My review of The Guilty One appeared last month in Shelf Awareness for Readers. It is appearing here with their permission. This book was also one of my Nerdy Picks for March at Pop Culture Nerd's blog. If this book doesn't make my overall favorite list of 2013, it'll definitely be a favorite debut. I loved it!
First line: "The air smelled of gunpowder when Daniel emerged from the Angel tube stop and headed for Islington Police Station."
Debut novelist, Lisa Ballantyne, writes as though she’s a practiced, polished veteran of the craft as well as an esteemed expert in the realm of child psychology. Her protagonist, Daniel Hunter, was a troubled youth who found his saving grace in an eccentric widow named Minnie.
As an adult Daniel is a successful solicitor who has taken on the defense of the “Angel Killer” Sebastian Croll, an eleven-year-old boy accused of brutally murdering his eight-year-old neighbor. Adult Daniel sees his younger self in Sebastian and is determined to keep him from a life of imprisonment. Guilty or innocent, Daniel believes no child Seb’s age can benefit from the London penal institution. It can only work to destroy mind, body and spirit.
Meanwhile, Daniel receives news that Minnie, his adoptive mother, has died. Estranged from Minnie for over 15 years, Daniel experiences mixed and confusing feelings. By alternating chapters between the present, the progression of Seb’s trial, and the past, Daniel’s youth, Ballantyne slowly unveils the mystery of Daniel and Minnie’s estrangement.
A story of redemption and regret, Ballantyne shows how prisons aren’t always made of steel bars and freedom isn’t always what we perceive it to be. Readers will be as captivated by the unparalleled characters as they are by the intense, psychological plot.
Haunting and heart wrenching, The Guilty One is a highly emotional, addictive reading experience that will appeal to readers of all genres. With a debut this explosive, it’s hard to imagine what Ballantyne’s encore will bring.
The Guilty One is available in trade paperback (ISBN: 978-0062195517) from William Morrow. An audio version was recorded in the UK, but I don't know if a US version will be made or not. I'll update you if I hear anything.