Childhood should be a time of innocence and tranquility, but for Daniel, the protagonist in The Guilty One, his youth was a time of confusion and hardship. Daniel’s mother was an addict and Daniel was thrust into the harsh reality of the world as a child being shuffled from foster home to foster home. When he finally is placed with Minnie Flynn in a rural town outside of London, he gets a real sense of family and belonging. After refusing to leave to be adopted by another family so that he can stay on Minnie’s farm where he feels safe and secure, Daniel is adopted by Minnie and becomes entrenched in the country life.
Years later, Daniel is a successful criminal defense lawyer and has been assigned a case involving a young boy, Sebastian, who has been accused of murdering an eight-year-old neighbor. Never certain of the boys innocence or guilt, Daniel must build a defense for the young boy while also combating the memories that haunt him from his past after Minnie dies. Daniel had long been estranged from her, unable to forgive her for something that she did years ago, and when he looks at his current situation with the case, he is reminded of himself as a child. Daniel realizes that he was a difficult and disturbed child, and sees qualities of himself in Sebastian; this leads him to wonder if he may have been called to this case in order to change the young boy’s life just as Minnie did his.
Ultimately, with the story line divided between Daniel’s past and present, the reader is slowly led to understand Daniel’s sense of urgency with the case and his sense of regret in his personal life. Gradually, we begin to understand who really is The Guilty One. This fabulous debut novel is a beautiful blend of mystery and reflection and is well worth a read.