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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

‘A clever, thought-provoking book of smoke & mirrors’ #Bookreview DEGREES OF GUILT,


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.


The opening scene couldn’t be clearer or more shocking: Maria has just brutally attacked her husband and pauses to admire the flowers in the garden before calling the police. When they inform her that he has survived, she faints.

The action then moves to the courtroom, where she is on trial for attempted murder. It’s there that the straightforward case slowly morphs, until nothing is as it seems. Watching it play out are the jury, including Lottie, a bored stay-at-home mum who welcomes the opportunity to meet new people and be a little less – or sometimes a little more– self-absorbed. The last thing she expects is to find disturbing parallels between her world and that of the accused.

This is a clever, thought-provoking book of smoke and mirrors. It tackles subjects that are sadly both very much of-the-moment and yet also timeless. It is deliberately frustrating to read  at times as manipulation in the home, within friendships, relationships, and even in the court room are at play here. The subplot is used to particular effect here, as it holds up a cunning mirror to the main plot, both reflecting and distorting, signposting and misdirecting.

I read it so quickly that time passed in a blur – as did the pages! You may not like the characters; the plot may make you uncomfortable, but I do recommend you read it right up until the end. This is not a story to start and then give up on because you assume you know exactly how it will play out, because it’s a dead cert you don’t.

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