Degrees of Guilt

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 5 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Thank you - we featured H.S. Chandler on Caboodle (website and newsletter) in 2018! We look forward to working with you in 2020.
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It's taken me a good while to read this one and it wasn't because I didn't enjoy it - being a mood reader proves a task at times and I went through a period where I just wasn't in the mind for thrillers and violence, so I had to pop this one aside for when my love of them came back. 

I must admit I was apprehensive going into this novel - having LOVE the author's books in the name of Helen Fields - it's one of my favourite series' EVER! But lets just say she can turn her hand to pretty much anything... What struck me the most about this book was the believability that this COULD happen in real life, that this COULD BE happening in real life - and I think that's one of the scariest things about stories like Degrees of Guilt!

Maria is on trial for the murder of her husband which she freely admits to - even calling the police herself, but as you start reading and the trial progresses you realise there is so much more to this story. Whilst it's clear Maria is guilty- is she actually a victim?  

I love legal thrillers; in the crime genre it's by far my favourite sub plot and done right they really get my blood pumping and heart racing!  Chandler, by using her own experiences of the legal system has written an utterly compelling, convincing and shocking court room drama about domestic abuse and control - it will shock you and break you in equal measures but it's one I'd highly recommend picking up despite the uncomfortable moments!
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This is a fantastic book with so many twists, turns and secrets it will have you absorbed from the first page to the last. It tells the story from two different angles which are woven well together.
Maria is on trial for the attempted murder of her husband, however all is not as it seems and there are plenty of secrets revealed as the trial progresses. 
Lottie has been called up for Jury Service and will be on the jury deciding the fate of Maria. To start with Lottie is not happy about having to be part of the panel as it will interfere too much with her home life. It's only when she starts to get closer to another member of the jury that she starts to change her mind. 
The story follows the lives of Maria and Lottie and all of the drama and intrigue that comes with them. As you read you get to know the history of them both but what will the outcome of the trial be, and just how many more secrets will be revealed. 

This book is a highly addictive read that will keep you guessing right up to the very end. It is written so well and HS Chandler uses her past as a lawyer to give you the correct insight into how a courtroom scene and a trial will be run. 
This is such a fantastic read and one you will not be disappointed you purchased it.
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Can I give this book 10 stars? OMG! Degrees of Guilt is a wild ride through the courtroom, and into the jury room. A crime has been committed and truth has been blurred. H.S. Chandler's readers are taken through two separate stories that converge into a stunning ending - I didn't see it comin'!!

This story is incredibly well constructed and executed. I wouldn't change a thing. It will appeal to all who love a great courtroom drama, with a little romance thrown in.  I'm looking forward to the movie!!
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What I know about jury duty comes from watching American Tv shows and I’ve always found it interesting. Twelve people who decide the fate of one person, who decide if that person is going to walk out free or if they are going to spend the rest of their life in a prison cell. How do you know if you made the right decision? In DEGREES OF GUILT, there is no question whether the defendant, Maria, is guilty or not as she admits right away that she used her husband’s head for baseball practice. No, what’s in question here is: why did she do it? What led her, one afternoon, to pick up a leg chair and swing it to her husband’s head?

And while Maria’s future is in doubt, another woman questions her life choices and wonders about her own future. Charlotte, “Lottie”, is a wife, a mother, and a bored housewife. At the beginning she was reluctant, but then she finds jury duty exciting (and not only because of the attention of a handsome man). This is her chance to be part of something big, something important. Lottie is tired of spending all her time cooking, cleaning, and playing the happy and obedient wife at her husband’s events. Will she risk everything in exchange for a thrill and some purpose in her life?

H. S. Chandler knows how to keep the reader on edge and glued to the pages. There are two women. One is a killer, but is she also a victim? Maria’s story is heart-breaking and thought-provoking. It shows that there is always more than one side to a story, but which side is telling the truth? At times, she seems cold-blooded, showing no emotions or regret, but there are other layers under the impassive facade of Maria that are slowly unpeeled. On the other hand, Lottie, has so many feelings. She is looking for excitement, but she feels guilty. She worries about what other people think of her, but she is not afraid to speak up. And, like Maria, she has her own secrets to hide. Those two woman are far from perfect? Sure. Sometimes their behaviour annoyed me? Yep. And then the author did a great job developing them and giving them the determination and courage of standing up to the men who tried to put them down and finally taking their own lived into their own hands.

