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This psychological thriller from debut author Lisa Ballantyne is book club gold. It’s as gripping as SJ Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep, but it also throws up some hard-hitting questions sure to provoke fiery debate over your wine and cheese.

Set in London, it follows solicitor Daniel Hunter as he agrees to defend enigmatic Sebastian, an eleven-year-old accused of brutally murdering his eight-year-old neighbour. Haunted by the recent conviction of a bright but underprivileged juvenile delinquent, Daniel is desperate to ensure that another youngster doesn’t have his life ruined by a childhood incident – whether guilty or not. As the case progresses, we learn that Daniel’s own childhood could have easily lead him on a much darker path were it not for Minnie, the woman who adopted him. But in this twisting tale of finger pointing, even Minnie isn’t exempt from guilt.

Told in chapters that alternate between the current courtroom drama and flashbacks of Daniel’s violent past, the book throws up the gritty argument of nature v nurture and points an accusatory finger at the UK criminal justice system. Are murderers born, or are they made? 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.

The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne (Piatkus, £6.99)


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