The Guilty One

( 13 )

Overview

An eight-year-old boy is found dead in a playground . . . and his eleven-year-old neighbor is accused of the crime. Leading the defense is London solicitor Daniel Hunter, a champion of lost causes.

A damaged boy from a troubled home, Daniel's young client, Sebastian, reminds Daniel of his own turbulent childhood—and of Minnie, the devoted woman whose love saved him. But one terrible act of betrayal irrevocably shattered their bond.

As past and ...

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The Guilty One

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Overview

An eight-year-old boy is found dead in a playground . . . and his eleven-year-old neighbor is accused of the crime. Leading the defense is London solicitor Daniel Hunter, a champion of lost causes.

A damaged boy from a troubled home, Daniel's young client, Sebastian, reminds Daniel of his own turbulent childhood—and of Minnie, the devoted woman whose love saved him. But one terrible act of betrayal irrevocably shattered their bond.

As past and present collide, Daniel is faced with disturbing questions. Will his sympathy for Sebastian and his own memories blind him to the truth? What happened in the park—and who, ultimately, is to blame for a little boy's death? Rethinking everything he's ever believed, Daniel begins to understand what it means to be wrong . . . and to be the guilty one.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
Murdered children aren't uncommon in genre thrillers, but children who are killers are harder to find. That alone makes Lisa Ballantyne's jolting first novel…something of a novelty…But this young Scottish writer isn't simply out to shock; she's intent on raising awareness of how parental abuse and societal indifference instill in some children a smoldering, explosively violent rage.
Publishers Weekly
A child-on-child murder drives Ballantyne’s searing debut, a psychological legal thriller. Because solicitor Daniel Hunter, an experienced defender of children accused of crimes, was a troubled child himself, he connects with his disturbed client, 11-year-old Sebastian Croll, who’s on trial for beating to death eight-year-old Ben Stokes in a London park. Alternating flashbacks of Daniel’s youth as a fatherless foster child of a drug-addicted mother given by social workers to eccentric, perceptive, and loving Minnie Flynn demystify Daniel’s rejection of Minnie, who both hurt him and saved him from Sebastian’s fate or worse. Meanwhile, the truth about Sebastian and his arguably overdrawn dysfunctional family gradually emerges. Drawn with ruthless realism, Ballantyne’s sympathetic major characters, especially Daniel and Minnie, leap from her pages into readers’ hearts. Ballantyne also indicts the British government’s stingy refusal to fund genuine rehabilitation of juvenile offenders in this scalding exploration of childhood violence, adult refusal to forgive, and redemptive love. Agent: Nicola Barr, Greene & Heaton (U.K.). (Mar.)
Lee Child
“Sophisticated, suspenseful, unsettling, and highly recommended: a terrific debut from an author to watch.”
Joyce Carol Oates
“Lisa Ballantyne has written a first novel that is both moving and suspenseful; richly detailed, yet with the eerie simplicity of a parable”
Joyce Maynard
“The Guilty One offers that rare combination of a beautifully crafted story, inhabited with characters we haven’t known before (but won’t forget)--and a story that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.”
Hallie Ephron
“On one level, Lisa Ballantyne’s The Guilty One delivers riveting courtroom drama that is unflinchingly true to its characters. At another level, its personal story resonates with love, forgiveness, and the possibility of redemption. The Guilty One will touch your heart even as it leaves you unsettled.”
Rosamund Lupton
“Thought provoking, brave and challenging, this book is an unsettling and compulsive read.”
Richard Madeley
“One of the most readable, emotionally intense novels of the year, and a debut one at that. Lisa Ballantyne pulls off the key writer’s trick of getting us to care about the characters; by the end of the first chapter, you will be comprehensively on the hook.”
Booklist
“An accomplished first novel and a good bet for book groups.”
Daily Record
“One of the best debuts I’ve ever encountered”
Cosmopolitan (UK)
“A page-turner”
Library Journal
London-based solicitor Daniel Hunter typically takes on dicey cases, but his latest is especially troublesome. He's defending 11-year-old Sebastian, accused of killing a younger boy, and as he probes Sebastian's knotty home life Daniel is reminded of his own tragic past: a childhood in foster care until he was adopted by a loving woman who then betrayed him so despicably that he turned his back on her forever. And if that setup doesn't intrigue you, nothing will. Lots of excitement for this debut, including sales to 21 territories so far and a 100,000-copy first printing.
Kirkus Reviews
