Degrees of Guilt
Author: H.S. Chandler
Publication Date: May 16th 2019
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.
A gripping, sexy and twisty novel for readers who devoured ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL, APPLE TREE YARD and HE SAID/SHE SAID.
Holy crap…What an opening chapter! Such violence and degradation. What would break a woman down so much that she cracks her husband’s skull open and calmly phones the police whilst her his brains trickle out onto the immaculately polished floor. Are things as they seem or is Maria a cold-blooded killer? Is it pre-meditated and what’s the reason behind wanting him dead?
Can you honestly say you couldn’t imagine yourself killing another human being, no matter the reasons or motive? If you say absolutely not, I would challenge that thought, any human has the innate ability to carry such basal actions out. Chandler takes us there – straight out of our comfort zone and bang into the front line. She drip feeds us information, keeps us on edge and drooling for more. She exposes the cruelty of human nature and lays bare the catalyst from fear and anger.
Abuse is the core theme surrounding the masterpiece that is Degrees of Guilt. There is different degrees of abuse. This is something Maria has been living for the best part of twenty years. Abuse takes many forms – Maria appears strong, competent and most of all unperturbed by the enormity of the crime she’s committed. The most charming of suitors can be harbouring toxic impulses and Maria has learned that lessons albeit too late. Maria is a murderer, Maria is a victim.
I enjoy Psychological Thrillers immensely. I loved the flipping of the coin of Maria being both the good guy and the bad. It was extremely clever to witness the brokenness of a woman categorically controlled of all choices in her life to the point where she fights back. A person can only take so much before they snap and lose control – but essentially taking back every fragment control she has lost throughout the years. Maria in hindsight was perceptible to the coercive control that Edward cleverly subjected her to. He isolated her from her friend, Andrea that tried to warn her about Edward. She could see the maliciousness within him, she knew things weren’t right. When they got married he convinced her that her mental health was affecting her job, so she quit. He took the car away after claiming it wouldn’t get through its MOT, she wasn’t working anymore so didn’t need a bank account and she wasn’t a signatory on any of Edwards accounts, so she suffered financial abuse also. She wasn’t allowed to watch TV or have access to a phone. She was truly alone. Can you honestly for one moment imagine how that feels? Wouldn’t you do anything to get out of that situation?
The book has all the angst. Everything is pre-judged, everyone has an opinion. No-one believes she could have possibly acted out of self-defence. She hated her husband. That was as plain as the nose on your face. The jurors aren’t to judge until the final bell tolls but all the same they have their pre-conceived ideas. It’s human nature – broken and shameful. The very essence of human nature is to cover up not to confess. No one knows what to do with that knowledge. Is she callous and cold or is she a woman with nothing left to lose?
The secondary characters are also flawed and are not immune to the complexity of the human mind. Who are they to judge? Are they qualified, No. They are aggressive, meek, and all the little things in between. We meet Lottie, a housewife and mother who is desperate for something more. The parallel between Lottie and Maria are certainly not lost on me. They seem to be struggling with similar things in their home life. Lottie’s husband also doesn’t appreciate everything she does for him. Yes, he works hard so that his family can live a comfortable life, but Lottie does too – with no thanks. The jury service is just what she’s been aching for. Stimulation and a purpose beyond being a mother and a wife. Just what will her role be in the trial of Maria. What will be the connection between Lottie and another Juror, Cameron?
Ending – well I certainly didn’t expect that shit your pants twist at the end! Chandler gives you one reality whilst catapulting you into another dimension without any pre-warning and giving you the motherload of whiplash!
This read will have your brain spinning, your heart hammering and your ass on the edge of the chair. Solid storytelling. Flawed heroes and a lifetime of pain put right by the worst act of violence.
Many thanks to Tracey at compulsive readers for my spot on the blog tour. I received my copy through netgalley and my thoughts are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.