The tales of two troubled boys at individual crossroads are interwoven in Ballantyne’s first novel.
Daniel Hunter grew up on the mean streets, with a drugged-out mother and an attitude that landed him in constant trouble. Removed from the mother's home, the English boy bounced from foster home to foster home until he finally ended up at Minnie’s. The Irish Minnie, a widow whose only child has died, gave up nursing and moved to the country with her family, but she suffered twin tragedies that have left her alone with her animals and small farm, eking out a living selling eggs and produce and taking in foster kids. When Daniel arrives, Minnie tries to mold the disturbed and violent young boy into a man and eventually earns his respect, but years later, as a grown attorney, he and Minnie have parted ways and he no longer speaks to the woman who saved him. When he receives news that causes him to reflect on the years he put between himself and the affable, loving Minnie, he plunges into a case involving another vulnerable but possibly murderous boy named Sebastian. When Sebastian, whose wealthy parents hide a multitude of sins from the world, is charged with killing an 8-year-old playmate, Daniel must reach back into his own past to defend the child and prevent him from spending his formative years in prison, locked up like a monster. Ballantyne, who is Scottish, exhibits comfortable familiarity with the British legal and social systems, and the story she tells is both absorbing and compelling. This very lengthy novel takes the reader through Daniel’s childhood and both the trial preparation and the trial itself. The prose is strong, but Daniel and Sebastian are so damaged that it can be difficult to feel empathy for them.
A captivating debut, but Daniel and Sebastian prove difficult to like, and readers may find themselves unsatisfied when turning the last page.