About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Guilty Plea by Robert Rotenberg

I have been looking forward to today for some time as I start a series of three posts involving Robert Rotenberg’s new book, The Guilty Plea. When Simon and Schuster invited me to participate in the blogger tour for the book I immediately accepted. The first post is a review of the book today. Tomorrow’s post has Questions and Answers with Robert. The post the day after tomorrow is my thoughts on Robert’s Answers.
20. - 579.) The Guilty Plea by Robert Rotenberg – A lawyer’s nightmare! Samantha Wyler brings the bloody knife used to kill her husband, Terry Wyler, to the office of defence counsel Ted DiPaulo. No doubt guided by the real life example of Edward Greenspan Q.C. who once had a gun delivered to him in a paper bag, DiPaulo deftly delivers the knife to the police through another law firm he has hired for himself so the police cannot verify the source of the knife. Samantha and Terry were in the midst of a bitter divorce. Compounding her problems Samantha has threatened Terry and told her 4 year old son, Simon, the night of the killing that she would not see him again for a long time. DiPaulo faces a daunting set of facts.
            Returning from Old City Hall to lead the investigation are Detective Ari Greene and officer Daniel Kennicott. They are careful thorough investigators.
            The evidence is so formidable that, for the first time in my crime fiction reading, DiPaulo explores a guilty plea with his client. A plea to manslaughter and a few years in jail is an alternative to be considered when a 1st degree murder conviction means 25 years in jail. DiPaulo treads a delicate ethical path in negotiations on a guilty plea when Samantha has not admitted killing her husband. To plead guilty requires an admission of guilt. I have had numerous clients agonizing as Samantha did over whether to plead guilty when they did not admit doing wrong.
            Eventually choosing to go to trial DiPaulo is haunted by the decision whether to call Samantha as a witness. It is often the most difficult decision a defence counsel will make in a trial. There is reference to the Milgaard case where the accused was wrongfully convicted and did not testify. I knew Milgaard’s lawyer. He was a very good trial lawyer. In Emily Couric’s book The Trial Lawyers about 10 famous American trial lawyers James F. Neal said you need the defendant to provide a rational defence, Richard “Racehorse” Haynes avoided calling the defendant as he worried the jury would misunderstand the defendant and Edward Bennett Williams said call the Defendant. It is my belief Canadian juries want to hear the defendant testify in trials.
            Senior Crown Prosecutor, Jennifer Raglan, and DiPaulo are experienced capable trial lawyers. The book is at its best in their offices and the courtroom. Rotenberg captures the anxiety, the intensity, the split second decisions during questioning witnesses, the thrill of forcing an admission from a witness, the sudden adjustments to unexpected evidence and the unrelenting strain day and night of lawyers engaged in a major trial.
            Outside the courtroom sexual affairs complicate the lives of several characters and enliven the story.
            As a defence counsel I wished Rotenberg had not made the case for the Crown so strong. Yet real life sees many accused facing overwhelming evidence. It is a very good book. Rotenberg is a master legal mystery craftsman in the rank of writers such as Scott Turow and William Deverell. (Apr. 30/11)


  1. Another great book from Rothenburg, although I would not put this sophomore effort quite as high in my pantheon of books as his first effort. In my humble opinion the book reads a bit more of a thriller than a mystery as I didn't that much of a "who done it" angle in the book. That said, he once again proved his mastery of detail and description by bringing Toronto to life. His embrace of the cities thriving mult-culturalism and his honest effort at creating a vivid cast of characters who both represent and interact with city is the hallmark of his books so far. I find myself curious to go and explore the cities many neighbourhoods and grab a cup of coffee in little Portugal or a pita along the Danforth, and in feel as though I could easily run into one of his characters along the way. I appreciated his continued character development and the relative realism they exude.

    Just one small critique. Not-withstanding the characters, scenes, etc. I found the main story a bit lacking this time compared with his first novel. While it was an interesting topic, I found I was more waiting to find out who "actually did it" than curious if it was someone else. The story just didn't quite have the drama or flair that the first novel did.

    That said, it was still a great book, maybe a 7.5/10 (I would say the first was most definitely a 9/10) and I am eager to read the 3rd. Very nice to read a Canadian book, with Canadian characters, Canadian context and a certain Canadian finesse!

  2. I attended his reading today of "The Guilty Plea" ... it was interesting!


  3. Teena: Thanks for the comment. I hope I get the chance to attend an author event with Robert.