DEGREES OF GUILT By HS Chandler

SYNOPSIS

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.

MY REVIEW

Having read other books by this author under a different name I knew I was in for a treat. This book is engrossing from start to finish. Eloquently written, with sensitivity to the subject matter covered. You literally feel like you are a part of the book. I love the characters and complexities involved.

Maria Bloxham dials 999 the operator asks what service she requires, Maria calmly says she has killed her husband, and isn’t sure which service that requires. Shortly after this the police arrive to find Maria standing outside of her house holding a chair leg with blood on her hands, on the end of the leg there is hair and blood. Paramedics arrive a few minutes later, followed by DI Anton.

At this stage we have no idea why Maria has done what she has done, although Edward Bloxham isn’t dead. It’s very difficult to write too much of a review as I don’t want to give away any spoilers. The bits I have said are in the opening scenes of the book, you really want to know why! what has driven this woman to this? Is she just a cold blooded killer?

The rest of the book is told through two main points of view, the first Maria guiding the reader through how she met her husband, and what her eighteen years of married life with him has been like, but at the same time her thoughts, and feelings throughout the trial, for attempting to murder Edward. The trial is so well scripted you feel like you are in the courtroom, the jury, the press, the prosecutors, defence, people in the gallery all listening intently to every question, and answer. The prosecutor Miss Imogen Pascal, paints Dr Edward Bloxham to be this very mild mannered well respected man, a consultant ecologist, who had advised both governments and industry on the ecological impact of manufacturing. He had his own video blog which he worked on in his spare time, explaining the effects of global warming on British wildlife, and had more than half a million followers. He had also written books, and appeared on television. He was a champion of encouraging people to protect the small animals in wildlife, such as grasshoppers, robins and the field mouse. He had tried to protect these innocent little creatures, until he himself was struck down by his wife Maria, leaving him as a man who could no longer function without 24 hour care. Why would a wife of eighteen years do this to such a well respected, gentle man?

The defence barrister is James Newell who comes across less abrasive than Miss Pascal. Before the trial begins we are introduced to the Jurors on the trial the descriptions given of these people you can literally picture them, with their different biases and traits, prejudices, an eclectic mix of race an age. Some of them not wanting to be there as it is interrupting their busy lives. Some already deciding that the verdict is guilty before things even start. I like the quote here:

‘Twelve of them had been selected from the jury pool, like some ridiculous game of human bingo’

This being so true of the Jury system in the United Kingdom, but being a fair way of randomly picking who sits on a trial. No psychological profiling picking out who fits with what you want and what you don’t want.

The other viewpoint we are given is through one of the jurors Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Hiraj a twenty six year old female, married to Zain, and mother of a three year old son. What I thought was clever in the story is to some extent some of Lottie’s life and experiences are similar to Maria’s. Although obviously she is a lot younger and hasn’t been married for as long, but the clever writing links the two together in some of the behaviours shown. We also have the juror Cameron Ellis who is an attractive man not much older than Lottie, but clearly a man comfortable in his own skin, confident, at times a little arrogant. It’s clear from the start that Lottie finds him attractive. He seems to reciprocate, but is he telling the truth? Is there more to this man, who at times does blow hot and cold. One minute gentle and the next angry.

Some of the character’s are likeable, others not so, but I think that is done deliberately and cleverly by the author, and it works well. The story at times is a little disturbing but is handled well. That of abuse but not necessarily physical abuse. Maria has never said she didn’t hit her husband that isn’t what the trial is about. It’s more about was it self defence or pre meditated attempted murder.

This book is an absolutely gripping read, not sure which way the jury will go, the deliberations, along with a few twists and turns that you really don’t see coming. This has gone up in one of my top reads of 2019. I very highly recommend this book.

I would like to thank netgalley and Trapeze publishers for giving me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

This book is available to purchase as from the 5th September 2019 as paperback, ebook and audio book.

THE AUTHOR

A former barrister, HS Chandler 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.


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