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.

Heart of the City (Ari Greene #5), by Robert Rotenberg

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Rotenberg, and Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After much anticipation, Robert Rotenberg is back with his fifth novel in the Ari Greene series. Jam-packed with action, this crime thriller will have the reader flying through the pages with ease as the search for another killer commences. Forced to reinvent himself, Ari Greene is back in Toronto and working on a construction site. When he discovers the body of real estate magnate, Livingston Fox, Greene’s former detective senses kick into high gear. Detective Daniel Kennicott now heads up the Homicide team investigating the case and is the first to acknowledge that his former mentor seems unable to shake the skill of discovering dead bodies. As Kennicott begins his investigation, it becomes apparent that Fox was anything but much-loved in the community. Numerous people had motives to see him taken out, including a community activist who had butted heads with the man over many of his recent projects. Lurking behind the scenes is Alison Gilroy, a anonymous blogger and British transplant who is the child that Green never knew he had until his recent trip across the Pond. Alison’s work and sleuthing has put her in a precarious position, one that she is even hiding from her father. While Kennicott peels back the onion to discover the contrasting life Fox had in comparison to the rest of his family, the detective discovers that there might have been a secret in the works for an upcoming low-income housing complex. Could Fox have been turning over a new leaf in order to give back? Might Alison know more than she is telling everyone? Will Ari Greene be able to shed the past skirmishes he had with Kennicott and the Homicide Division too bring a killer to justice? All is revealed in this stunning piece that Rotenberg crafts with precision. Perfect for those who love a good Canadian crime drama set in the heart of the country’s largest metropolis.

I have long been a fan of Rotenberg and his work, so it pained me to wait so long between novels. However, the wait was worth it, as I found myself fully committed to the book and all the developments found therein. Rotenberg was faced with some significant decisions after Ari Greene was railroaded in the last novel. Having him return with Alison allowed for significant character growth, as well as tapping into that strong parent-child bond that is sure to develop. This offshoot, as well as Greene’s new post-Homicide life, fuel the narrative throughout and allow Daniel Kennicott to assume a more independent role, where he can lead the case in his own direction. The supporting cast of characters also present strong avenues to propel the narrative in numerous directions and are varied enough to keep the story interesting. The murder plot itself is intriguing, presenting the contrast between lucrative real estate deals and the needed housing complexes that the ‘common person’ can afford. Rotenberg’s development of this premise keeps the reader hooked and forging ahead in a story that offers little time for rest. Short chapters help to keep the pace alongside a wonderfully crafted Canadian feel to the narrative, while not getting too emotional or syrupy. Rotenberg is a master at his craft and while I understand he is otherwise employed during the day, I can only hope he has more story ideas that he can quickly get to paper for his adoring fans.

Kudos, Mr. Rotenberg for another wonderful piece. I have been keeping an eye out for your work and praying that you’ll show that Canada has a place in the crime thriller genre. You have outdone yourself here!