When I spied an excellent review for this book on Chocolate’n’Waffles blog, I knew I had to get a copy to read for myself. Now I have to confess I haven’t read any of the author’s books written under the name Helen Fields although I do have the first book in Human Remains, the first in the DI Callanach series on my kindle. But like any dedicated bookworm, I know what I like and right near the top of the list is books set in a courtroom and not far behind are ones that pose a moral dilemma.
Maria is in the dock. No shades of grey are instantly apparent, her husband the eminent ecologist Edward Bloxham is dead. She called the police and greeted them on the front drive holding the weapon, a broken chair leg.
Lottie Hiraj is on the jury she’s a young mother and deep down the chance to do something other than keep house for a while is a little bit appealing. But can casting judgement on another person’s life be something that you can do without it changing you?
The majority of the book is set in Bristol Crown Court either in the court itself or in the jury room where the twelve selected members of the public are sequestered while they wait for the next act and ultimately go to make their judgement. What happens in between is both insightful with hefty dashes of surprise as the author.
I loved the entire premise as much as I hoped I would. This courtroom drama was spot on even though the author took the more difficult route by giving us an opening where we see the immediate aftermath of Edward’s murder. The peek into the life of Maria and Edward is fascinating and disturbing in equal measures. This book was written after some recent changes to the law and therefore hopefully a shift in society’s awareness of the issues. The characters are well drawn, mainly multi-layered and fairly diverse in their backgrounds– just what the jury system is supposed to deliver? Of course the perpetrator and the jury aren’t the only main players we also have the barristers, a psychologist and the police making their point, bringing their own thoughts into the courtroom to be held up for inspection. Interestingly the author borrows from the court system to tell her story but doesn’t get too hung up on all the legalities to make the story work, those who are sticklers for true representation may find this hard to take.
What I didn’t expect was that the book was far less straightforward than I expected, parallels are subtlety drawn between Maria’s life with Edward and Lottie’s with her husband Zain which made me feel quite uncomfortable at times but fear not this isn’t a book which depends upon something quite so obvious, there is far more to this story than you might think! In fact this is the first book in an absolute age that I didn’t want to be parted from, and while that may be partly down to timing, I can’t deny that biggest reason is because it is a gripping tale.
I was lucky enough to receive an ARC for Degrees of Guilt from the publishers Trapeze, this unbiased review is my thanks to them, and the author – be assured I will be reading Perfect Remains before too long!