3 out of 4 stars
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Guilt by David Taylor Black tells the story of Daniel Harris, a writer that came to Hope Town to write “a historical novel set around the events of the cholera epidemic in the 19th century.” He soon meets Cat, the beautiful librarian, with whom he quickly becomes friends. On a stroll together on the beach, Dan and Cat come across the body of a man that has surfaced in their town. They soon realize the fact that the man did not simply drown, but he was murdered. Trying to find the man’s identity, Dan takes the foolish decision of searching his pockets, an action that raises suspicion from the town’s only policeman, Constable Ronnie Anderson. Partly because he is suspicious of Dan’s decision to “make sure that his DNA ends up all over the body,” partly because he is attracted to Cat and jealous of her relationship with Dan, Constable Anderson considers Dan to be the main suspect in this man’s murder. The complexity of the situation does not stop here. Mysterious drugs found on the cadaver, eyewitnesses with conflicting stories, the involvement of a new investigator and a secret held by Dan provide additional suspense to the main plot-line. Will Dan uncover the truth behind this complicated murder case and prove his innocence?
A secondary story-line focuses on Dan’s crumbling marriage to Susan, a lawyer, as well as his grief for their son’s tragic death. While this relationship is not fully explored in the beginning, as the novel progresses, David Taylor Black offers more insight into the specific dynamics of their couple life.
Guilt has been an incredibly suspenseful read. Once the story started to unfold, I could not let the novel down. This crime mystery is extremely well-thought-out, with many fascinating turns of events and colorful characters. David Taylor Black keeps his readers on the edge until the very last page, choosing to end the novel on the same note: with yet another shocking breakthrough.
The readers can observe, early on in the book, the fact that Dan has a serious drinking problem. He is constantly drinking big quantities of alcohol, a habit that the author seems to use to highlight Dan’s emotional distress or his lack of inspiration when it comes to writing his book. While I understand the fact that characters do not need to be flawless, I did not like the way David Taylor Black romanticized Dan’s alarming drinking habits. Alcoholism is a serious issue, and the way the use of alcohol is presented in this book can be triggering to many readers struggling with this addiction.
David Taylor Black highlights the fact that Cat is a “tomboy”, which makes her “more attractive to Dan than if she’d been more of the typical girl”, complimenting her on showing “strength and independence.” I believe this way of thinking is completely outdated and insulting to female readers. Strength and independence are not exclusively masculine traits, and this has been proven countless times. To consider Cat as different than “the typical girl” because she has these character features is the equivalent of saying the most women are not strong and independent, and that is why Cat’s character stands out against them. This misogynistic, stereotypical view on women should not be present in today’s literature. Art holds great importance in changing readers’ perspectives on such issues, and I believe authors have a lot of responsibility to convey a positive message when it comes to social issues such as this one. Cat’s character is specifically aimed at the male audience: she is flirty, her body is constantly mentioned, especially her breasts, she fits into the “not like other girls” trope, and she serves as the love interest for the manly, aggressive protagonist.
At first, I thought the editing could use some improvement, since English is not my first language, and I had a few issues with the way the book was written. There were some one-worded sentences "Quick. Sudden." that made threw me off guard at the beginning, but I soon got accustomed to the writer's fast-paced writing, and I could enjoy the read.
Although there is no erotic content involved in David Taylor Black's novel, it is definitely best suited for a mature audience. Without giving any spoilers (I believe the author intended this part of the book to come as a surprise to the readers), there is a heavy focus on abuse, molestation, infidelity and domestic violence, on top of the main focus of the novel: murder. I recommend Guilt by David Taylor Black to anyone that enjoys suspenseful crime mysteries, this one being an incredibly entertaining read. At moments, I felt like I couldn’t read as fast as I wanted to, desperately wanting to finally get to the bottom of it all. I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I chose to deduct one star from the rating because of the issues mentioned above.
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