Stranglehold by Robert Rotenberg – I consider Stranglehold, the fourth book in Rotenberg’s series featuring Toronto lawyers and police, the best in the series. Where earlier books had given the defence almost impossible facts to defend, Stranglehold has more complex balanced evidence.
As the book opens Toronto homicide detective, Ari Greene is on his way by scooter to meet Head Crown attorney, Jennifer Raglan. Each of them has been taking Monday mornings off to meet and love at one of the cheap motels on Kingston Road in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. They have resumed their affair with a level of secrecy, disguises and codes, which espionage agencies would admire for their spy craft.
Raglan, the organizer, choses and reserves the motel. She brings along mood music (Oscar Peterson), champagne, candles and fine pillow cases to bring some romance to the tawdry locations of their assignations.
When Greene enters the room to find Raglan strangled to death I was shocked. Raglan had been a strong character in earlier books. Few authors have an important continuing character slain.
A stunned Greene has his cell phone out to call 911 when he hears someone outside the room and tries, unsuccessfully, to catch who was there. About to call in the murder he hears sirens. Someone else has already called the police.
Greene, normally the most rational of men, neither stays nor calls a member of the homicide department. Assuming her husband has killed her, called 911 and is suicidal he decides to search the neighbourhood for the husband.
The story had grabbed me. I wanted to shout to him to stop. Call a defence lawyer. You need objective advice. Instead, he undertakes a fruitless search.
Both decisions, leaving the scene and then not calling a fellow police officer, were bad ideas which were compounded when he did not tell Daniel Kennicott, his protégé and the newest homicide detective, and lead on this murder, later that day what had happened.
I thought of the complications in Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow when prosecutor, Rusty Sabich, disastrously conceals his affair with the murdered Carolyn Polhemus from fellow prosecutors.
The next day Greene does wisely retain Ted DiPaulo. He tells DiPaulo what happened. By receiving a retainer DiPaulo, under the rules of solicitor – client privilege cannot tell anyone what Greene has told him, but Greene can waive the privilege so there is a record of him telling a figure in authority shortly after the murder what happened.
Readers of this post who want to keep their knowledge of the plot to a minimum should read no further. I am not including spoilers but there may be more information than you would want about the story.
Be further warned the book itself contains a spoiler advising what happened in an earlier book of the series.
As you would expect Greene’s efforts to keep secret the affair and his presence at the crime scene fail and he is charged with murder.
Brought back to Toronto to prosecute the case is Angela Kreitinger, a recovering alcoholic. While she has stopped drinking Kreitinger is popping Percocets to deal with a chronically aching back. Anxious to remain in Toronto Kreitinger is eager to prosecute the high profile case.
As with his other fictional trials Rotenberg creates another real life trial. The witnesses are plausible. The lawyers find the weaknesses in their evidence. Physical evidence, videos and reconstructions are used in the presentation.
While I foresaw the real killer I did not pick up on the key pieces of evidence for the trial until they were revealed.
I raced through the book. The pace of the story is excellent. Rotenberg is writing wonderful mysteries. I expect Stranglehold to be a strong contender for Bill’s Best of 2013 Fiction.
The series is strongly established with interesting characters who have credible flaws. Not many “good guy” sleuths engage in affairs with married women. Greene is a good man, not a perfect man.
Characters do remind us of real people. The image I have of exhuberant beefy police chief, Hap Charlton, running to be mayor the city is that of the current actual mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. I doubt Hap’s physique, personality and political views were accidentally similar to Mayor Ford.
You will stay up reading Stranglehold. (July 14/13)
****Robert Rotenberg is a double “R” as my post for this week for “R” in the Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme hosted by Kerrie Smith at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise. My connections to the book and author are multiple – as a lawyer, as a Canadian and as someone who has lots of family residing in Toronto. I can see many of the locations while I read Robert's books. My next post will feature some Q & A with Robert.
****Stranglehold will be the first book I have read in the 7th Canadian Book Challenge hosted by John Mutford at the Book Mine Set blog.