Daniel Hunter has been working in London as a solicitor defending clients, including juveniles, for several years. One day, an eight-year-old boy, Ben Stokes, is found dead in a children's playground, and Daniel is assigned the case of defending Sebastian Croll, the eleven-year-old boy who is accused of murdering Ben. Daniel begins to find out more about Sebastian, his parents and his home life, and this causes him to start thinking back to his own experiences in foster care after his own mother let him down. Most of all, he thinks about Minnie, the woman he went to live with, who adopted him, cared for him and loved him, but who he believes betrayed him, and hurt him so much that he hasn't wanted anything to do with her for the past fifteen years. Daniel starts to see similarities between him younger self and Sebastian, making this case his most difficult one yet.
'Watching the doors close on Sebastian, Daniel heard his own childhood cries in the boy's desperate please. He remembered being Sebastian's age. He had been troubled. He had been capable of violence. What was it that had saved him from this fate?'
The theme of guilt, and of who is guilty, raised in the title of the novel, runs throughout, and a degree of guilt could be attributed to several of the characters here as the story unfolds.
The structure of the narrative sees the two strands of the story running parallel to each other, with alternating chapters devoted to Daniel's past, and to his present and the case involving Sebastian. This structure works really well here, as Daniel sees aspects of himself in Sebastian, and the reader learns more about Daniel then and now, and we can observe how his understanding of himself and his past develops as the case involving Sebastian progresses, and also begin to question whether his memories of himself are clouding his judgment now. 'His mind was a confusion of recent and distant memories.'
Published by Piatkus
I've read and reviewed another novel covering some similar ground to this, The Child Who by Simon Lelic, which I would also highly recommend.
Reviewed for Amazon Vine