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Old City Hall: A Novel Hardcover – March 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374225427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374225421
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,397,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What appears to be an open-and-shut murder case turns out to be anything but in Rotenberg's overstuffed debut, a legal thriller. After celebrated radio host Kevin Brace (aka the Voice of Canada) confesses to killing his wife, Katherine, in their Toronto apartment, he refuses to utter another word, even to his attorney, Nancy Parish. The police, including homicide detective Ari Greene and ex-lawyer-turned-cop Daniel Kennicott, try to piece together a motive, while rookie prosecutor Albert Fernandez gears up for his first murder trial. As Greene and Kennicott dig deeper into Brace's life, they discover links not only to an ex-wife and son but also to Katherine's own checkered past. Rotenberg, a criminal lawyer, is at his best evoking the courtroom duel between Fernandez and Parish, but too many underdeveloped characters and unnecessary subplots may leave some readers feeling the eventual trial wasn't worth the wait. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Shortly before six a.m., Mr. Gurdial Singh delivers the newspaper to the Toronto penthouse apartment of radio personality Kevin Brace, “The Voice of Canada.” But unlike every other morning, Brace meets him at the door with blood on his hands and says, “I killed her, Mr. Singh. I killed her.” So begins this truly fine first novel, which is both a police procedural and a courtroom drama nominally focused on the murder of Brace’s common-law wife. The author, a criminal lawyer in Toronto, leads his characters—police, prosecutor, and defense attorney—on a circuitous chase toward the truth that is full of twists and surprises. But the reader’s greatest surprise will be the depth of the engaging characters and the vividly rendered texture of the polyglot city. Immigrants from India and Chile, respectively, Mr.  Singh and Crown prosecutor Albert Fernandez wonder wryly about the oddities of their adopted culture. For 200 pages after his arrest, Brace refuses to speak, even to Nancy Parish, his attorney. When he does, it is to comment on the Maple Leafs’ seasonal swoon. Parish plays pickup hockey through the night; she calls it “hockey therapy.” Through his characters, Rotenberg also fires sly and funny barbs at political correctness and bureaucratic inanity. And most of all, he tells a compelling tale and tells it skillfully and smoothly. --Thomas Gaughan

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Customer Reviews

Great plot and very interesting cast of characters.
C. Laigo
I feel that this was very well done considering there were what I would consider several main characters, whom I really liked.
Amazon Customer
The plot was interesting and had a good twist for the ending.
Stephanie Greer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Paul Weiss on August 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
... I believe it would be more accurate to describe this as a low key legal procedural or a mystery. A celebrated Canadian radio host, Kevin Brace, confesses to killing his wife in their Toronto apartment. But, once he's done confessing he refuses to say another word - nothing to the investigating detectives and not even a word to his attorney, Nancy Parish.

As an eclectic Canadian reader and a lover of legal thrillers and mysteries, I confess I was looking forward to Robert Rotenberg's debut novel with considerable relish. But I'll have to admit that the quality of the mystery was spotty and I felt that the eventual courtroom drama just wasn't worth the reading.

However, if you're looking for a novel that will definitely give you a fine flavour of the culture, the geography and the feel of Canada's largest city, I have to give OLD CITY HALL two thumbs up on that count. If the truth be told, I have to admit that I only live about 50 kilometres down the highway from where most of Rotenberg's story took place, but I definitely felt transported. Every inch of the road, every street scene and every event in the story right down to the hopeless futility of being an eternally unfulfilled Toronto Maple Leaf hockey fan resonated with absolutely accuracy and completely conveyed me into the life of downtown Toronto.

Two stars for the story line, four stars for the setting and we'll call it an enjoyable three star read that is well worth the time of an out of country reader looking to sample life in Canada's largest city on the printed page.

Paul Weiss
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By JoeV VINE VOICE on June 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Old City Hall is a legal mystery - calling it a thriller would be pushing it. Toronto radio talk show host Kevin Brace is accused of murdering his wife and to all involved it appears to be an open and shut case - which of course it isn't.

