After making its debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair, The Guilty One has achieved success in 20 territories worldwide, ensuring a place on many "one-to-watch" lists for first-time novelist Lisa Ballantyne. Part-crime novel, part-psychological drama, the unsettling premise of her story seems crafted to leave an indelible impression.
The crime itself reeks of horrific irony: the body of eight-year-old Ben Stokes is found bludgeoned to death in a children's playground. His suspected murderer is his 11-year-old playmate, Sebastian Croll, who appears to police as a textbook juvenile sociopath. Sebastian's smiling, angel-faced facade puzzles his defence team, including solicitor Daniel Hunter. As the investigation proceeds, Daniel grows increasingly aware of the worrying parallels between Sebastian's fractured home life and his own troubled past.
Despite brief references to other widely publicised child murders, Ballantyne avoids the obvious recycling of case details and criminal profiles. The end result is a story that reveals more than meets the eye, as the final judgement treads not just the fine line between innocence and guilt but that of coincidence and deception.