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The Guilty Plea

The Guilty Plea

4.3 3
by Robert Rotenberg

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With The Guilty Plea, a gripping sequel to the international bestseller Old City Hall, Robert Rotenberg has delivered another sharp, suspenseful legal thriller with an explosive conclusion.

On the morning his high-profile divorce trial is set to begin, Terrance Wyler, the youngest son of Toronto's Wyler Food dynasty, is found stabbed to death in the


With The Guilty Plea, a gripping sequel to the international bestseller Old City Hall, Robert Rotenberg has delivered another sharp, suspenseful legal thriller with an explosive conclusion.

On the morning his high-profile divorce trial is set to begin, Terrance Wyler, the youngest son of Toronto's Wyler Food dynasty, is found stabbed to death in the kitchen of his luxurious home. Detective Ari Greene arrives minutes before the press and finds Wyler's four-year-old son asleep upstairs. Hours later, when Wyler's wife, Samantha, shows up at her lawyer's office with a bloody knife wrapped in a towel, the case looks like a straightforward guilty plea.

Instead, an open-and-shut case becomes a complex murder trial, full of spite and uncertainty. There's April Goodling, the Hollywood starlet with whom Terrance had a well-publicized dalliance, and Brandon Legacy, the teenage neighbor who was with Samantha the night of the murder. After a series of devastating cross-examinations, there's no telling where the jury's sympathies will lie.

As in Old City Hall, Rotenberg's gift for twists and turns is always astonishing, but his true star remains the courtroom: the tension, disclosures, and machinations that drive this trial straight to its unpredictable verdict.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A few lawyers are really expert in managing cases--especially criminal cases--in the courtroom. A small percentage of these are very good at making trials come alive. Robert Rotenberg is one of the few, along with Scott Turow, David Baldacci, and John Lescroart. The Guilty Plea is a crackling good read. Plan to keep turning pages late into the night!” —F. Lee Bailey

“Smart and spellbinding. Puts you right in the shoes, and the lives, of lawyers caught up in a high-stakes murder trial. The best courtroom drama I've read, bar none, since Anatomy of a Murder.” —Douglas Preston, coauthor of The Monster of Florence and Gideon's Sword

Old City Hall is a terrific look at contemporary Toronto.” —Ian Rankin, author of The Complaints on Old City Hall

“Breathtaking . . . A tightly woven spiderweb of plot and a rich cast of characters make this a truly gripping read. And of particular interest is the setting: Robert Rotenberg does for Toronto what Ian Rankin does for Edinburgh.” —Jeffery Deaver, author of Edge on Old City Hall

“The plot is chock full of atmospheric tension . . . Old City Hall has enough hidden motives and gumshoeing to make it a hard-boiled classic.” —Nathaniel G. Moore, The Globe and Mail (Toronto) on Old City Hall

coauthor of The Monster of Florence and Gideon's Douglas Preston

Smart and spellbinding. Puts you right in the shoes, and the lives, of lawyers caught up in a high-stakes murder trial. The best courtroom drama I've read, bar none, since Anatomy of a Murder.
Kirkus Reviews

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.

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
9.04(w) x 6.36(h) x 1.13(d)

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Read an Excerpt



Even for Arceli Ocaya, it was too hot to sleep. The heat wave had gripped the city for days and by six in the morning her tiny apartment was already steaming. Back home in Manila, her husband and their five children would never believe it could be so warm in Canada. By next summer when she brought them over, Ocaya planned to have a bigger place, and she knew they would never understand what it had been like—all these years alone with the summer heat, the winter cold, and the eternal loneliness.

It was good that she was up early. Her employer, Mr. Terrance Wyler, would need all the help she could give him this morning. Poor man. Even though he was rich.

The bus she took every day to the subway arrived on time, but there was a delay on Eglinton Avenue where a film crew was making a movie. This happened so many times in Toronto. The trailers parked on the side of the road funneled the traffic. Ocaya saw a stone building with a new sign that said CIRCUIT COURT—BALTIMORE and police cars with the words BALTIMORE CITY POLICE on the side.

Unfortunately, most people on the subway were reading the transit newspaper, which had a picture of Mr. Wyler right on the front page with his arm around his famous American girlfriend, the actress April Goodling. The headline read DIVORCE FROM HELL TRIAL STARTS TODAY. Why do they write such terrible things? Ocaya wondered. Her employer was the nicest person she’d worked for since leaving the Philippines.

At her last subway stop, Bayview Avenue, she rushed up the escalator. Oh, no, she thought when she got to street level and saw the back of the bus pull away, its tailpipe spitting out sooty black smoke. She decided to walk the six blocks to his house.

Marching up Hillside Drive, Ocaya couldn’t stop thinking about that foolish headline. “Divorce from Hell.” Try being separated from your family for six years and only getting to go home to see them once. That was hell. This divorce was silliness. Mr. Wyler was an excellent father and those accusations his wife, Samantha, made against him last year were nonsense.

After three blocks she felt the sweat collect on the back of her neck. The lawns of all the expensive houses were turning brown at the edges from the long dry spell and most of the driveways were empty. For the next three blocks the street climbed at a steeper grade, but she refused to slacken her pace.

