Felicity was a bright, bouncy, much-liked preteen. Adults doted on her, schoolmates clustered around her, and her future seemed unlimited—until Daniel Blake, barely a year older, assaulted her, tortured her, bound her hands with wire and left her to drown. County solicitor Leo Curtice happens to answer the phone call requesting representation for Daniel. From the moment he agrees, his life spirals out of control. The public is incensed that he’d defend the evil child. His own wife and teenage daughter beg him not to. But Leo needs to understand why Daniel became Daniel. The boy has nothing to say. His mum defers to his stepdad, who just wants Daniel to admit guilt, take his punishment and keep the matter from going to trial. But Leo keeps asking why: why did this happen, what’s in Daniel’s past? When menacing letters arrive threatening Leo’s family, he downplays the danger. But his wife spots a loiterer at their window, and they’re followed and photographed during a day at the beach. Then Leo’s daughter goes missing, and he and his wife suffer the anguish of Felicity’s family. Did the letter writer abduct her? No one can be sure. His marriage disintegrates. Should he have abandoned Daniel and protected his family? It will take 10 years and even more tragedy before he gets answers to any of these questions.
Jarring, disturbing and not for the emotionally squeamish. Lelic (A Thousand Cuts, 2010, etc.) faces thorny issues of guilt and responsibility head on, and no one comes out unscathed.