This week’s choice is about the nature versus nurture debate, as history repeats itself with two violent children…
Solicitor Daniel Hunter is drawn to defending lost causes, but his life is turned upside down when he begins to work with young Sebastian, who has been accused of murdering an eight-year-old neighbour. As Daniel tries to get to the truth, he reflects on his own unhappy childhood, which was turned round by his foster mother, Minnie, until she betrayed him. What did she do to make Daniel cut her out of his life, and why can he identify with his violent charge?
RICHARD SAYS: ‘The backdrop to The Guilty One has powerful overtones of the horrific real-life case of James Bulger, the Liverpool toddler who was murdered in cold blood by two 10-year-old boys. Ballantyne’s opening shocker is similar: eleven-year-old Sebastian stands accused of killing Ben Stokes, eight. The circumstantial evidence against Sebastian is strong, but his solicitor Daniel’s immediate instinct is to believe Sebastian’s denials of any involvement. The murder is almost a backdrop to the main story. Daniel, we quickly discover, has a past and by the end of the first chapter, you will be hooked. One of the most readable, emotionally intense novels of the year.’
JUDY SAYS: ‘To say Daniel Hunter had a damaged childhood would be an understatement. Repeatedly taken into care and lodged with foster families, the boy grows up angry and distrustful. Finally, he is sent to live with Minnie, an experienced foster mother who coaxes out the child who hides behind Daniel’s aggressive mask. So why, as the grown-up Daniel fights to prove Sebastian’s innocence, does he now hate Minnie?’
OUR READER SAYS: ‘I found the book a bit slow to get going, but once it did, it was compulsive reading. It was hard to relate the young Daniel to the confident lawyer that he grew up to be. Sebastian’s story was interesting – he was a very cunning boy, but because of his upbringing, I suppose it was not surprising. It’s an excellent story and I would recommend this to anyone. It’s an easy read and quite thought-provoking.’
Cilla Stubbs, 65,Pembrokeshire
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