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The Guilty One: A Novel Paperback – March 19, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062195514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062195517
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Author One-on-One: Deborah Crombie and Lisa Ballantyne

Deborah CrombieLisa Ballantyne

Deborah Crombie is the author of the best-selling Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James novels.

Deborah Crombie: First of all, congratulations on your first novel! The Guilty One is richly complex, and it gives the reader much to think about. How did this story come about? What made you start writing it?

Lisa Ballantyne: Thank you! I am always first drawn to characters, and in this case the characters of Daniel and Minnie began to “inhabit me”—I could see them and smell them. After musing on them for some time I realized that Daniel was telling the story as an adult working in London. I could see him in a suit and it was soon after that I realized he was a solicitor. It was only at that stage that I thought about giving him a very young client who would remind him of how he too had once been a very violent little boy. Sebastian is therefore there as a construct, to throw Daniel’s childhood into relief.

DC: The book shifts between Daniel’s experiences in his adolescence and the present day trial of his young client accused of murder. What made you choose this structure?

LB: I find that a book will tell me how it is to be written. It was the case with The Guilty One. I tried different voices and structures at the beginning, but once I stayed in Daniel’s point of view and alternated with his childhood and the trial things seemed to fall into place. It was an exciting book for me, too, to write as at the beginning when Daniel got the letter, I didn’t know what Minnie had done to alienate him, nor did I know if Sebastian would be found guilty or innocent.

DC: The Guilty One is so intricately plotted. I’m always curious about fellow writers’ processes: do you plot in advance, or do you write where the characters take you?

LB: Definitely the latter. I write as I live. I find it hard to plan everything out. I follow my instincts. I find that when I know a character well, the plot will come.

DC: Which of your characters was the easiest to write? Which was the most difficult?

LB: That is a good question. I found Minnie very easy to write and I loved writing Daniel. I did a lot of research to write Sebastian so he was perhaps the least instinctual of all the characters, although he was very clear to me.

DC: One of the most heartrending scenes, for me, was when Daniel has his falling out with Minnie, a character I grew to love. Was this scene hard for you to write?

LB:Yes, it was a hard scene to write and I wrote it very quickly and didn’t change much of it afterwards. I could see it playing out before my eyes, like a scene from a movie. It was heartbreaking for me because I understood both of them and I also knew that Daniel would come to regret his actions.

DC:The idea of nurture vs. nature plays a big role in The Guilty One. What are you hoping readers take away from this book on that topic?

LB: I hope that readers enjoy the book and have sympathy for the characters and that it then leads them to question the causes of crime and possibly our responsibility for people who commit crime, especially children. The question of Sebastian’s guilt or innocence in the book is irrelevant, because everyone in the book is guilty.

From Booklist

London criminal solicitor Daniel Hunter feels a certain affinity for client Sebastian Croll, an 11-year-old charged with murdering 8-year-old Ben Stokes, his neighbor and playmate, in a nearby playground. Just as Hunter gets Sebastian’s case, he receives a last communication from Minnie Flynn, the adoptive mother from whom he became estranged years earlier, causing him to relive memories of his own difficult childhood, during which he was separated from his beloved, drug-addict mother. The chapters alternate between Hunter’s youth and the strong forensic and circumstantial case against Sebastian, who’s considered precocious yet “unsettling” even by his own defense team as he maintains his innocence and as his own troubled home life comes to light. This is a sensitive and insightful narrative that gradually builds suspense during Sebastian’s trial and Hunter’s revelations. Truth is revealed in the final pages, but Ballantyne leaves it to the reader to determine just where the guilt lies. An accomplished first novel and a good bet for book groups. --Michele Leber

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Customer Reviews

Great character development.
Janice Adamson
I liked this book, an easy story to read with a good twist at the end, it was a book that kept me interested enough that I finished it within 3 days.
First let me start by saying that my general rule of thumb is to only read books rated above 4 stars!!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius TOP 100 REVIEWER on September 3, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I thought this was a generally well-written, readable and thoughtful book. It cuts between the stories of Daniel, a solicitor defending an 11-year-old accused of murdering a playmate and of Daniel's own troubled childhood which lends him empathy with the accused boy. There are many good things about it: the prose is readable, the structure which cuts between the present and Daniel's past works extremely well for much of the book and the courtroom scenes are convincing and very gripping.

