attention and fleshing out. Even secondary characters like Gurdial Singh receives enough attention that we know the character fairly well by the end of the novel. The reader is given a glimpse of their personal lives too, which doesn’t take up too much of the novel’s focus but adds more depth to these characters. There’s one or two things that I felt could’ve been fleshed out or had ended abruptly–I personally felt that Fernandez’ story sort of ended without a send-off–but otherwise I enjoyed the introduction to the lives of these characters.

What’s really wonderful about this novel is that the author really brings Toronto to the reader. He mentions familiar areas and structures in town–Front Street, Lawrence Market Place, the Old (and New) City Hall, the suburb areas–but he also brings the multicultural aspect of the city to life. Both main and secondary characters come from various backgrounds and different social situations. And then of course is the hockey culture and our pride in the Maple Leafs that’s ever present in the background.

Overall Old City Hall is a pretty solid mystery with fascinating characters. There’s a quirky sense of humour that crops up occasionally that adds to the otherwise serious nature of the story. I recommend this novel to fans of crime and mystery novels and I look forward to reading other installments featuring Detective Ari Greene from this author in the future.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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