The tales of two troubled boys at individual crossroads are interwoven in Ballantyne's first novel. Daniel Hunter grew up on the mean streets, with a drugged-out mother and an attitude that landed him in constant trouble. Removed from the mother's home, the English boy bounced from foster home to foster home until he finally ended up at Minnie's. The Irish Minnie, a widow whose only child has died, gave up nursing and moved to the country with her family, but she suffered twin tragedies that have left her alone with her animals and small farm, eking out a living selling eggs and produce and taking in foster kids. When Daniel arrives, Minnie tries to mold the disturbed and violent young boy into a man and eventually earns his respect, but years later, as a grown attorney, he and Minnie have parted ways and he no longer speaks to the woman who saved him. When he receives news that causes him to reflect on the years he put between himself and the affable, loving Minnie, he plunges into a case involving another vulnerable but possibly murderous boy named Sebastian. When Sebastian, whose wealthy parents hide a multitude of sins from the world, is charged with killing an 8-year-old playmate, Daniel must reach back into his own past to defend the child and prevent him from spending his formative years in prison, locked up like a monster. Ballantyne, who is Scottish, exhibits comfortable familiarity with the British legal and social systems, and the story she tells is both absorbing and compelling. This very lengthy novel takes the reader through Daniel's childhood and both the trial preparation and the trial itself. The prose is strong, but Daniel and Sebastian are so damaged that it can be difficult to feel empathy for them. A captivating debut, but Daniel and Sebastian prove difficult to like, and readers may find themselves unsatisfied when turning the last page.
Lee Child
“Sophisticated, suspenseful, unsettling, and highly recommended: a terrific debut from an author to watch.”
Joyce Carol Oates
“Lisa Ballantyne has written a first novel that is both moving and suspenseful; richly detailed, yet with the eerie simplicity of a parable”
Joyce Maynard
“The Guilty One offers that rare combination of a beautifully crafted story, inhabited with characters we haven’t known before (but won’t forget)--and a story that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.”
Hallie Ephron
“On one level, Lisa Ballantyne’s The Guilty One delivers riveting courtroom drama that is unflinchingly true to its characters. At another level, its personal story resonates with love, forgiveness, and the possibility of redemption. The Guilty One will touch your heart even as it leaves you unsettled.”
Rosamund Lupton
“Thought provoking, brave and challenging, this book is an unsettling and compulsive read.”
Daily Record
“One of the best debuts I’ve ever encountered”
Richard Madeley
“One of the most readable, emotionally intense novels of the year, and a debut one at that. Lisa Ballantyne pulls off the key writer’s trick of getting us to care about the characters; by the end of the first chapter, you will be comprehensively on the hook.”
Cosmopolitan (UK)
“A page-turner”
Booklist
“An accomplished first novel and a good bet for book groups.”
criminalelement.com
Ballantyne blurs the line between right and wrong like a double-edged sword in this methodical psychological thriller. The age-old struggle between good and evil takes on new meaning through characters so jaded by life; she makes you question it yourself.
Library Journal
Ballantyne's debut novel is a psychological exploration of two damaged children. One is 11-year-old Sebastian, who has been charged with the murder of his eight-year-old friend Ben. The other is his lawyer, Daniel Hunter, who as a child survived a series of foster homes and thought he'd found a safe place when he was adopted by his last foster mother, Minnie. But something went horribly wrong and Daniel hasn't seen Minnie in years. When he learns that she has died, Daniel is thrown into a guilty tailspin. And as he pursues a defense for Sebastian, he can't help identifying with this strange, and sometimes scary, boy who reminds him of the angry, lost child he once was. VERDICT Though the novel opens with a murder, the legal case that follows is not really the point. The suspense comes in the exploration of just what went wrong in Daniel's past. Ballantyne hits some strong emotional beats, and fans of Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers will find much to like here. [See Prepub Alert, 9/27/12.]—Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062195517
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/19/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 453
  • Sales rank: 346,454
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Ballantyne lives in Glasgow, Scotland; this is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

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(9)

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(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2013

    Excellent book - I would highly recommend.

