From the Book Jacket…
On a warm summer’s morning, thirteen-year-old school girl Constance Lawson is reported missing.
A few days later, Constance’s uncle, Karl Lawson, suddenly finds himself swept up in a media frenzy created by journalist Amanda Bowe implying that he is the prime suspect.
Six years later …
Karl’s life is in ruins. His marriage is over, his family destroyed. But the woman who took everything away from him is thriving. With a successful career, husband and a gorgeous baby boy, Amanda’s world is complete. Until the day she receives a phone call and in a heartbeat, she is plunged into every mother’s worst nightmare.
AUTHOR: Laura Elliot
GENRE: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Psychological
WEBSITE: Laura Elliot
WHEN A THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD girl disappears, an ambitious reporter with a personal agenda engages in speculative reporting. Amanda’s bias articles on Karl Lawson’s close bond with his niece trigger a police investigation that incites community suspicion. As Amanda’s tabloid stories sway Karl’s family, his life disintegrates. And all because of a grudge Amanda holds—an incident so insignificant that Karl barely remembers it.
The theme of revenge is common enough but there is an engaging originality to Guilty. Karl’s confusion and grief sweeps the reader along as it morphs to vengeance. By portraying Karl’s relationship with his niece in an honest way, Elliot deftly creates an emotional connection to a flawed character that the reader is predisposed to hate because of the mistrust surrounding him. But his wife and brother are harsh and too quick to hurl Karl under the bus. The reader feels antipathetic to his family. A slower decent into suspicion would have heightened the reader’s connection to Karl’s psychological angst. Awkward phrasing in places decreases readability, but overall the prose is strong and there are some excellent lines.
A lone cry in this wilderness of disbelief.
Structurally, Elliot divides the novel into sections and switches POV between Amanda and Karl during the last two thirds of the novel, which works well. However, Part I depicts only Karl’s “Kafkaesque” nightmare, an execution decision that stalls the pace in Act II because it forces Elliot to reiterate the storyline through the eyes of Amanda. Weaving a bit of Amanda’s motivation across the first third of the story would have negated the need to switch from real-time to retrospect. Showing Amanda’s incentive would have added complexity to a character who feels like a caricature in Part I. Elliot’s strong rendering of Karl’s character succeeds in propelling the reader to the subsequent acts, which do intertwine the two characters.
This novel fits neatly into the mystery-thriller genre and is quick to digest. A recommended read for mystery fans.