DEGREES OF GUILT is a compelling, gripping, character-driven novel about control and abuse, full of tension and twists. Looking for a brilliant legal thriller? Then this should be at the top of your list…
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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.

****

Hmmm... not sure what to say about this book. It was well written. A really good story. But... some how it just didnt click with me and I found it quite slow until maybe the last quarter of the book. 

I am definitely in the minority with not loving it, so I would still recommend it for others to read.
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First off, do not read the spoilers that others have written into their reviews.  You need to just pick up this book and be drawn into the characters and their lives, learn all the secrets as they unfold in the story.  

This book opens with Maria calling the police to report that she has just killed her husband.  She is standing over him in the kitchen, his head split open and brain matter and hair clinging to the murder weapon, a table leg.  She is quite matter-of-fact about it, and this is the hook. What was so wrong in her life that she would do this? I won’t give you any spoilers, but it is a pretty miserable and wretched existence.

On to the trial, where we meet Lottie, who can’t wait for jury duty so she can get out of the house and away from her toddler for a few days.  Again, no spoilers, so I’ll just say Lottie is a naughty girl who ends up staking her marriage and her future on a fling.

The writing is good, but I thought that the dialogue in the last quarter of the book was weak.  However, the courtroom scenes will keep you riveted and secret after secret coming pouring out of Maria.  There are a few plot twists along the way, and the conclusion is definitely a twist I didn’t see coming. Overall, I would say this is more of a drama than a thriller, but it will hold your attention and make you want to keep reading to see what happens next.

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What struck me most about this book when I first started reading it was the sense of calm and serenity which was found amongst the opening pages. If it hadn't been for the absolute chaos that was encapsulated so succinctly in the opening sentence, you would be forgiven for thinking that this was simply a story about a woman's mid-life crisis. And I suppose, in some ways, it is. If you can call Maria Bloxham's attempt to curtail her husband's life a 'crisis' that is. It certainly was for Edward ...

After that absolute corker of an opening chapter, in which as a rader you will no doubt already be starting to form an opinion on the veracity of Maria's guilty plea, we are transported forward several months to the opening of her trial where, over a series of days, the jury, and the reader, is provided with all the evidence that the prosecution hold against Maria. It is standard courtroom drama fair - the cross examinations, the jury deliberations, the (attempted) murder weapon and the sympathetic look at what has become of the intended victim. And yet ... it is so much more than this too, because this case isn't perhaps as clear cut as the prosecution would have us think and Maria's own story has a significant bearing on what has, and does, come to pass.

What I enjoyed about this book is the way in which the author has taken her own experience of the legal system, stretched it a little for artistic purposes, and woven it in amongst a backstory which is both shocking and compelling in equal measure. As you read on , it is very clear to the reader what is really happening, at least in Maria's life. When it comes to that of Lottie, one of the jurors, it is less straightforward. Again, a lot of her story seems very familiar, sets off alarm bells, and you come to expect that she could be Maria's only hope in an apparently biased jury.

The story and pacing ebbs and flows perfectly. Whilst this is a trial, and as such certain elements of process have to take time, you do not feel that the author has lingered too long on the legal aspect, curtailing the legal scenes as necessary to drive the action. The courtroom scenes are broken up with moments of reminiscence about Maria's past, and also looking at Lottie's life outside the courtroom. Wife, mother and now - to her delight at escaping her routine - juror. It adds an air of authenticity to the story as we see Lottie, and Maria, battling with their consciences for very different reasons. I loved this very humane aspect of the story which gave the whole book a kind of emotional depth.

There is a vast cast of characters in this book. Not so many that you would have trouble keeping track as some are mere bit parts, the people who are there simply to make up the jury numbers. All are rich in diversity and drawn from a wide array of professions, and each, in their own way, adds to the story. From the over officious Foreperson for the jury, to the Barrister prosecuting Maria, all felt very real, sometimes likable, sometimes not, but I was always able to recognise their motivations and in some cases, recognise the characteristics of some people I knew. That ability to make the characters feel real was the key to keeping readers invested in this book, especially when it came to Maria as she is not always a likeable character, no matter how much sympathy may be felt for her position. Also using Lottie's point of view to convey how she was feeling about the trial and how she was interpreting the evidence was a very clever touch as it did steer my thinking at times.

