The Guilty by Gabriel Boutros
I received the ebook version of this novel from the author. This has not influenced my judgement in any way with regard to this review.
I have to start this review by saying what a remarkable novel this is. It is in a genre I have never read before, and it has left me wondering what I may have missed. Gabriel Boutros demonstrates a true gift for his craft as a writer, right from the beginning, and manages to draw you into the story with consummate skill. At the outset, his protagonist is anything but likeable. He’s arrogant, self-satisfied, ready to declare his personal genius to all and sundry with or without prompting. Yes, in the beginning, his relationship with his daughter is shaking him, but not in the ways it should. He belongs very firmly in that subspecies: homo sapiens lawyerensis. There is only the vaguest hint of humanity about the man. So how come you carry on reading about this undesirable? Because you want to see his fall! You are drawn along waiting to witness his utter ruin. There’s a part of you, sparked into existence by the brief sentence on the cover, which is also waiting to see just when and how this reprehensible person will meet his personal epiphany and explode into a Fury of Retribution. And that’s part of Mr Boutros’ skill. He has lived the life and knows it intimately. Not that he bears any resemblance to his protagonist, of course, but he must surely have encountered those who shared at least elements of the character’s personality.
I mentioned the main character meeting his personal epiphany. Well, it demonstrates Mr Boutros’ skill that he so easily handles the fact that very few truly experience an epiphany! Our awakening is rarely one of those single, dramatic, life-changing moments. In fact, it can be, and usually is, a slow, painful, confusing process. As a reader coming from books which require episodes of intense action, The Guilty proved to be a remarkable experience for me. There were, very definitely, events, but none were exactly describable as action. I was amazed to find that I had been drawn along with such excellent writing that action sequences really weren’t required. Indeed, they may well have turned an excellent novel into something far more ordinary. Like a patient angler, with a prize fish (you) on the line, Mr Boutros allows you to twist and turn on the line, your mind darting off down side alleyways of possibilities, but always, inescapably, you are drawn ever closer to the waiting net – the conclusion. And I will say only this: the conclusion is very satisfying – though the characters are, by then, so a part of you that you’d love to hear more about them. I genuinely regretted the book ending.
If you’re looking for a Perry Mason or other similar fictional lawyer, then you’ll be disappointed. There’s a disturbing ring of honesty about the portrayed lawyers’ defects. You’ll find those you can happily despise, but you’ll also be confused by those who exhibit more humanity than you would expect. They are complex people. They have lives. You could, with little effort, imagine how they live their lives away from the spotlight of the story. There’s everything from the ‘wet behind the ears idealist’ youngster, just beginning their lives, to the jaded veteran who simply does what they’ve always done, without ever considering the consequences because they live only with the Law – not real people. And of course the full spectrum in between the extremes. I haven’t read anything with such strong, real characters before. Everything else, I could always take refuge in the underlying knowledge that I was reading fiction, even when it got a little too uncomfortable for my liking – or especially then.
I’m not going to include details of the plot or the events even in broad terms. This book is too good a read to spoil with anything beyond general observations about its worth. I do, however, have a request: when you’ve read The Guilty, come back and tell me whether you’re pleased that I recommended it to you, or not!
My rating? A very definite 5 stars! Who would I recommend this book to? Anybody who enjoys reading!