Downfall (Greene and Kennicott #6), by Robert Rotenberg

Eight stars

Loving all things crime and Canada related, I returned for the latest in Robert Rotenberg’s stunning series, set on the streets of Toronto. While many would believe Canada to be a docile place, nothing could be further rom the truth on Toronto’s streets. Someone is killing homeless people and leaving their bodies next to one of the high-end golf courses in Toronto, a self-proclaimed centre of Canada. While many refuse to take notice, roving reporter Alison Greene is happy to collect any scoops she can. When her father and head of homicide, Ari Greene, begins looking into things, he finds the latest victim was once prominent in Toronto’s legal community. The forensics and a letter left by the third victim point to two different people, but Greene will stop at nothing to ensure justice sees the light of day. Rotenberg taps into a dicey subject and one well worth mentioning in his latest police procedural, sure to impress series fans and other readers alike.

Homelessness has never been a pretty subject to discuss, as many politicians choose to sweep it under the rug. When two homeless people are found murdered next to one of Toronto’s elite golf courses, the press makes little notice of it, but newcomer Alison Greene is happy to take the scoop and run with it. She uses some of her key connections to the the first to air news about the killings and ensures that she leads the pack as the story gains momentum.

Alison’s father and head of the Homicide Division, Ari Greene, wants peace on the city’s streets and makes sure that his officers treat the case as they would any other. However, there is little to go on and that will make trying to find a killer even harder. Greene’s former protégé, Daniel Kennicott, takes the lead on the case, trying to piece things together with whatever he can find. When another victim is discovered, Greene and Kennicott see a pattern, but there is a difference. This victim was once a prominent legal name in Toronto, someone who had hit a rough patch. Her former spouse is currently a city councillor and seeking to run for mayor, making him an ideal suspect, with skeletons in his closet. However, a diary left by the victim points to someone else, with just as much motive.

As Greene and Kennicott parse their way through the evidence, Alison continues to air reports about the killings, sometimes critical of her father’s work. The Greenes are both are looking out for the city and juggle the perspectives that a killer of the homeless might have on the larger community. However, justice is said to be blind and the truth is all that matters to most, which pushes the investigation forward and leaves the killer vulnerable should any mistakes come to light. Robert Rotenberg stirs up some awkward truths in this latest thriller, which explores an oft-ignored part of Canadian (and international) big city life.

I discovered the writing of Robert Rotenberg years ago and was immediately impressed, eager to read as much of the series as I could. As each book hit newsstands, I made sure to get a copy, if only to see how the series would advance and where the characters found themselves. I have grown connected to them, as they use Canada’s largest city as a backdrop, making great Canadiana references that leave me feeling more at home with each page turn. The stories are always intense and tackle some unique aspect of the law or legal matters, while provided some needed social commentary that brings light to something many overlook.

The collection of key characters makes it hard for me to choose a single one to label as protagonist. Each works their own aspect of the story and adds something that connects the plot into a single and seamless final product. While the reader has been able to see a lot more of Alison Greene and her development, one would be remiss if they ignored Ari Greene or Daniel Kennicott’s contribution as well. All the characters add their own perspective and flavour the narrative in ways that series fans come to expect new insights with each novel, as the different faces share the limelight. This can be the best type of series, where no one gets too much attention and the reader expects much from all involved.

Rotenberg never shies away from controversial topics, or at least bringing light to things that are usually forgotten. He loves to get the reader thinking, mostly outside the box, and coming to conclusions based on what he puts into his stories. The narratives are usually easy to follow and move at a quick pace, much like great crime thrillers do, but also stop to allow for needed nuances to develop. As I mentioned before, the characters are key to each piece and serve to provide wonderful insights into the ‘personal’ side of the law and crime fighting. This story’s plot is multi-faceted, but uses twists to advance the larger story, rather than go on tangents. I have found, while reading this series, that it reminds me of one another favourite author of mine has penned in San Francisco, where characters share the spotlight and each advance in their own way as the books pile up. There;s something to be said for this type of series writing and only adds to why I enjoy Robert Rotenberg so much.

Kudos, Mr Rotenberg, for another winner. Where will you take us next in Toronto? I can only hope it is soon and that others, even non-Canadians, can experience these formidable adventures.