The book does look at a very important and, sadly, relevant issue - that of psychological abuse and coercive control - and uses it as a centre around which to form a very absorbing narrative. There were times I felt shocked, felt that Maria was almost vindicated in her actions. Only almost as I could never condone violence such as this, but still ... And the surprises kept on coming, scene after scene, until I ended up second guessing myself. There were elements I had foreseen, others which caught me completely unawares, but all of which formed to make a very intriguing read. 

From the calm and yet shocking opening through to the truth which is laid bare in the closing chapters, this book kept me hooked, and I can't wait to see what the author brings us next. If you like a legal thriller, one with an emotional undercurrent, then this is definitely recommended.
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Good read that makes you contemplate marriage, what control we cede to our spouses, and how marriage can both expand and diminish us as human beings.  Maria, who is on trial for murder, lived with a manipulative, abusive husband for far too long before he was killed.  Lottie is on the jury and feels she has lost herself in her role as wife and mother and is straining at the ties that bind.  The contrast makes for a provocative read - especially when Lottie begins to push the boundaries of her marriage as she experiences a new level of stimulation as a juror.  there is a big twist, but personally, I thought the story would have been more interesting without it.
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I had heard lots of good things about Degrees of Guilt and when I was asked to organise the blogtour by Orion I jumped at the chance and popped my blog down too putting the book aside for my holiday pile.  I hadn't read much about what the book was about, but had seen lots of raving reviews from my book club members and fellow bloggers and if they said it was fantastic that was good enough for me.

I started this on holiday and despite spending 5 hours walking around Pompeii  I managed to read this book in a day, which basically confirms all you may have heard about this being a gripping, page turner which is literally unputdownable.

Degrees of Guilt is a clever and thoroughly addictive courtroom drama with an edge of domestic noir.  HS Chandler (Helen Field) has given us a superb legal thriller and her knowledge and experience as a criminal barrister is evident throughout this fast paced story.

Degrees of Guilt has two fascinating leading female characters: Maria Bloxham who is on trial for the attempted murder of her husband, the famous humanist, TV presenter and author Dr Edward Bloxham and Lottie, a young mother who is part of the jury tasked with deciding Maria's fate.

As we delve deeper into the story we learn more about Maria's marriage and life to her controlling and sadistic husband and the reader begins to feel sympathy for her predicament, but concern that she will be judged on her actions rather than the circumstances leading to her vicious attack.  Lottie is also a compelling character, a young beautiful mother to a 3 year old son married to an older and controlling man she begins to question her own marriage and life once she is faced with examining the facts of Maria's downfall.

Domestic abuse is featured heavily in the story and this makes for some very uncomfortable reading, however the author tackles these subjects with sensitivity at all times.

I absolutely devoured this book and highly recommend it to fans of psychological, legal, or courtroom thrillers and give this 5 stars.
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So many thrillers promise twists and turns and you can predict them a mile away. This is NOT one of those books. Maria has confessed to the attempted murder of her husband. Lottie is one of twelve jurors who will decide her fate. You will assume things are black and white just as the plot is described on the book. But all is not as it seems. Told from the point of view of each woman, secrets are exposed, lies are told, and marriages are questioned.  And each revelation leads to a shocking ending that I did NOT see coming. This is a new author to me and I can confidently say I’ll be anticipating the next release!
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A great thriller mystery novel with a few surprise twists I did not see coming! Told from different POVs it was easy to follow along and kept me on my toes. One warning though as I felt queasy during the numerous detailed paragraphs about one of the main characters addiction with self harm.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I highly The opening chapter of Degrees of Guilt. An affluent husband, Edward, is found on the floor of his kitchen bleeding and his wife Maria holds the chair leg that struck him and calmly calls the police. She breaks down when she’s told her husband isn’t dead...the rest of the book follows her trial and chapters alternate with Lottie, a young housewife stuck with her life and on the jury.
Whilst I loved the opening chapter and was gripped I’m afraid the rest of the book was a letdown and I just wanted the story to get over with. The main problem for me is that the writing really lacked any suspense and tension and was oversaturated with mundane, minute details that slowed the story down and I found myself skim-read. The second problem with the writing is that it’s too on the nose as is the dialogue. Chandler spells every tiny little thing rather than less-is-more and trusting the reader to figure things out. Plotwise I found the story predictable and saw where it was going. Lastly I found the characters caricatures and wasn’t emotionally drawn in especially Lottie and Cameron, both who were incredibly insufferable. It’s 2/5 from me.
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Degrees of Guilt was so gripping that I didn't want to stop reading. The story of Maria, who was on trial for attempting to murder her husband, was fascinating. This book is a British courtroom drama with an interesting cast of characters and so much going on behind the scenes that I was drawn in quickly.

