In just a split-second an event can take place which impacts myriad lives. Not a profound premise perhaps, but all too true nonetheless. The novel “Stray Bullets” exemplifies this premise with a case that draws the reader to know more.
It is a frosty November day in Toronto… An ex-con is jealous of his former girlfriend’s new partner. He hangs around her workplace hoping to confront his successor… Shots are fired in the parking lot of a Tim Horton’s restaurant. A father and his young four-year-old son are innocently going into the Tim’s to buy a doughnut. A stray bullet enters the young boy’s skull.
This tragic, horrific event is the catalyst for Robert Rotenberg’s latest legal thriller. Written with the consummate skill and sound knowledge of an author who ‘writes what he knows’, “Stray Bullets” is genre fiction at its finest. The author, a criminal attorney practicing in Toronto has an insider’s knowledge of the legal system and all those characters who contribute to the workings of a criminal case and the pressure by the media and citizenry to see justice done.
It is hard to pinpoint a protagonist for this novel because the many memorable and colorful characters are written with such understanding and with such insight that the reader gets to ‘know’ them all. If this novel were to be made into a movie, it would be one with an ensemble cast. The reader knows enough of the characters to invest in them. Whether it be the lawyers, the police, the victims, or the witnesses – all are given the respect and background that make the reader invest in them equally.
Rotenberg aptly describes the pain and anguish of the victims. The desperation and fear of the accused. The diligence – and sometimes lack thereof – of the police. The frustration and long arduous hours in the working life of a criminal lawyer who must play the system to glean facts from often murky testimony.
Nothing is ever as clear as one would wish. What seems to be damning evidence can sometimes be read two or more ways. ‘Obvious’ guilt is subjective to the witnesses memory of the event.
We meet Daniel Kennicott, the former lawyer turned police officer, who was first on the scene. Ari Green, the homicide detective on the case. Nancy Parish, the workaholic defense attorney. Her client, the accused Larkin St. Clair. The crown’s prosecuting attorney, Ralph Armitage. Witnesses both willing and unwilling. Players moral and immoral. And let’s not forget another major character in this novel – the city of Toronto itself. With a keen sense of place the author describes Toronto’s climate, it’s diversity and it’s social sensibilities.
A legal thriller that rivals (or to my mind surpasses) anything written by Grisham. A page turner, with the reader wondering which of the tiny details mentioned could be the one that makes or breaks the case – which one will make or break the reputation or even the career track of those involved.
I guess you should read it and see…