    I was completely drawn into the story of young Daniel and couldn't put the book down for a moment. I will definitely read more books by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2013

    Great writing

    One of the besr books I've read in a long time.Highly recommend it

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 13, 2013

    Daniel Hunter is no stranger to lost causes. In fact, there was

    Daniel Hunter is no stranger to lost causes. In fact, there was a time, not too long ago, when he himself was seen as a lost cause. His mother was a junkie, so he spent most of his childhood dependent upon the state to place him in proper care. He always felt a constant need to look after his mother, even sacrificing his own needs for her benefit.
    But then he went to live with Minnie. At first, he treated her like all the other foster parents, eager to leave and return to his mother. But there was something different about Minnie. A widow who lost her husband soon after the shocking death of her only daughter, Minnie seemed just as damaged as he was. Soon, the two formed a bond, and Daniel finally seemed to find a home. 
    Then the betrayal happened. While Daniel was beginning his studies as a law student, he discovered a secret that Minnie had kept from him. This information was simply too much to handle. Suddenly Minnie changed from a loving mother figure to just another person who betrayed his trust. In that moment, Daniel vowed never to speak to her again, and to create his future on his own. 
    Fast forward a few years, and Daniel is a successful solicitor working in London. His own troubled background has provided him with the unique ability to defend troubled youth. After the unexpected death of an eight-year-old boy, found dead in a playground, he is called to defend the eleven-year-old neighbor, Sebastian Croll, accused of murdering the other boy. Instantly, Daniel feels a connection to Sebastian. The young boy is surprisingly aware of his situation, and consistently declares his innocence.  But there is something unsettling about the boy. He seems strangely fascinated with the details of the other boy's death, and displays an unusual interest in topics that most would find disturbing. 
    Despite this, Daniel agrees to defend Sebastian. Immediately, the media latches on to the story, shining a light not only on the lives of the victim and accused, but on Daniel as well. As the case begins, Daniel learns of the death of Minnie. Now, as he embarks on arguably the most important case of his career, Daniel finds his past colliding with the present, forcing him to remember his past actions, and atone for his own personal guilt. 
    In The Guilty One, author Lisa Ballantyne has crafted a genuine story of believable characters facing the harsh realities of our time. She calls into question the practices of juvenile trials, and the effects such events have on the mental and physical health of those involved. Each chapter alternates  between the present events of the trial Daniel's personal flashbacks. In doing this, Ballantyne lets to story slowly unfold, maximizing both the suspense as well as character development. She beautifully creates connections between the past and present events, bringing and inevitable coherence to the entire narrative. Despite the often unpleasant subject matter, especially in the details of the small child's death, I felt emotionally connected and moved by the characters and events that unfolded. The ending, while not necessarily expected, left me satisfied and craving even more time with the characters that a grew close to. This is an exceptional novel of emotional depth and lingering suspense. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings From the beginni

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings
    From the beginning, the reader is swept into a story where one little boy is dead at a playground and another little boy is presumed guilty of his murder.  At the same time, a story about one of the solicitors, Daniel, is being told as he moved into different foster homes and eventually into Minnie’s home where he finally finds his match.  With contrasting chapters, the reader sees two young boys’ stories and how a rough childhood can greatly impact how they will face the world on an everyday basis. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2013

    This book is so good, keeps your interest the whole book. She is

    This book is so good, keeps your interest the whole book. She is really a great author for her first book. Hope she makes it a series with Daniel in it. Looking forward to her next book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2014

    Ugh

    Daniel is an idiot.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2013

    First book? No! Too good!

