One definition of a good book for me is a likeable protagonist. The antagonist can be as bad (or not) as the author can imagine him or her to be but the main character should be someone I believe I could have a rapport with in real life. Then I will enjoy the story without being distracted by a protagonist with all the attraction of a (choose your own word here (I was thinking slug)). In The Guilty Plea, authorRobert Rotenberg has a winner with Ari Greene. I liked him for all sorts of reasons – he’s smart, works hard, is responsible (looks after his Dad) – but what I found most appealing is his failure to be intimidated. And, obviously, being a homicide detective puts him in contact with all sorts of intimidating people of the criminal variety. I also enjoyed the rapport Ari Greene shares with other characters – it has the ring of truth to it and there is a smoothness to the dialogue. I especially liked the straightforward relationship between Ari and his ‘sidekick’ Daniel Kennicott.
Another important definition of a good book is plot and again Mr. Rotenberg hits the right notes. The story line took me from one to clue to the next until the end where I still hadn’t guessed the culprit (I kept wondering is the main suspect really innocent after all?). The plot was intricate and with a few red herrings thrown in, it kept me speculating until the surprise finale.
I haven’t yet read the first book in this series, Old City Hall, but it’s now on my shopping list for my next bookstore visit. Please read on for a Q & A with Robert Rotenberg.
Q & A with author Robert Rotenberg
Q: Do you have a favourite character in your books and are any based on real people?
Absolutely I have a favourite character. It’s always the same. Whichever character I am writing about is always my favourite.
Best way to answer the second part of your question is to tell a funny story. After Old City Hall came out, a judge stopped me in the hall one day and said: “Robert, that lawyer in the book, Nancy Parish, I know exactly who you based her on.” “Oh,” I said, smiling a bit to myself I must admit, “Who?” He then named a female lawyer. “Funny you should say that,” I told the judge. “You know, I’ve never heard of that woman in my life.” We both laughed. Here’s the kicker – it was true. I had no idea who she was.
Q: Given that you’re an attorney, did you still have to do research on any of the methods used by the professionals who investigated the crime in The Guilty Plea?
Most of my research is listening to people. Going to the places I write about. Hanging out. But for the technical legal and investigative stuff I am fanatical for detail and accuracy. For Old City Hall, I spent days and days at the police FIS bureau learning everything about fingerprints. Same for medical stuff. I consult with a whole team of doctors. And one of my best friends is a former homicide cop, turned private investigator (let me know if you have a problem) and we spend countless hours going over the police procedure stuff, as if we were preparing for a trial.
Q: How long did it take you to write The Guilty Plea?
Well the better answer maybe is this: It took ten years to write Book X. My first book that is living happily in a drawer. Old City Hall took seven years. The Guilty Plea took two years (a year longer than it was supposed to take). Fortunately, Simon & Schuster wants lots more books from me. But they want one a year. So Book Three is due July 1, 2011. Book Four July 1, 2012. Want to help?
Q: I was particularly curious about the character, Daniel Kennicott. Will his particular situation (i.e., the unsolved murder of his brother and questions surrounding his parents) be explored more fully in a future book?
The great thing about my fictional friends is that I know more about them than their friends and family do, and even better, I know things about them they don’t know themselves.
The short answer is yes. The long answer is it is going to take a lot of books, and a lot of unexpected turns for him, and I hope my readers, to get there.
(Secret – don’t tell anyone. I actually know how the whole series will end in the year 20……)
Q: Who are your favourite authors?
Too long a list of course. So easiest is to mention who I’ve been reading lately. Just finished the new John LeCarre. Amazing. Have fallen in love with Tim Winton. And read through all of Andrea Camilleri’s wonderful Sicilian mysteries. Can’t wait to read David Bezmogis’ new book. And then there’s my brother David Rotenberg. Hey, he’s my BIG brother.
Thanks to Simon and Schuster and author Robert Rotenberg for a great book! To learn more about this author and his legal thrillers, click here. For a fun and interesting look at some of the areas visited in the book, check out foursquare.