Ocaya had learned that in Toronto during the month of August many people were on holiday, especially the wealthy ones. They called it “going up north.” When Mr. Wyler’s son, Simon, was just a baby—and Mr. Wyler and Samantha were still married—the family went up north to a cottage and Ocaya went with them. Why they would leave their air-conditioned home to spend a week in a woodshed with an old refrigerator, a place with bugs and snakes outside, was a mystery to her. Strangest of all, one afternoon they caught seven fish and insisted on throwing them all back in the lake.

She arrived every day by seven-thirty. Mr. Wyler was always up, his stereo on loud, prancing around the kitchen, chopping up fresh fruit. Sometimes he played his piano. On the weeks he had Simon, he would make breakfast while listening to a man named Billy Joel. Apparently Mr. Joel played piano too. Her employer even named his dog Billy.

Simon had just turned four years old and was already learning to read. Short words, but Mr. Wyler was so proud. A few weeks earlier he bought some colorful magnetic letters and put them on the front of his refrigerator. Each night he spelled a short word and when Simon came down for breakfast the boy would read it. First D-O-G, then C-A-T, then H-O-U-S-E, then T-R-A-I-N.

As she climbed the stone steps to the front door, Ocaya was surprised to see that the newspaper was still there. Usually Mr. Wyler had read it by the time she arrived, and he often showed her an article he thought would interest her. This morning, with so much on his mind, he probably didn’t have time. She scooped the paper up and put her key in the door. It was unlocked. Mr. Wyler had probably been outside earlier, before the paper came, and forgotten.

I’ll bet the poor man couldn’t sleep, she thought. His parents and two older brothers had been at the house last night for Sunday-night dinner, and Ocaya had been there to help out. The family had fought about their business. That, on top of the trial starting today, must have upset him.

It was quiet inside the house. There was no music playing. No clatter of dishes in the kitchen. No patter of Simon’s little feet. And where was Billy? Every morning when the dog heard Ocaya come in, he would bark with happiness, stand up on his back legs to greet her.

The house was hot. Mr. Wyler often forgot to put on the air-conditioning before he went to sleep, especially lately when he was so upset. She took off her backpack and slid it under the front hall desk. At last she heard the click of dog tags on Billy’s collar. He poked his head around the corner of the living room.

“Billy, my favorite little doggie.” She clapped her hands together. “Where’s Simon?”

Saying “Simon” always brought an instant response from the dog, but Billy seemed uninterested. He lowered his head. Must be the heat, Ocaya thought.

“I better get you some water.” She swung open the kitchen door but the dog was reluctant to follow.

The first thing that hit her was the smell. Something strong. Horrible.

She saw the blood. A dark red splotch on the clean white tile floor. She would use one of the rags under the sink to wipe it up, she thought.

Then she saw Mr. Wyler.

He was lying on the floor near the refrigerator. His eyes were open. Vacant. She ran to him. “Did you fall, sir?”

There were cuts across his white shirt, the one she’d ironed for him on Friday. So many cuts. On his neck too. And the blood. All the blood.

Her heart was pounding. She was having trouble breathing. Thinking.

Wait, she thought, hearing the silence of the house.

“Simon,” she shrieked, louder than she thought she knew how to yell. And raced to the stairs.


Copyright © 2011 by Robert Rotenberg

Meet the Author

Robert Rotenberg is the author of Old City Hall (Sarah Crichton Books, 2009). He is also one of Toronto's top lawyers, defending, as he likes to say, "everything from murder to shoplifting." He lives in Toronto with his wife and three children.

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The Guilty Plea 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KenCady More than 1 year ago
It's not often that you can read a book about a trial that does not take liberties with reality or just shows a plain indifference to the way things really happen in a courtroom. So, The Guilty Plea is refreshing for that reason alone. The author has seen enough courtrooms that he knows what happens, and he kept his novel true. The story of a murder trial is well told, the characters are believable. I did not like the ending, but I grant that it was a real possibility, so who am I to complain?
Twink More than 1 year ago
I enjoy a number of genres - legal thrillers being one of them. But when mentally going over my list of favourite authors, I realized that none of the legal list were Canadian. So I was excited to read Robert Rotenberg's new novel The Guilty Plea. Rotenberg is a practicing lawyer who lives in Toronto and has based his series in the same city. I love reading a book with Canadian references - Timmies, the Globe and place names as well - Eglinton/Bloor, Jane and Finch. Knowing the settings are real and having seen some of them make the novel all that more authentic. But what makes Rotenberg's novels really pop is his knowledge of the Canadian legal system, his trial expertise and the number of years he's been at it. His plots, characters and dialogue all have the ring of authenticity and that 'insider's' point of view. It just makes his novel all the more believable. The Guilty Plea brings back characters from Rotenberg's first novel 'Old City Hall'. Homicide Detective Ari Greene, Officer Daniel Kennicott, lawyers, Crowns and others. I found all of the characters believable and connected with them. Their personal lives are just as engrossing as the primary plot line. In the Guilty Plea, Terrance Wyler, the youngest son of a Canadian food conglomerate is found stabbed to death in his kitchen while his young son sleeps upstairs. His estranged wife shows up at her lawyers - with the bloody knife from Wyler's kitchen. Open and shut case. But she swears she's innocent. As Greene investigates, he finds more questions than answers. I very much enjoyed The Guilty Plea, although I found the end a bit rushed. I will definitely be adding Rotenberg to my 'must read' list.