    Liked it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2013

    The guilty one

    I really enjoyed this book

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  • Posted May 2, 2013

    The Guilty One comprises two stories involving Daniel Hunter, a

    The Guilty One comprises two stories involving Daniel Hunter, a London barrister who has made it big in the legal profession after surviving a troubled childhood, and the murder case in which he is defending a child. Hunter's mother was a drug addict, and he never knew his father. He was in and out of foster homes until he was eventually adopted, but he rejected his adoptive mother when he was at university, and they had not spoken in years. He attends her funeral at the time when he has just taken on a case in which he is representing an eleven year old boy who has been accused of brutally murdering an eight year old playmate in the neighborhood park.
    The book paints a thoughtful but disturbing picture of the treatment of children in the criminal justice system in Britain and elsewhere. At what point is a child old enough to be tried as an adult? In Britain, it is ten years old. As Daniel works on the defense of Sebastian Croll, he remembers his own childhood, his adoptive mother who betrayed him even as she tried to do what was best for him, and how he could have ended up in similar circumstances to young Sebastian.
    As well as providing a fascinating look at the British criminal justice system, The Guilty One asks important questions about guilt and innocence? Who really is guilty when a child commits a heinous crime? And how do our criminal justice systems handle these children?
    The author uses these dual stories of Daniel Hunter's childhood and his legal relationship with Sebastian, a slight young boy with the innocent eyes who witnessed brutality in his own home that may have skewed his own understanding of right and wrong. So who is the guilty one?

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  • Posted April 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    3.5/5 The Guilty One is Scottish author Lisa Ballantyne's debut

    3.5/5 The Guilty One is Scottish author Lisa Ballantyne's debut novel.

    Ballantyne's premise is based on headlines we're all seen in newspapers - horrible, inexplicable crimes - children murdering children.

    Solicitor Daniel Hunter is called to take on the defense of eleven year old Sebastian. The charge is murdering his eight year old neighbour in a playground across from their homes. Initially reluctant, Daniel changes his mind after interviewing Sebastian. The boy reminds him of himself at that age.. Sebastian's home life is less than idyllic. Daniel's was downright turbulent - until a steadying hand entered his life. But still, there is something a bit off about the boy....

    Ballantyne tells the story in alternating chapters from Daniel's viewpoint - past and present. As he seeks to defend Sebastian, we slowly but surely relive his own childhood. But could Daniel be letting his own emotions and experiences cloud his judgement? This is an effective technique - curiousity had me wanting to read just one more chapter....

    I enjoyed Daniel's backstory very much. Minnie, the woman who takes on the young Daniel, was an absolutely wonderful character. Ballantyne does an excellent job depicting a child trying to cope with anger, loss and grief. The more we read of Daniel's story, we realize that he has not truly ever put those days behind him. He is still carrying around much anger and guilt.

    But, the present day chapters dealing with the trial just didn't seem as 'fleshed out' to me. Although we get some details regarding Sebastian's home life, they are never really explored. Sebastian as a character is well drawn - his comments, thoughts and mannerisms all paint a picture of a disturbed, creepy child. But does that make him guilty?

    The trial scenes were well done, but the middle of the book seemed to drag a bit, with some ground seeming to be covered over and over again.

    Ballantyne explores guilt with every character in mind - in addition to our two lead characters - the parents, neighbours and society all hold a degree of blame. The Guilty One is a disturbing comment on today's society.

    However, I was somewhat disappointed with the ending - it was almost predictable, as was the 'revelation' of Daniel's story. Still, I thought this was a really good debut.

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  • Posted March 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers' Favorite Young Ben Stokes

    Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers' Favorite

    Young Ben Stokes has been murdered in a secluded part of a children's playground in London, England. A brick was smashed against his face, fracturing his eye socket and killing him within hours. A man reported that he'd seen two boys fighting on the playground and had yelled at them to stop. Eleven year old Sebastian Croll is taken into custody and charged with the murder as he lived near the Stokes and had often played with Ben. Lawyer Daniel Hunter is called upon to defend Sebastian who is a troubled child with a strange but wealthy home-life. Daniel knows quite well how it is to be an unwanted, unloved child as when he was Sebastian's age he was sent to live with Minnie Flynn in rural Brampton. Daniel's mother was an out-of-control addict and could not give him proper care. Daniel is violent, called an "evil little bastard" by his last foster father. But Minnie, a psychiatric nurse, gives Daniel her very best, even though she enjoys her glass filled with gin every night.

    "The Guilty One" by Lisa Ballantine is one of those highly well-written and rare stories of suspense that will leave the reader unsettled but nonetheless reading every word until the end. The main character Daniel Hunter, raised by Minnie ithimself that no one should miss. Minnie Flynn is a multifaceted character who will make her way into reader's hearts as she imperfectly but lovingly salvages a young boy almost destroyed by those around him. Sebastian, his parents, Daniel's work associate, Irene, and all the other characters, major and minor alike, add to the basic story. "The Guilty One" should be on reading lists everywhere; it is brilliant and unforgettable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews

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