There is an interesting - but at times overdeveloped - cast of characters, starting with the accused talk show host, who refuses to speak; his conscientious but at times confused defense attorney; the fastidious and proper prosecutor; the hard working homicide detective; and even the retired Indian engineer who "discovered" the crime. And the mystery itself has enough twists and turns to keep it engaging.

This reader had problems with the pacing of the story. We spend time inside each of the above characters' heads - and that's the short list - so much so, that it impedes the storyline. (The reader is privy to such musings as wardrobe selection, feelings about the opposite sex and driving techniques to name a few, and although some are poignant, even humorous, the sheer number of them becomes mind-numbing.) Because of this the storyline doesn't begin to unfold until 150 pages into the book, which then makes the conclusion rushed as the reader catches up on clues and what actually "happened".

An OK book. My guess is that this author may follow Michael Robotham's lead and his next books will use the same cast of characters but switch the narrative perspective. I'll look for the next one but I won't be rushing out to buy it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Patty on April 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Fantastic first novel. Even the "minor" characters came to life and the plot unfolded in a captivating way ... couldn't put the book down. One of the best books I've read in some time. I can't wait for his next novel!
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Book Junkie on March 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a terrific book. It's got a rich cast of characters - created with such insight into human nature that they seem like people you know. The plot is inventive and multi-layered. This is not your usual "Just the facts M'aam" linear mystery. It's a mystery for smart people. I loved it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Robert Rotenberg's first novel, Old City Hall, is a good, but not great work. He writes well about the city of Toronto and it's citizens, particularly the ethnic pieces that have come together to make Toronto one of North America's most cosmopolitan cities. And his story is fine, but not written as well as a more experienced writer might have done. I think Old City Hall is a good, strong 4 star, I just can't give it 5 stars. Maybe his next book will get up to 5. This one, however, is a good start and a good read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gerald Swimmer on April 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Somehow the cover of this book interested me as I walked through the library. I read the first paragraph and I was taken. I could not put it down. The characters were all so interesting. It seems like Mr Rotenberg has thought of these folks for a long time and was anxious to give them life.

The plot moved around some. It began to unwind slowly, but as the book progressed the action sped up. I do not want to give away the story but pay attention to the side characters.

Also the court room scenes were insightful. One can tell Mr. Rotenberg was a trial lawyer. He showed what was going on in a very clear manner.

The ending was a little convuluted but I did not mind it because I did not want it to end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Tipple VINE VOICE on June 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Mr. Singh opened his mouth to speak. But before he could say a word, Mr. Kevin leaned closer. `I killed her, Mr. Singh,' he whispered, `I killed her.'" (Page 6)

For newspaper delivery person Mr. Singh, formerly the chief engineer for Indian Railways and a very precise man in word and deed, the idea that Mr. Brace killed his wife is a bit of a shock. So too it will be for all of Canada when word spreads. That shocking confession that December morning at the door of condo 12A located in the Market Place Tower in downtown Toronto will have repercussions all across Canada.

The confession, arrest and eventual first degree murder charge for the host of "The Dawn Treader" a nationally syndicated radio show is huge. Lost in the media hysteria and the investigation by the Police is one key fact that only his defense attorney knows. Her client, after uttering the statement above, totally clammed up. It isn't surprising he won't talk to the Police as he is a very smart man. But, he won't talk to her either. It is hard to defend a client who will only communicate in writing and barely wants to do that.

For Crown Attorney Albert Fernandez, who is also very precise in his word and deed, the case should be a slam dunk. Brace confessed with his wife's blood literally on his hands and the detail oriented Mr. Singh will make an excellent witness. The only thing left to do is document the investigation and prepare for the other side to offer a plea deal. Too bad his bosses will refuse any deal and want the case to go all the way to send a message to the voting public.

This debut novel by Robert Rotenberg, a criminal lawyer living in Toronto, is incredibly good. Along with the complex characters noted above there are many more as the actions and life of Mr.
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