As Lisa Balllantyne makes clear about her first novel, she has no experience in the field of law or social work, or psychiatry, so she had to do a lot of research for this book. Though, it is set in England, this story of a child killing possibly by another child is relevant on both sides of the ocean. The story focuses on exploring guilt and how past guilt affects out present day lives.
Daniel Hunter is a London solicitor hired to defend a very troubled 11year old boy who is accused of killing a neighbor child. Sebastian reminds him of himself at that age because he too was full of anger and could have ended up in a similar situation. Daniel's anger stems from being forced to live in one foster home after another because his mother is a drug addict.
At the age of 11, he was sent to a farm in Brampton owned by Minnie who sells eggs and jellies to support herself and takes in foster children who need a strong hand and a lot of love. Even though he grows to love the farm, he runs away several times to try and find his mother. He is afraid she will die it he was not there to take care of her. Minnie has her own feelings of guilt and sadness. Both her daughter and husband are dead under circumstances she refuses to talk about and to cope she turns to alcohol.
Eventually, Minnie adopts him. She teaches him to take pride in his work and in school and sends him off to college. But Minnie does the unforgivable and lies to him about his mother. When Daniel finds out the truth, he refuses to have anything more to do with her. As the story opens, Minnie has sent him a letter asking him to come home for one last time as she is dying.
During the trial, Daniel allows himself to reminisce about the past with his mother and then with Minnie. He is very drawn to Sebastian whom he sees as having the same abusive childhood as he had. But does he or has he misjudged Sebastian?
I could not put down this book-well I did but I did not want to. The story of Daniel and Minnie is especially powerful. Sebastian's story is sad. The author quotes Victor Hugo at the front of the novel "The soul in darkness sins, but the real sinner is he who caused the darkness".