Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all well. Today I’m going to be posting my review of H.S. Chandler’s courtroom drama, ‘Degrees Of Guilt’. I read this book whilst I was on holiday and absolutely loved it, so just had to review it on my blog! Keep reading to discover my thoughts…
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.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** This novel explores the theme of domestic abuse in great detail, including emotional, physical and sexual violence. The theme of mental illness is explored throughout, including graphic scenes of self-harm and discussions of suicide. The novel also contains scenes of a sexual nature.
‘Degrees Of Guilt’ is H.S. Chandler’s debut thriller novel. H.S. Chandler is the pen name for bestselling crime author Helen Fields, creator of the “DI Callanach” series. Helen studied law at university, before practising in both family and criminal years for many years. Helen has always been interested in writing, dedicating her free time to crafting stories.
The novel has received lots of positive reviews, from the likes of Closer Magazine: “A powerful read” and That’s Life Magazine: “A sexy courtroom thriller.” Many fellow authors also praised the book, such as Harriet Tyce: “Timely, anger-inducing and very powerful”, Caroline Mitchell: “A fast-paced, addictive read” and Katerina Diamond: “A compelling legal thriller.”
‘Degrees Of Guilt’ tells the story of Maria Bloxham, who is on trial for the attempted murder of her husband. Lottie is selected for jury duty, and begins to engage in an affair with a fellow member of the jury. They are responsible for deciding Maria’s fate – is she guilty, or is she innocent?
The narrative is told from the third-person, with each chapter alternating between focusing on Maria and Lottie. The narrator is intelligent and all-knowing, combining a sense of both distance and closeness to the characters. The reader is given detailed descriptions of the characters’ thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The narrative mostly takes place in the present day, although some references to the past are included. Overall, the narrative structure is fairly simple and easy to follow.
I actually found it really difficult to decide on my favourite character, as there are many parallels and similarities between the two protagonists. Maria, the accused, seems to be cold-hearted and angry at first, and isn’t particularly likeable. However, it soon becomes clear that there is so much more to her than first meets the eye. Maria has suffered a great deal of hardships within her lifetime, and has felt trapped for a long time. She is definitely not perfect and has made lots of mistakes, but she definitely didn’t deserve her to be treated in such a barbaric way. She is an expertly-written, three-dimensional character, and I felt a great deal of sympathy towards her as more details were uncovered during the court case.
Lottie is another extremely well-written character. Similarly to Maria but to a differing extent, Lottie also feels trapped in her own life. She is a stay-at-home mother and wife, whose sole focus is to care for her family. She is bored with the monotomy of daily life, and longs for something more. When Lottie is assigned to jury duty, it feels like the start of something new and exciting – but she never expects to become so deeply involved and affected by the court case. She is immediately befriended by fellow jury member Cameron, and they begin to embark upon a passionate and reckless affair. Lottie doesn’t want to hurt anyone, and is forced to make some very difficult decisions. Lottie is an extremely complex character, and I found myself really relating to her.
Other characters in the novel include: Edward (Maria’s deceased husband), Ruth (Maria’s friend), Cameron (Lottie’s lover), Zain (Lottie’s husband), Daniyal (Lottie’s son), fellow members of the jury, the judge, and various witnesses. There is a relatively large cast of characters, and they all bring something fresh and exciting to the novel.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) The theme of domestic abuse is explored in great detail throughout the novel, including of emotional, physical and sexual violence. Graphic scenes detailing rape and hardcore sexual fantasies are included, as well as descriptions of physical beatings. Mental illness is explored in great detail, in particular anxiety and depression. Self-harm is a key feature in the novel, with many scenes containing graphic descriptions of cutting. Discussions of suicide are also incorporated. Finally, the novel also contains scenes of a sexual nature. All of these issues are explored with appropriate sensitivity – but if you feel that they may be triggering, I suggest you skip this book.
As the narrative motors onwards, the court case gets even more complicated. More evidence is thrown into the mix, and it is difficult to predict what the jury’s outcome will be. Lottie’s affair with Cameron begins to spiral out of control, and it soon becomes clear that she is walking down a very dangerous path. Will Maria be found guilty? Or will she be freed?
So, let’s talk about the ending! The ending is absolutely fantastic. There’s a dramatic action-packed scene towards the end, which completely changes the entire course of the novel. The suspense builds and builds, leading to a shocking climax. Maria’s verdict is finally delivered, and the court case is put to rest. I thought the ending was absolutely incredible. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and I just had to keep reading to discover the protagonists’ fates. A brilliant ending to a truly spectacular legal thriller.
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy legal thrillers and courtroom dramas, particularly if you like more action-packed court cases. The characters are incredible, and the plot is absolutely fantastic. My only criticism is that some scenes made me feel quite uncomfortable, and so this definitely isn’t an easy read. But that being said, I’m very glad I took the time to read it!
Happy reading 🙂