Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review of "The Guilty One" [24]

The Guilty One: A Novel by Lisa Ballantyne
William Morrow, ISBN 9780062195517
March 19, 2013, 480 pages

Today, we have one hot off the presses, just available today..

A small boy is dead in a playground, hit with a brick, and another small boy is accused of the horrible crime.
Leading the defense will be solicitor Daniel Hunter, a man who has made a bit of a speciality of defending young people accused of crimes.  That might be because he knows that, but for the grace of God..in the form of a loving foster mother, Minnie...he might well have ended up in the wrong side of the courtroom table himself. He sees in the accused boy, Sebastian, more than a bit of his young self, a troubled boy, from a troubled home.
Ultimately, it must be decided who is responsible for the little boys death..and don't worry, we will find this is more than enough guilt to go around.

I guess this book would be categorize as a mystery, and there are several mysteries here to be solved. Is Sebastian's guilty of the murder of his small friend and what exactly is going on in that home, not to mention in that slightly odd head of his?
On the other hand, there is Daniels mystery. We know from the beginning that he is long estranged from his adopted mother Minnie, that he feels so betrayed by something she did years ago that he has refused to answer her calls or letters since shortly after he left for college. And now it is too late. What terrible act could have caused this sad estrangement?

It is a mystery in the style of many British mysteries, at times more of a psychological character piece than a story of crime or violence as many mysteries are.
For me, that is also the cause of my one problem with the book. When we find out what happen between Daniel and Minnie, I just could not buy it. Yes, someone, especially a young person such as he was then, would has been hurt, upset. But to hold that anger, to not see her motivation as he grew to be a man, a lawyer who saw a great many tragic situations in his practice..sorry, no.
The book builds up to it, builds up to it, and I could not fully buy it. Not believable. A bit disappointing.
And I think the buildup, the back story of his life, while interesting and so necessary to the story, was too long, too detailed, and in need of some judicial editing to remove more than a little repetition.

Still, for those flaws, it is a very interesting, very griping story, well told. All the characters are well drawn, and though Daniel is at the center of the story, Minnie is, in my opinion the heart and soul of this book. With her glass of gin, her tragic story, her less than hygienic kitchen, her soft spot for all things frail and unprotected, her faithful dog, she is a charming woman, a memorable character.And the pain she must have felt when Daniel left her, would have nothing to do with her...I challenge you not to find it heartbreaking.

I do wonder if we will see Daniel again. I would not be adverse to it, even if I ended the book not liking him a great deal. I think he learned a few lessons and I would like to see how that works out for him.
But regardless, I will be looking forward to seeing what Ms. Ballantyne turns out next, after this, her very good debut novel.


  1. I'm glad you didn't like this because I hate reading about dead kids and kids killing kids and all that stuff!

  2. Well, if there is that much build up, then the author better deliver right? But I do like the psychological character studies a lot. I think this, combined with some complicated little mystery, are the best kinds of reads.

  3. Sounds interesting, but I'm becoming impatient with authors who give us way too much backfill.....maybe in my old age impatience is rearing its ugly head?

    1. perhaps I am too. OR...some of it just needs to be cut. :-)

  4. Sorry this one did not work as well as you would have liked. British psycological sounded interesting to me until I read the rest of your review. Guess I won't be reading this one.


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