The Guilty One is Lisa Ballantyne’s first novel, and from the start I was hooked. It was not like much of what I read, and I had it sitting on my shelf for some time before I convinced myself to pick it up. It is dark and disturbing, and yet once I started I was able to read without hesitation. In fact, I took it everywhere hoping to get a chapter in here and there…I took it to the ball fields, to work to read during lunch, in the car….you get the point.
The subject matter is quite disturbing which is why I was so leery to read it. The first chapter opens with the murder of an 8 year-old boy who was found beaten to death in a park. The only suspect is 11 year-old Sebastian. Sebastian is a wonderfully written character…though quite creepy. He is a child who is highly intelligent with some bizarre social behaviors. He is an only child that lives with his weak, scared mother and rich over-powering father. He is arrested and taken into custody…enter Daniel Hunter. His attorney. Daniel is a character I liked immediately….he was so well-written I could picture him clearly with his dark eyes and dark hair….his serious and lonely expression which seemed to define him. Daniel became a lawyer because of his unsettled and troubled past. A past he has escaped from but has haunted him always. The novel delves between the current case of Sebastian and Daniel’s past and what draws Daniel to defend and support Sebastian. Daniel believes that Sebastian is too young to be tried for murder and becomes his closest alley while everyone around them have already convicted Sebastian as “The Angel Killer”.
Daniel discovers that the woman who helped pull him out of the darkest places, the woman who loved him and taught him self-respect, the woman who he grew to call Mam, and the woman he left in anger years earlier….has died. Minnie’s death has opened wounds and memories and leads Daniel to discover not only the truth about his past, but the truth of what happened in the park between Ben Stokes and Sebastian Croll on August 8, 2009.
Fast-paced with well-developed characters…..I loved Minnie, Daniel and even the odd Sebastian.