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The Guilty One Paperback – 30 Aug 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Piatkus (30 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074995728X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749957285
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 3 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (224 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 120,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


[a] moving, insightful debut . . . It's easy to see why this caused such a stir at Frankfurt last year. If it isn't this year's Before I Go To Sleep, I'll eat my laptop (The Guardian)

An absorbing psychological debut (Company (Top Pick))

It's one of the best debuts I've ever encountered (Shari Low The Daily Record)

Lisa Ballantyne has written a first novel that is both moving and suspenseful; richly detailed, yet with the eerie simplicity of a parable (Joyce Carol Oates)

This is an outstanding work of fiction, and the real crime would have been if the talent of Lisa Ballantyne had never been discovered (Daily Record)

Thought provoking, brave and challenging, this book is an unsettling and compulsive read (Rosamund Lupton, bestselling author of Sister and Afterwards)

Gripping stuff (More!)

It's a work of genuine substance about real human beings with real human flaws, in which nothing can be tied up neatly because life doesn't work like that. The Guilty One puts her firmly on the list of writers to watch (Irish Independant)

This is as assured debut novel that has 'bestseller' slapped all over it (

Fast-paced and emotionally charged, we were tearing through it well into the night. Keep a tissue handy - you'll be a wreck by the end (Emerald Street)

Gets better as you read it . . . a novel that grips . . . engrossing the reader who will want to find out what happens (Dulwich Book Reviews)

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 (Richard from Richard and Judy's Book Club, Autumn 2012 Pick)

Wow! I finished this late yesterday afternoon at the beach...This is a really good legal thriller. I like the way the chapters alternated in time. This doesn't always work, sometimes confusing, but the author Lisa made it happen and did it very well (Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books)

I couldn't get this book out of my head. It kept me up all night and guessing the whole way through, I loved it (Jenny Colgan)

Ballantyne paints such vivid portraits of her characters that it is impossible not to sympathise with the tolerant and loving Minnie, and this psychological drama will keep you wondering right to the final chapter (Townsville Eye)

A mature, gripping book you'll be desperate to tell your friends about (Big Issue (Scotland))

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 (Hallie Ephron, author of There Was an Old Woman)

The Guilty One beautifully blends both past and present in a novel that will keep readers interested (RT Book Reviews)

Book Description

Deeply psychological and suspenseful, The Guilty One is already an international phenomenon and one of the most talked-about books of the year.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 4 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Eight year old Ben is found brutally murdered in a playground, eleven year old Sebastian is charged with his murder; the main character, however, is Daniel, Sebastian's solicitor. Daniel had a troubled, often violent, childhood; his drug addict mother was unable to look after him so Daniel was often in care. Last in a long line of foster mothers was Minnie Flynn, who eventually adopted Daniel, and turned his life around. Some years later he had a violent argument with Minnie and refused to have any further contact with her.

Alternate chapters deal with Daniel's childhood, which I found the more interesting part of the story; there are some aspects, however, which just don't make sense. Daniel, bright and articulate, having gone to university hasn't developed the maturity to understand what happened with Minnie; it just doesn't make sense that he would behave in this way, nor does his violence towards her. Neither I could I understand why he felt such an affinity with Sebastian; given that they come from such vastly different backgrounds. There are areas of this novel which haven't been, but should have been explored: Sebatian's home life is skimmed over; the parents of the dead boy are hardly fact more time is given to dubious witnesses at the trial.

Some of the writing is clunky and burdened with a little too much detail on the wrong areas, and the description of a character's face being "shaped like a melon seed" had me laughing out loud, which I'm sure wasn't intended. Was it broad at the forehead with a pointy an alien, or the other way round? Either way it's clumsy and makes for a lovely mental picture. Surely "heart-shaped" would have been better. I found the ending quite predictable but will say no more than that.

The hype on the cover of this book led me to believe (hope) that it would be so much more than it actually is....average.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. C. Swarfield TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was hooked from page one, this is an outstandingly easy to read well written book that as well as being a
cracking story raises some serious issues which really does leave you wondering is anything as it
really seems.

The story revolves around Sebastian who is eleven years old who is accused of murdering little
Ben Stokes who is eight years old and their solicitor who is hired to defend Sebastian.

It is not hard to see why Sebastian behaves as he does his mother is seriously neurotic and his
father is largely absent from his young life spending more time in Hong Kong than in his family

Daniel is the solicitor who is hired to defend Sebastian - why does he empathise so much with
Sebastian - I do not want to give the plot away suffice to say I cannot recommend this highly enough -
it's one of the best debut novels I have read in ages well done.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Bannister TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 July 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Lisa Ballantyne deserves to have sold her debut novel around the world as this is something special. The Guilty One focuses on a young boy, Sebastian, who is being questioned about the murder of a younger boy, Ben. Daniel Hunter is the solicitor bought in to defend him. The story is just as much about Daniel as Sebastian. We meet Daniel as a young boy being taken to a small village to meet his latest foster mother Minnie. In the present day it is clear that something happened to make Daniel cut her out of his life but what did she do that caused him so much pain.

I recently read and enjoyed Alex Warwood's The Wicked Girls earlier this year which details the lives of two women who were convicted of child murder as young girls and Simon Lelic's The Child Who which also featured a solicitor and the effect the trial of a child murderer had on his life. However the story of Daniel's childhood in this book really does add a very special dimension to the story. Unusually for a book told in alternate times both stories were powerful and relevant.

This story is one which captures you from the first page with the theme of guilt running through each chapter. The characters are so wonderful, I wanted to meet Minnie, Daniel and Sebastian as they all became so real to me. This is a stunning book, I will be recommending it to all my book-loving friends.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Canbel on 12 July 2013
Format: Paperback
Sorry, this book is way too long and self indulgent. To its credit I made myself read (actually listened to it on Audible - narrators are excellent it must be said) to the end to find out whether nasty little Sebastian was guilty for sure and just why Daniel, our protagonist, fell out with poor Minnie, his warm and loving stepmother.

Now, it's a great and evocative device for authors to bring in smells and textures to their prose. But the first half of the book is ludicrously full of Daniel's impressions of the smells and textures of Minnie and the world. It is overdone to a point of exasperation (my exasperation!). Plus Daniel, who yes, had an unfortunate background, can be cruel, sadistic and unforgiving, an uncomfortable leading character.

To be fair, the story is compelling in its casting of suspense, and the murder/courtroom theme the most interesting and well written aspect. However, this book is an overlong wind up, depressing and even heartbreaking. I actually felt manipulated by the suspense in the plot to read it to the end, which didn't leave me feeling any better.

My advice is to give it a miss. Instead you could give yourself a treat by reading the wonderful, "The Woodcutter" by Reginald Hill.
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