About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Stray Bullets by Robert Rotenberg

20. – 652.) Stray Bullets by Robert Rotenberg – Today is the publication date of a fine new legal mystery. Rotenberg presents Nancy Parish with another defence counsel nightmare. Kyle Wilkinson, 4 years old, is walking into a Tim Horton’s coffee and doughnut shop in downtown Toronto with his father, Cedric, when gunfire erupts. A stray bullet strikes Kyle in the head and he dies.

Nancy’s first and continuing client for 10 years of steady business, Larkin St. Clair, calls her. He has been present at the shooting with his best buddy in crime, Dewey Booth, who has just been released from prison. They have gone to the shop as Booth wants to speak with his ex-girlfriend, Suzanne Howett. She broke up with him while he was in prison and Booth is not happy. When Suzanne’s current boyfriend, Jet, arrives to pick her up bullets start flying.

Nancy swiftly persuades her client to turn himself admonishing him to say nothing to the police. He assures her he lives by the motto “we don’t rat, we don’t crack”. The normally loquacious St. Clair tries hard but is unable to stop himself from making a comment that sends Officer Daniel Kennacott off on the bus to Pelee Island, Canada’s most southerly point, where Booth had grown up.

Leading the investigation is Detective Ari Greene. A skilled investigator he spends the night of the killing and the next day putting together what happened.

Most of the characters appeared in Old City Hall and The Guilty Plea. Added to the ensemble for this book is Ralph “Ralphie” Armitage, the new head Crown Attorney in Toronto. A proud member of a wealthy distinguished Toronto family Ralph enjoys the prestige of his new position. Well aware he is perceived as most skilled at making plea bargains Ralph assigns himself the prosecution of what has swiftly become known as the “Timmie Murder”. It is his chance to add luster to the family name and become respected as a trial lawyer.

In Canada, the Tim Horton’s chain is popularly known as Timmie’s. That nickname results in a twist on the usual identification of a prominent murder. Where most cases are known by the name of the accused or of the victim it is the location which provides the public name of this murder.

Once again Rotenberg may be drawing on a well known Toronto event. A few years ago on Boxing Day a teenage girl was killed on Toronto’s main street, Yonge Street, by a stray bullet fired in an exchange between a pair of gangs. As with the fictional Timmie’s case the public was outraged.

Shortly after Booth is captured Ralph is approached by Booth’s counsel, Phil Cutter, with a proposal that would save his client and aid the prosecution of St. Clair. Though the police investigation is incomplete Ralph makes a deal with Booth through Cutter. Making a pact with the devil can have expensive consequences. I thought of Marlowe’s brilliant play, Dr. Faustus.

Ari can barely contain his rage over the precipitous agreement but pursues the case. He is frustrated as they cannot find a baker at the shop who was outside when the shooting took place. It is clear he is an illegal immigrant seeking to avoid coming to the attention of immigration authorities.

Nancy undertakes the grim task of preparing the defence of an accused child killer. The public demands a conviction.

To the detriment of her personal life Nancy puts in the long hours necessary to go through each piece of evidence and determine its reliability. She cleverly prepares demonstrative evidence to strengthen the defence. At the same time she realizes she faces enormous public pressure for a conviction. She is a true defence counsel willing to represent a publicly despised accused.

When Robert answered some questions from me concerning The Guilty Plea he said that he loves his judges. He has created another unique jurist in Justice Rothbart, a former child star who reached Broadway as a cast member of Camelot and still treasures his time in the theatre.

A decade into her career Nancy is spending most nights alone too busy to establish relationships.

The narrative draw reminds me of John Grisham who keeps a reader flowing through the book.

Rotenberg manages the almost impossible task of respecting the deceased, a young child, while preserving the principle that the accused is always presumed innocent. I admire Rotenberg for achieving that balance.

The trial was great. To say more would be to spoil the fine writing.

On Wednesday I will put up a post of Questions and Answers with the author Robert Rotenberg. Friday will have a post of my thoughts on those Questions and Answers.


  1. Bill - Thanks for this excellent review. It sounds like that satisfying blend of a well-plotted, tight mystery, a solid legal story and a distinctive setting. Good characters, too. I look forward to your Q/A session and your further thoughts.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Rotenberg is building a solid legal mystery series in downtown Toronto.

  3. I read Old City Hall and liked it. Glad that there are two more by Rotenberg for me to read.

    But with a legal aspect to it with a fascinating trial, it's up my alley.

    I began mystery reading as a teen-ager with Perry Mason and have always liked good legal thrillers, especially if the courtroom dialogue is well-done.

  4. I enjoy legal mysteries so am heading right off to Amazon to check out this series & to see if available in UK. Your review makes it sound irresistible, I especially like the "Timmies" part and the location being part of the clue/solution. Thanks very much for highlighting yet another good author to try - I have to say you are not doing my "to read" bookshelf much good, Bill, about half the books currently on it are via this blog!

  5. Though I enjoyed the first two, I thought this was the best of the three.

  6. John: Thanks for the comment. I agree the book is definitely Canadian.

  7. kathy: Thanks for commenting. I remember Perry Mason best as a T.V. series. Raymond Burr had a commanding presence in the courtroom.

  8. Maxine: Thanks for the comment. It is a good series. I'll do my best to keep posting reviews of books you may want to add "to read"!

  9. Teena: Thanks for the comment. I enjoyed reading your review. My favourite in the series remains Old City Hall. Second would be Stray Bullets and third is The Guilty Plea.

  10. Hey Bill, I'm a reluctant legal thriller fan having enjoyed a few of John Grisham's books. This one sounds interesting so you've sold me on it.


  11. Keishon: Thanks for the comment. I am confident you will enjoy the book. One of the reasons I like the book is that the characters, especially the lawyers, are fully dimensional people.