The Guilty Plea


Author: Robert Rotenberg

Published: 2011

About The Guilty Plea: The son of a well-known family is murdered and all of the evidence points to his soon-to-be ex-wife.

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Review of The Guilty Plea

Terrance Wyler is the youngest son of a wealthy Toronto family. On the morning that his sensational divorce trial is to begin, Wyler is found stabbed to death in his kitchen. Shortly after, his soon-to-be ex-wife, Samantha, walks into her lawyer's office with a bloody knife. Detective Ari Greene and Officer Daniel Kennicott find even more damning evidence and Samantha's lawyer, Ted DiPaulo, knows he's going to have a difficult time keeping her out of jail.

The Guilty Plea is the second legal thriller from Robert Rotenberg, following Old City Hall. This time around, the story seemed tighter with fewer characters and fewer switches in the point-of-view. Greene and Kennicott were back to investigate the crime and we learned quite a bit about Ted DiPaulo and the pressure of being a defence lawyer. The city of Toronto played a less significant role and we travelled to New Liskeard for part of the investigation. There were some nice turns in the story and although I tried to figure out what really happened, I was never sure until all was revealed at the end.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath on 25 April 2011.

Q&A with Robert Rotenberg

Both Old City Hall and The Guilty Plea start from the point-of-view of immigrants. Why did you choose to do that?
I had nothing to do with it. They both just walked into the books, and stayed.
You know, as Jesse Jackson once said about the people he thought were the real soul of the country, the hard working folks: "They take the early bus."
I am just trying to write about the city as I see it, as it really is today. These people are a key part of the engine. And of course I admire them.
Do you have long term plans for your recurring characters or do you just wing it when you start a new book?
I have very long term plans for them. And I do worry about them. Nancy Parish is single and almost forty. Will Fernandez and his wife be able to have children? Daniel Kennicott has a lot to work out - way more than he knows. Then there's Ari Greene...
So no I don't wing it. These are my fictional best friends, and I think about them all the time.
Old City Hall was nominated for several awards and received many good reviews. Did you feel any pressure with your second novel, self-imposed or otherwise?
Self-imposed pressure???? Never heard of it. (Hey I'm a fiction writer).
That so many publishers all over the world have invested their time and energy (and money) in me does not so much put pressure on me, but I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to not let them down.
It sounds so pretentious to talk about 'my readers.' But I guess I've found an audience, and to them I am most loyal of all.
Do you see your books as a way to not only entertain readers but also educate them about the legal process?
Educate is a really flat word. I don't ever want my writing to be boring or preachy or didactic. But I want to make people think.
I like to say I write airplane reading for smart people. Hopefully after they laugh, maybe cry, and I hope care, as they read the book, in the afterglow they'll see there's more to my books than just pages to turn. But of course, those pages damn well better turn.
Do you ever take creative license with the law in your books? If not, do you wish you could?
I have to sometimes. And every once in a while I get a letter from a lawyer, usually a law student, pointing out things like a bail hearing for a murder trial would be held in high court not lower court.
That is a good example. In the earlier drafts of Old City Hall, I had a scene when Nancy Parish, the defence lawyer explains the procedure to her client (and the reader of course.) It was the MOST BORING thing I've ever written. So in this case, yes I did cheat, a little.
But, and this is a very big but, I NEVER cut corners on the real legal stuff. The things that matter. Both in court and when the lawyers meet with their witnesses.
Final note. After Old City Hall came out, a judge, who was a former Crown, stopped me in the hallways of Old City Hall one day and told me how much he loved the book. "But," he said, with a sly smirk, "I never knew there was so much sex in the Crown's office."
Have you read anything recently by a Canadian author that you would like to recommend?
I really don't care if a writer is Canadian or not. Just if they are good. Fortunately they are so often one in the same. In fact a campaign note. I'm tired of reading about all these Scandinavian mystery writers. Time to promote the Canadian brand. Andrew Pyper, Giles Blunt, Howard Shrier, Pamela Callow - my friend who writes legal thrillers set in Halifax who is selling better in the States than in Canada...see my point, Margaret Atwood (really many of her books are mysteries...not that I only read mysteries) and I better not forget my brother David Rotenberg. Hey, he's my big bro.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for the copy of The Guilty Plea. Check out their Foursquare tips for the book!

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Added 25 April 2011.
Updated 26 August 2013.