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Reproduced with kind permission of Little, Brown Book Group

Reproduced with kind permission of Little, Brown Book Group

Daniel is now a hot-shot lawyer but once he was a lost and damaged boy, who could so easily have found himself on the wrong side of the law, if it hadn’t been for the love of his foster mother Minnie. Now he finds himself taking on the case of another lost boy, Sebastian, who has been accused of murder. Daniel empathises with the troubled Sebastian and the case causes him to re-assess his own past, particularly when he discovers that Minnie has died; he had cast her aside years’ before after discovering a hideous secret, and now that secret is haunting him. As the court case progresses and Daniel delves deeper into Minnie’s past as well as Sebastian’s, the notion of guilt and innocence starts to take on a whole new meaning.

I found this to be an intriguing first novel; the relationship between Daniel and Minnie is centre-stage rather than the murder case, and this makes it far more than a simple crime story. Their relationship is depicted with tenderness, and the complexity of human emotions is deftly captured. There is a real sense of loss here, both of love and innocence, and Ballantyne ably shows how this loss resonates across her character’s lives. The murder case adds an intriguing “what might have been” dimension to Daniel’s tale which I felt added to the poignancy of the central relationship. An excellent read, very involving and thought-provoking, which challenges the concept that guilt and innocence are irreconcilable opposites. Rating:***

Piatkus, 2012, ISBN 9780749957285