The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne

Out soon from Piatkus

From the get-go, this gripping debut cannot help but make UK readers recall the tragic circumstances of the killing of young Jamie Bulger.
It treads similar territory, albeit fictional, but its author and the characters within the novel are fully aware of the comparisons between the cases and are at pains to treat the subject matter with compassion and never with a sensationalist eye.

The discovery of an eight year old boy’s body in a children’s playground, the fingers pointing at eleven year old Sebastian, the troubled past of solicitor Daniel Hunter, all crash together to provide a deep and thought-provoking investigation into the crime and into the pasts of all of the characters.

What shaped them, what made them the people they have become and who is ultimately responsible for the death of the child are all rising questions against the backdrop of a judicial system which struggles with just how the crime of child murder by a child should be best handled.

Daniel Hunter is a great creation – a runner – running every morning before court and running from something that haunts him from his own childhood. A product of the foster care system, he has a connection with Sebastian, an empathy with his situation.

The narrative is masterfully split in alternate chapters between the modern day and Daniel’s own childhood and his time with
the woman, Minnie, who brought him up, and ultimately betrayed him. Daniel’s story unveils itself to the reader as the modern day tale progresses through to the court room, keeping the reader hanging on for the outcome both of Sebastian’s case and Daniel’s past history, and delivering a double barrelled – emotionally charged closing to the book.

The Guilty One is a story about childhood, about parenting, but most of all it is a tale about love – what we’ll do to protect – what we’re capable of to keep those we love close and never wanting to let them go.

It’s an all absorbing read which places the reader firmly into each and every scene, including the discomfort of the court room, and has themes and scenes that will stay with me for a long while after closing its cover.

One of the best of 2012 and a masterful debut.

You can pre-order your copy here.


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