No Cause of Death


255 pages
ISBN 1-55128-018-3
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Geoff Cragg

Geoff Cragg is a tenured instructor in the Faculty of General Studies at
the University of Calgary.


The subject of this book is an actual death more bizarre in its
investigative and legal features than most fiction. Almost 20 years ago,
Anne Broderick died in an Ottawa hospital after her husband found her
near death in the bath. Though her death was initially attributed to
accidental drowning, the police came to regard George Broderick as a
suspect, and finally to prepare a case against him for his wife’s
murder. No Cause of Death chronicles the police investigation and the
resulting trial.

The author, a Provincial Court judge, has a real gift for making both
the investigation and the trial vital narratives, and his legal training
makes him an insightful, and, at times, witty commentator. In the trial
scenes, he is able to present the opportunities and dilemmas of both the
defence and the Crown, and this evenhandedness increases the sense of

The legal problem at the centre of the story is whether a suspect can
be convicted of murder in the absence of a specific cause of death.
Though circumstantial evidence against George Broderick was abundant,
and the material evidence told against accidental death, no mechanism
for his wife’s death was ever established. Perhaps because the book
begins by destroying Broderick’s credibility, Fontana’s closing
survey of post-trial support for Broderick is important, if somewhat
disconcerting. In addition to the inherent psychological and legal
interest of the case, the reader will also be rewarded by many vignettes
of Ottawa in the 1970s, which add a note of nostalgia.


Fontana, James., “No Cause of Death,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,