The story of Lottie, a member of the jury, and her life was just an intriguing and the way the story would focus on part of the trial and then on the jury members kept things interesting and me more anxious for the next change of focus. 

This review seems vague I know, but much of this story is based on secrets, misrepresentations and newly discovered awareness of things by different characters that it's difficult to say much without including spoilers. Suffice it to say that if you like courtroom dramas you will most likely love this book.

Thank you to the publisher, author and Netgalley or approving me for an ARC at my request. Thoughts in this review are my own and happily given.
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Wow! Wow! Wow! This might be one of the underrated, exhilarating, unputdowable, riveting, gripping, secret hidden gems waiting for to be discovered by a thriller addicts like me, why didn’t I keep waiting so long, bam bam bam(I’m slapping my head) so I’m sentencing myself to give this book all five million stars I carefully saved for the best ones!

H.S. Chandler surprises us, sucker punches us at the most unexpected moment, forces us question our ethical values, beliefs, dignities with a story told by three different POVs. ( Maria, Ruth, Lottie)
 
His knowledge and experience in law helped him to create most realistic, challenging, heart-felting court parts by capturing your mind, soul and make you take a seat next to the jurors and ask yourself who was really telling the truth. He shakes our shoulders to realize what the verbally, physically abuse destroys women’s lives, how they endured them and slowly lost their fight and willingness to survive each day because the things they’ve been suffering for so long became their new normal life!!!
 
 At the opening we find ourselves at a crime scene. Maria calls the police and tells them she killed him. But as soon as the officers reach her house, they inform her that husband the dearest is violently injured but he is still alive! 

Then we’re introduced to the jurors who are the decision makers about Maria’s fate.  Lottie is one of the POVs of the story, stay at home mom, neglected by her husband who always puts his career at first. His condescending behavior around Lottie and treating her like she’s her personal maid more than a wife made me fantasize to punch his face to wipe the pretentious smile on his face!

Poor little Lottie! We have all the rights to be sorry for her, especially at the time her husband didn’t defend her against his cocky, spineless colleagues’ insulting comments. Another nail to his coffin!

But don’t worry too much for Lottie! HOT JUROR ALERT! Cameron, the flirtatious, charming, friendly juror seems like attracted to her. And she cannot resist his attraction. She was treated like as if she’s been a ghost for a long time. Now she’s back in the saddle again. But the ethical question comes: Is she ready to betray to her husband and risk everything in her life for just taking a break from her lonely, boring life?

 Now let’s turn back to Maria. She already pleaded guilty. And the prosecutor brought her husband to the court for the jurors to take a better look what kind of damage she’s done to him. Well done prosecutor, that’s the definition of “Below under the belt!”

Now her brilliant husband is in vegetative state and his body turned into his own cage.  But then Maria started to tell her story at the court and admitted that her husband locked her in her house like a prisoner. Taking her all privileges, starting with taking out her car, deciding what she’s going to wear (He also decided what she had to use on her menstrual cycle by throwing away her tampons!!!), taking out her name from all the bank accounts. She doesn’t have a phone, any kind electronic device to connect with outside world. And this is just the beginning!!!

She admitted that HER HUSBAND DEAREST FORCED HER TO CUT HERSELF. Then HE SAT, WATCHED WHEN SHE WAS PERFORMING!

And her husband dearest FORCED HER ACT LIKE DEAD DURING THEIR INTERCOURSE!
I know the bastard got what he deserved! BUT the question is: “WAS MARIA TELLING THE TRUTH?” Partly!

