Book review: The Guilty Plea by Robert Rotenberg

The diverse and colourful city of Toronto provides the backdrop to a classy crime cum courtroom thriller from the pen of real-life Canadian lawyer Robert Rotenberg.

The Guilty Plea is the second literary outing for Rotenberg following the success of his debut novel Old City Hall and gives us a welcome reintroduction to some of its impressive line-up of fascinating characters.

Rotenberg has his finger well and truly on the pulse of the Canadian legal system and his twisting and turning plots, tense court scenes and lively dialogue brim with authenticity and atmosphere.

With a masterful touch, he weaves together an ongoing police investigation and the work of the defence and prosecution teams as they build their respective cases whilst slowly revealing the intricate private lives of his beautifully drawn characters.

On the morning his headline-grabbing divorce trial is due to begin, multi-millionaire grocery stores magnate Terrance Wyler is found dead on his kitchen floor by home help and nanny Arceli Ocaya. He has been stabbed seven times.

Homicide Detective Ari Greene arrives minutes before the international press and finds Wyler’s four-year-old son Simon asleep upstairs.

Shortly after, Wyler’s soon-to-be ex-wife Samantha walks into her lawyer’s office with a blood-soaked knife wrapped in a tea towel and it looks as if the case is over.

Even more damning evidence mounts up against Samantha Wyler but Greene and his smart sidekick, Officer Daniel Kennicott, soon discover that the Wyler family has secrets they’d rather keep hidden, and they’re not the only ones.

If there’s one thing Detective Greene has learned over his years with the police department, it’s that unearthing the truth is never simple . . .

There are so many characters to enjoy is in this excellent whodunit ... the child’s Filipino nanny, the Hollywood star who is Wyler’s girlfriend, ruthless reporter Margaret Kwon who will stop at nothing in the pursuit of ‘celebrity trash,’ charismatic lawyer Ted DiPaulo who carries his own personal baggage, two single-minded police officers and a powerful family intent on revenge.

Fast-paced, taut and superbly entertaining, The Guilty Plea will keep you guessing until the very last page...

(John Murray, paperback, £7.99)