October 06, 2011

BOOKS: The Guilty Plea, Robert Rotenberg (2011)

Followup to Rotenberg's Old City Hall, which I liked very much. I say "followup" and not sequel, because there's really no significant plot connection between the two books. They share a few characters, but the small bits of backstory from the first book that you might want to know are very skillfully worked into the narrative; you won't feel lost at all if you pick up this one without having read the first.

This is another courtroom drama set in Toronto, and our murder victim this time is Terrance Wyler, youngest son of a prominent family. He's found stabbed to death in his kitchen on the morning that his divorce trial is scheduled to begin; when Samantha, his soon-to-be ex-wife, shows up at her lawyer's office shortly thereafter carrying a bloody knife wrapped in a kitchen towel, the police and prosecutors have every reason to expect a simple and speedy resolution.

But what kind of a book would that make? No, Rotenberg has plenty of twists in turn for his characters, and lots of new suspects to meet along the way. There's the Hollywood beauty queen with whom Terrance was having an affair; ditto for Samantha and the teenaged boy next door. Terrance has a pair of older brothers who've never quite forgiven him for his (failed) attempt to break away from the family business. And what about the mysterious librarian from the small town where Samantha grew up?

The characters are more fully dimensional than we generally get in this sort of story, and Rotenberg has a nice knack for knowing how and when to toss in a bit of comic relief along the way. If the final whodunit revelation feels a bit implausible, it has at least been fully and fairly prepared for, so doesn't come as a total shock.

A good, solid piece of entertainment.

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