“ Author: Lisa Ballantyne / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 30 August 2012 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group / Title: The Guilty One / ISBN 13: 9780749957285 / ISBN 10: 0749957285 „
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It's hard reading this to believe that this is the author's first novel. I've just put it down having been hooked from beginning to end. The Guilty One is the story of Sebastian, a child who is charged with the murder of his friend in a playground. When Daniel, a lawyer, takes on the case he is surprised how he identifies with the child and finds that memories of his troubled childhood emerge. The story switches between the questioning and trial of the eleven year old and Daniel's growing up with his foster mother, Minnie. As the book draws to a climax the questions are, did Sebastian commit the crime and what can the recently deceased Minne have done that was so bad that Daniel had cut all contact. All of the characters from Sebastian's flawed parents to Daniel himself are possibly guilty in their different ways and the interest in the book is finding out little by little about the characters in what is essentially a crime thriller. Sebastian, who isn't portrayed as a particularly average or likeable child becomes vilified by the British press who label him as the "Angel killer". Is he an innocent caught between his mother who is abused by a frequently absent father, or is Sebastian the evil child the newspapers in the book portray him as? To find out you will have to read the book.
I thought this novel was extremely well written and convincing. The pace was kept up throughout and there were plenty of interesting themes, such as the importance of the mother-child relationship and also an honest appraisal of the criminal justice system in this country and specifically its treatment of children who are held responsible for their actions at a much younger age than in other European countries. I suspect the image of the two children in the James Bulger case leading the two year old to his death is one that is engrained in our collective memories - there is reference to that in this book and the central theme of examining whether a child could have committed a heinous and violent crime is a powerful one. This book isn't an easy read at times given the topic matter but it seems well researched and the subject matter is always delicately and intelligently handled. The characters are convincing from the start and I was hooked from very nearly the first page. I thoroughly enjoyed this poignant but engaging book which really got me thinking.
Highly recommended - I shall be looking out for more from this author.
Details - paperback 480 pages long on Amazon, prices at time of writing: Kindle Edition = £3.99 Paperback=£4.89