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.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

“R” is for Robert Rotenberg’s book Stranglehold

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.


  1. Okay. Robert Rotenberg is on my TBR list. I'm almost finished with my fifth legal mystery in a row -- Havana Requiem -- which turned out to be way more than I bargained for.

    Started out as a story about musicians' rights to their music and turned into an intense international thriller, which kept me up and stressed out.

    So, I'll look for this one now. This post reminds me that I read book one and need to read the second and third in this series, but if I find this one, I'm grabbing it and starting it.

  2. I'm glad you've reminded me of RR - I read the first in the series and absolutely loved it, and have the 2nd on my shelf. Definitely time to catch up!

  3. I'll be looking for this book as well. It's a little disconcerting when lead characters in a series are bumped off, especially when you're used to "seeing" them.

  4. Bill - Oh, this is a great choice for R. And a good reminder to me that I must read this series. Very soon. And thinking of Greene's choices, it's interesting isn't it how people who normally make wise decisions come all unhinged when they are really in stressful situations.

  5. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. I look forward to hearing from you on Stranglehold once you have had a chance to read the book.

  6. Moira: Thanks for the comment. You have good reading ahead of you in Robert's series.

  7. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. In this series Robert has a group of characters who are important but I do not believe any are dominant.

  8. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I believe you will really enjoy the series. I believe we think we will act wisely in emergencies and crises but I have not seen it happen for most people.

  9. Very interesting post about this book, Bill. I appreciate you pointing out that part of the post might be more than we want to read. I will be trying Rotenberg soon, I hope. In addition to being Canadian, it is also a legal mystery, and I need to read more of those.

  10. I love legal mysteries and gotta get hold of it!

    Here is my CFA--R post!

  11. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I am expecting you will enjoy Rotenberg. He is a skilled writer.

  12. The internet has given me access to so many blogs and introduced me to many great new crime writers. For example, Robert Rotenberg was completely unknown to me, but this morning I found a copy of The Guilty Plea on a sale table. I'm looking forward to reading it and I hope more of his.

  13. Anne H.: I am confident you will enjoy The Guilty Plea and hope you will add a comment on the book when you have read it.

  14. I hate to say it, but I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. The author has an American agent, I see; I was really put off by the constant need to genuflect to the sensibilities of an American readership in writing of the particularities of a legal system that Canada, like Australia, has inherited from Britain. It's the US that's the odd one out - Europe is yet another matter - so get over it! Perhaps some of the legal minutiae could have been edited out for the sake of the story and to mitigate this.
    Picky, I know! But it's more serious when (ch 39) a guilty plea is framed along the lines that the woman stabbed her estranged husband six times, and thereafter went upstairs to say goodbye to her loved small son. it's not the psychology I object to, it's the apparent lack of blood. This tricky matter is avoided from there on.
    I actually had a lot of time for Sam. She is the best-depicted character in the book and I didn't mind the abrupt ending - the book is too long, really needed editing down for the sake of tension - so much as the lack of a scene in which she is told the truth, perhaps by Ari Greene, and realises she has a future with Simon.
    My library has the first of this series and also I would very much like to read the one reviewed above with the same characters.
    Incidentally, at least two Australian barristers have turned to crime. I haven't read any of
    Chris Nyst, but he wrote the script for the lovely movie Gettin' Square. (The early scene with the cat was worth the price of the ticket.) Stuart Littlemore has an ever-growing series whose first I've just taken off one of my To Be Read Piles: Harry Curry, Counsel of Choice.

  15. Anne H.: I regret The Guilty Plea was a disappointment. I hope you will try another in the series to see if it is the author or just the book that did not suit you. I am not familiar with the Australian authors mentioned.