Books In Canada Review of The City Man
I enjoyed reading this novel (with an exquisite jacket which captures a time and place perfectly), more than any other novel this year. There isn’t a wasted word in this wonderful depiction of Depression-era Toronto. Eli is a reporter who has just returned from a medical leave of absence. After meeting Mona, he becomes interested in the Jewish underworld of Toronto and the pickpockets who work Union Station. Mona is a stall who slows down a potential victim so her partner Chesler, known as a cannon, can pick his pocket. Eli and Mona begin a romance, which all her friends predict will end badly. Using Mona as an anonymous informant, Eli writes articles that capture the imagination of readers, and the interest of the police. The vernacular of the professional pickpocket is captured in precise detail. Here is a paragraph set in Union Station: "In the Great Hall a couple kisses farewell. Others bunch obliviously near the departure ramp. Mona wanders compliantly, all elbows, while she watches the back of the Hasid’s head. His yarmulke askew like a large crazy eye. Chesler clucks. Dawdlers begin to thicken around the announcement boards and Mona sets a new frame. Hips planted, buttocks sway with such discreet allure the Hasid almost ossifies. Chesler makes his move. His hands an argosy of want." Reading this book is like attending a black and white period movie, perhaps one of the Thin Man series, where sly tough guys abound, and the “dame” is smart, glamorous and dangerous. I believe there is a City of Toronto Book Award; this edgy film noir novel should be a shoo-in.