THE GUILTY PLEA by Robert Rotenberg


Email this review


Canadian attorney Rotenberg’s second legal thriller asks whether the estranged wife of a Toronto grocery king took a murderous shortcut in settling the terms of their divorce.

Someone certainly had it in for Terrance Wyler. The co-owner of Wyler Foods was stabbed seven times and left to bleed out on his kitchen floor. Detective Ari Greene, working once more with lawyer-turned-cop Daniel Kennicott (Old City Hall, 2009), quickly settles on Samantha Wyler as the obvious suspect. The couple’s negotiations over their divorce had been stormy from the beginning; Samantha had threatened Terry by e-mail the night he died; and she not only visited the crime scene ahead of the police but pinched the murder weapon. Ari’s former lover, one-time head Crown Attorney Jennifer Raglan, recalled from obscurity to try the case, aims for a conviction on second-degree murder charges. But she’s repeatedly overruled by insecure, wavering Judge Irene Norville, who, swayed by Samantha’s lawyer, Ted DiPaulo, doesn’t want Samantha separated any longer than possible from her 4-year-old son Simon, even though mother and child have never been close. So Raglan watches as Norville first grants Samantha bail and house arrest, then high-handedly arranges for her to plead guilty to manslaughter. The likelihood that Terry’s killer will go free in five years outrages his parents and his two brothers, much-married Nathan and Jason, crippled by spinal muscle atrophy, who are mollified only because avoiding a trial will keep their darkest family secrets secret. When Samantha’s day in court finally comes, however, she refuses to admit that she stabbed Terry. Now the stage is set for a trial guaranteed to make no one happy, except of course for experienced genre fans who find plea bargains anticlimactic and downright wimpy.

Ferocious, blunt-edged and finally unremarkable courtroom battles swirl around a cast of characters who consistently act as if they have more interesting depths than they’re willing to show.


Pub Date: July 12th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-374-27849-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2011


MysteryTHE DEAD HAND by Michael A. Kahn
by Michael A. Kahn
FictionINADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE by Philip Friedman
by Philip Friedman
FictionTHE FERRYMAN WILL BE THERE by Rosemary Aubert
by Rosemary Aubert