I did think that the book had its flaws. At 450 pages it is too long. Lisa Ballantyne does a good job of creating the atmosphere of Daniel's childhood and of constructing his inner world but there is an awful lot of it and, as with the present-day story I found it dragged rather after a while, and toward the end as the trial becomes really gripping the flashbacks to Daniel's childhood which worked so well earlier become a serious intrusion. Ballantyne makes some good points about the law and the influence of the press on trials, but often through some terribly clunky dialogue and they could have been made more tellingly with a little more finesse. I also found that after I'd finished the book, I wasn't entirely convinced by the characters or the explanations of their actions, which somewhat undermined the publisher's claim that this is a "deeply psychological book" and the idea that it is a profound study of the nature of guilt.

Despite these reservations I thought this a pretty good book. I don't think it is as profound as it thinks it is, but overall is still recommendable as an often gripping and interesting read.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By E. Schlossberg on April 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although this book is probably worth reading, it has two major flaws. First, at 451 pages, it is around 100 pages too long. Second, the two big surprises in the book are extremely predictable, which was disappointing. I kept hoping that this would be one of those really good suspense books that leads you down a path only to pull the rug out from under you, but it was not. Both suspense outcomes were obvious, so that it was not so much a matter of "if" as "when". What I did liked about the book was the way the author told two stories in one simultaneously, and switched fairly effortlessly from Daniel's at-risk childhood to his legal representation of Sebastian, another at-risk little boy. 3.5 stars.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By misplaced cajun on March 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
Daniel Hunter is a solicitor specializing in defense of minors. His own upbringing and being bounced around from foster home to foster home, led to his decision to become an advocate for children in the same sorts of situations. In fact, if Daniel hadn't been adopted when he finally was and cared for by the woman he'd come to call mom, he might have ended up exactly where these kids are.

Eleven-year-old Sebastian Croll is accused of murdering his eight-year-old neighbor. The crime is particularly brutal and the evidence does seem to point to Sebastian's guilt. But Sebastian insists that he is innocent. Daniel sees some of himself in Sebastian and while he isn't sure whether to believe the child or not, the fact that this kid will be tried as an adult for such a terrible crime weighs heavily on the lawyer. When his adopted mother passes away in the midst of everything, Daniel is forced to face the demons of his own past as well.

This debut from Lisa Ballantyne is an immensely captivating read. In Daniel, his past, and the case, Ballantyne has created a story that is haunting and impossible to walk away from. Daniel's decision to distance himself from Minnie is kept from the reader for the majority of the book as is the truth behind the case itself. These elements alone are guaranteed to keep any curious reader hooked, but when you add in Ballantyne's style and characters you end up with a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers.

THE GUILTY ONE was released last year in the UK and has already garnered Ballantyne quite a bit of attention. Now US readers have a crack at it as well. I expect the book will be equally as well received here (Ballantyne earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By PattyLouise VINE VOICE on March 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The Guilty One
Lisa Ballantyne

My " in a nutshell" summary...

A little boy is murdered...most likely by another little boy. The circumstances bring back memories of the totally dysfunctional childhood of the attorney defending the little boy accused of this crime.

My thoughts after reading this book...

I've just finished the last few pages...even reading the author's thank you's to her early readers for their positive criticisms...and my thoughts are saying what an amazing book this is. I haven't felt this close to a book in a long while. Daniel and and a trial that will determine Sebastian's future. Daniel...battered from a truly horrible childhood and separation from his drug addicted dependent mother. Seb...damaged by his own mother's dependence on prescription drugs and an overbearingly cruel husband. Daniel feels a strange strong connection to Seb. Minnie...foster mom who later adopted Daniel...providing him with love and a home and the belief that he is a good smart boy who will be somebody someday. Minnie... forgiving Daniel for the many transgressions and pain he caused her...showing him matter what he did to hurt her.

So...we have the killing of the little boy and we have the trial...and we have an odd bond between Daniel and Sebastian. The chapters alternate from Daniel's life with Minnie to the courtroom trial for Sebastian. I guess I could make comparisons between Daniel and Seb...both are damaged, both seem to have the capacity to do another person harm, both are placed in a position of needing to protect their mothers. Daniel feels the need to protect Seb even while questioning his oddness...his attraction to not so nice things.
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