Review: Old City Hall: A Novel

Published Categorised as Writings, Book Reviews

Old City Hall: A Novel
Old City Hall: A Novel by Robert Rotenberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was looking for a Canadian mystery writer, and Robert Rotenberg was recommended to me, forget by whom. Even better for me as a Torontonian, he sets Old City Hall in Toronto. Unfortunately, that meant as a Torontonian, I got tossed out of the flow of the book when he used strange-to-monikers for common place, like “bay” for the “inner harbour” (or at least I think that’s the body of water he was referring to). The strange terms may be because of his publisher as the book didn’t seem to know whether it was Canadian or American. Personally, I think the ACC should be spelled correctly as in Air Canada Centre (not Center) and cheque instead of check. Language is part of culture and reading such a decidedly Canadian book in part-American English is weird. Also the editor not ensuring consistency was jarring too.

There are many characters in this book, an ensemble. I found the characters interesting, and the only real objection I had to Rotenberg’s plethora was that sometimes a character would pop and then disappear for so long you wondered why the heck they’d been introduced in such detail when only around for a few pages. Then long after you’d given up on them, they’d pop up again. A bit disconcerting. He spends a lot of time detailing the events and thoughts leading up to a crucial meeting, let’s say, only to move on to the next scene as the characters begin the meeting. I consider this cheating in a mystery. There are better ways to hide the clues in plain sight! But the descriptions and dialogue are engaging — another reason for being peeved for being moved along and out of the scene you’re so engrossed in. That’s a good negative though!

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would like to read his next. But I’m not a hard cover reader and refuse to pay so much for a DRM-locked ebook or even a reader-friendly non-DRM ebook. I’ll wait till either it comes out in paperback or appears in Toronto Public Library’s virtual branch. I anticipate it’ll be worth the wait.

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