This is without a doubt one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read but it’s also absolutely brilliant. I started it this morning and I could not put it down; the few times I had to when life inserted itself, I was still thinking about it.
There are pretty much two stories intertwined here. One in the present when eight year old Ben Stokes is murdered and eleven year old Sebastian Croll is arrested. The second is the story of his lawyer, Daniel Hunter, who is the product of an extremely troubled childhood himself. He empathises in part with the accused and as the trial moves forward, we are taken through Daniel’s life from about the same age, when he is in foster care.
For Daniel it raises great questions about nature/nurture and the similarities he can see between himself and Sebastian. He can’t help but wonder if his life would have been that different had he never met met Minnie Flynn.
This is a book about life; painful, weird, funny, shocking and loving. It’s about lies that can cut deeper than any knife but done with so much love it’s almost unbearable. The Guilty Ones… all of us.
The book is extremely well written and easy to read, although the pace can feel a bit disjointed as it skips between Daniel as a man and a boy, it doesn’t detract from the story nor did it keep me from reading on. It is very tense though and I did have to stop myself sneaking ahead to find out things, but if you can bear it, let it unfold naturally. I’m glad that I did.
The story is also incredibly thought provoking and even now after having finished it, I’m still trying to piece together how I feel. I think most people will find some empathy with Daniel and Minnie, even if it’s just a glimmer, as well as a whole gamut of other emotions. The trial itself was fascinating and the processes extremely well researched and laid out. I can’t say more than that about it or I would spoil it.
I think this book well deserves the acclaim it has received and it astonishes me that The Guilty One is Lisa Ballantyne’s first book. I really look forward to what she does next.