Who can say they are 100% innocent? Who decides who is guilty?
Hello and welcome to today’s post! I am over the moon to be part of the blog tour for the paperback release of Degrees of Guilt by the gigantically mega talented author H.S. Chandler! For the occasion, I am resharing the review I wrote back when I first read the novel…
To make sure my feelings hadn’t changed, I picked the book again and dived back in. What’s the result? Even more love for this outstanding legal thriller!
Title: Degrees of Guilt
Author: H.S. Chandler
Date of paperback publication: 5 September 2019
Publisher: Trapeze Books (Orion Publishing group)
Rating: 5 ⭐️
When you read this book, you will think you know every twist in the tale.
Maria is on trial for attempted murder.
She has confessed to the crime and wanted her husband dead.
Lottie is on the jury, trying to decide her fate.
She embarks on an illicit affair with a stranger, and her husband can never find out.
You will think you know who is guilty and who is innocent.
You will be wrong.
Review originally posted on May, 16 2019
Innocent. Guilty. Two words among the millions which can be found in any dictionary. Except those ones decide on people’s future. On paper, it is easy to make to see the difference and draw a bold line between those nouns, but life is anything but easy, and this is what Maria and Lottie both discover in Degrees of Guilt.
I am a sucker for legal thrillers. Give me courtroom drama any day and I’m a happy reader. But…
Degrees of Guilt is different from regular legal thrillers.
Degrees of Guilt is unlike any other legal thrillers.
Degrees of Guilt builds its own path on the legal thrillers road to awesomeness.
Can you guess if I enjoyed reading this novel now?
Helen Fields, or should I say H.S. Chandler, is one of those writers who can easily slip into people’s mind, dig out the best and the worst they can find, and offer it to their readers in a beautifully and frightfully brilliant way. I can’t even touch the subject of the plot without first mentioning how its power is enhanced by Helen’s superb and expert narrative skills.
How many times do we gloss over newspaper articles about every day drama? Don’t we all watch the newscast absentmindedly while they discuss awful violent incidents in a robotic voice? What happens when the name in the headlines is yours? What happens when you become part of the news… without your consent?
Degrees of Guilt reminds us there is more than one side to every story. In fact, there is more than two sides, too. Mixing the intricate and slippery ways of the law to human nature, adding secrets and lies before slathering a good amount of judgement on top of it, this novel tackles current matters with a hand of steel and hearts full of emotions.
Maria has admitted to attempting to kill her husband, famous ecologist Mr Bloxham. Lottie has been selected to be a member of the jury. Simple? Haha! No.
A few sentences allowed me to get a clear picture of both women, very different at first sight.
Maria’s coldness felt like an armor. What would have possibly spurred this spouse to hit her husband so hard that his head caved in? Reading her story was absolutely heart-breaking and amazingly inspiring. In the middle of the #MeToo movement and the slow progress societies are making when it comes to relationships and their nature, I found her character to be extremely spot-on. Her defense is based on the basis she was living a nightmare, stuck in an abusive marriage. Her account made my blood run cold. Violence has multiple faces and Edward Bloxham seemed to be wearing one of them. But can Maria be trusted? She doesn’t seem to feel any remorse… Should she? If her testimony is true, who could really judge her actions? I couldn’t get enough of her portrayal, the author building two cases: one painfully explaining how a woman can end up unable to flee a toxic relationship and find her life reduced to the bare minimum, while the second pushing hard facts to blind the world to the effects of manipulation and violence. There is a fine line between being a devious wife and a clever-husband’s victim and the reader is asked to walk this line with Maria and Lottie. Prepare for some really intense moments, so real the fear makes you cling to your tea cup a little stronger, so authentic your heart skips beats and your brain is in limbo, unable to process it all.
Lottie… I found it funny she should be chosen to be part of a jury. Quick to judge, she seemed really worried about other’s opinion of her, and I wondered how she would restrain her habit of making assumptions in such a situation. A trial is tricky. Both sides have arguments, proofs are examined, everything and everyone is scrutinized. It is impossible to stay impervious to what you witness. So how do you keep your feelings at bay, how do you steer clear of external factors to focus solely on your case? Jury members are no robots and H.S. Chandler reminds us we are flawed in many ways. Lottie is a wife and a mother, unhappy to see her life coming down to those two facts. Her personal life is bound to interfere with her duties and, weirdly enough, her own decisions create a parallel with the case she’s working on, building a multi-layered plot which takes countryside roads with bumps and holes she tries to escape, only to find herself closer to Maria than she ever thought.
The prosecution has a strong case, and Maria is facing the heavy and scary shadow of the Law. Is there room for emotions? Are facts and the interpretations we make of them enough to make the truth appear? Is there only one truth? Oh, dear author, I love you. You’ve treated me to my all-time favorite legal thriller. I wish I had the words to do justice to this book, but I can’t. The best justice for it is for everyone to read it!!!
Did I mention Degrees of Guilt is brilliant and I will personally sue you if you don’t get it? Now I’ve said it.
Chandler has written a thrilling and compulsive read shifting directions with every chapter, ratcheting tension as one life hangs in the balance and others are threatened to change forever. Five stars are not enough for this novel which associates a profound character-driven plot to a fantastic and riveting case on the law and its limits.
We are all guilty. It’s only a matter of degrees.
Update: Even knowing where the twists would be and how to untie the knots, I was enthralled by the writing, totally captivated by the characters, and in awe of the high standards set by this book. I reached the end with a happy sigh. Rare are the books that leave me so satisfied!
Remember, you’re expected to be in court on September 5! Here’s the way: Amazon
Huge thanks to Tracy Fenton for organising the tour and letting me be part of it with one of my favourite reviews. Thank you to the publisher for my copy.
A former barrister, HS Chandler is a pseudonym for bestselling crime author Helen Fields, who practised for thirteen years in both family and criminal law. Having extensively prosecuted and defended, she is an avid believer in the right to a fair trial, and in the invaluable role that juries play in the British legal system. Helen was born in Hampshire and now
lives in the US.
Ps: Helen is adorably sweet! (and yes, I was fangirling when this picture ⇩ was taken!!!)