Don’t forget the third POV, Ruth, who was the only connection of Maria from her house-arrest times. (Maria told that she collected all the coins her husband left different parts of the house and bought a burner phone and dialed the help line to share her story with someone.) Ruth knew that Maria was suffering. She needed help. Ruth already let her sister die for not acquiring the help she needed. But she thought she could help Maria.

So who’s telling the whole truth? What happened that night? Is Maria a victim or a sociopathic perpetrator? Did Lottie feel the connection between her and Maria? They were both neglected women. They had wasted potentials and they didn’t like the hand the life dealt to them. 

Will those two women’s similarities save Maria from the jail sentence? 

When you read this book, try to see between the lines and give your full concentration. Because every character lies on this book!  There are so many twists are about to come!

Some parts will shake you to the core. Some parts will shock you! And the ending: I couldn’t imagine any better ending for this book!

WELL DONE H.S. Chandler. I raise my glass for you! Salute!

I couldn’t thank more to Trapeze and NetGalley for sending me this amazing book’s ARC COPY in exchange my honest review.

I’m gladly declare that This is the best legal thriller I’ve read on 2019!
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A fantastic legal thriller that will have you gripped and turning the pages to find out how it’s all going to work out! Bravo!
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Maria is on trial for hurting her husband who she claims was abusive and manipulating. He can’t say what truly happened or defend himself against her claims. 

Lottie is in a more traditional marriage when she is called for jury duty, and is selected to be a juror in Maria’s trial. Lottie finds herself attracted to a fellow juror, and has quite the predicament unfold.

Overall, 5 stars for this great page turner. Life was busy when I started this book, but easily could have finished in a day or two if time allowed for it. Highly recommend!

Special thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Degrees of Guilt is a page-turning courtroom drama set predominantly in Bristol Crown Court and focusing on two people involved in the Bloxham trial. Maria Bloxham is accused of the attempted murder of her celebrity husband of 18 years, Dr Edward Bloxham. Scratching under the surface reveals that their marriage may not have been quite as rosy as you might expect.

Charlotte 'Lottie' Hiraj is a juror assigned to the Bloxham trial. She feels immediate sympathy for Maria because her marriage is also on the rocks. Lottie feels that she is losing her sense of self since becoming a wife and a mother.

The book explores the darker unhealthier side of relationships, a particularly topical issue in light of the recent #MeToo movement.  It also explores some emotive issues such as marital abuse and self-harming in a thought-provoking way. It explains how women can find themselves unable to leave an abusive relationship but also considers whether the situation is as clear-cut as suggested.

I love a good courtroom drama and one of the most fascinating parts of this story for me was the actions and group dynamics of the jury. The author has a background in law herself and she has cleverly not fallen into the trap of sensationalising the setting or the trial, bringing a real sense of authenticity to the book. Whilst we never really know what goes on in a jury room, it strikes me as somewhat illogical to allow such an important decision as someone's guilt or innocence to rest with a group of people who more often that not will have some preconceptions/bias and whom may be easily pressured to align their views with other members of the jury in order to bring their jury duty to an end. The criminal justice system really is shockingly vulnerable to human fallibilities and to those barristers who are happy to twist evidence in order to get the win. In Maria's case, the tension quickly ramps up as we wonder whether justice will prevail?

Chandler has produces a compulsive and shocking story, full of suspense and twists and turns. Just as you think you know where the story is heading, it will flip around and sprint off in another direction. 

Degrees of Guilt is a gripping and entertaining read. Thoroughly recommended for fans of courtroom dramas, legal thrillers and psychological thrillers.
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This is a taut legal courtroom thriller that is not at all what you believe it to be. At the outset we are told that Marie confesses to having bludgeoned her husband Edward to death (or so she thinks). The jurors that are seated in this case all have stories of their own-especially Lottie, a housewife and mother, who finds self respect and a feeling of importance beyond her daily life and Cameron, who can be best described as extremely good looking and well built but with his own agenda. The trial is slow moving at first-giving the jurors time to form alliances but picks up steadily until the verdict is read. From start to finish there are unexpected surprises and secrets that come to light but you’ll have to read it yourself-no spoilers here. A great read that really deserves 4-1/2 stars.
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.   Thank you NetGalley.  

Degrees of Guilt is a courtroom thriller that will leave you guessing.     Who is guilty?   Who is innocent?    It's difficult to NOT relate to the characters in this book in some way.  

you  need to read this.  seriously.
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