Kia Abdullah is a London-based author who has forged her own career path by releasing a series of excellent legal crime standalones that challenge readers to contemplate exigent legal situations from the perspectives of all the individuals involved – victim, perpetrator, legal counsel and more. While her plot twists occasionally veer into melodrama, they are all in service to the loftier goal of inspiring her readers to think about how they would feel and react in similar circumstances.
The case at the center of Next of Kin is sadly one that is all too common. Leila Syed was asked to drop her nephew off at day care, but when an urgent matter arises in her high-pressure office, she unfortunately leaves young Max in the backseat of her car on London’s hottest day. Was this an accident brought about by the fact that there was a change in Leila’s daily routine or was Leila tired of being taken advantage of by her sister and brother-in-law and intentionally orchestrated this to make a point, not realizing it would lead to the death of the innocent Max? Or is there yet another explanation?
The dark subject matter of the book must be acknowledged early on. The opening chapter is both gripping and horrifying, but it is handled in the most respectful way possible. Any time you are dealing with the death of a child, the narrative is going to be difficult to navigate without alienating readers. However, it is important that readers experience the various emotions of Next of Kin‘s opening chapters so that when the second half of the novel – the court case – begins, everyone is on the same page (so to speak.)
The emotional core of Next of Kin is the relationship between Leila Syed and her sister Yasmin. Readers quickly discover that Leila practically raised Yasmin after their mother’s unfortunate suicide and while the sisters share a strong bond, there is also resentment and unresolved issues lurking just below the surface. Kia Abdullah does an incredible job of giving readers a glimpse of both sister’s points of view and attitudes – such that readers will find much to admire and something to hate about each woman. These women of color are presented – flaws and all – leaving the reader to place judgement as they see fit.
This is not to say that the court case is not resolved, it most definitely is. But Kia Abdullah has packed the narrative with twist after twist, forcing reader’s loyalties to be in constant flux. The presence of an outside detective who is investigating things even as the trial is on-going, reinforces just how important it is to have all the facts before making judgement. Each of these revelations would be a spoiler, so all that can really be said is that secrets abound, and things are not always what they seem. But don’t let this statement give the impression – or hope – that maybe somehow Max survived. He did not. At the end of the day (or book) a young child still lost their life in a tragic manner and even though Max is a fictional character, readers will want assurances that his death was not in vain.
Why Lifetime television has not scooped up the rights to Kia Abdullah’s backlist remains a mystery. Like her previous novels, Next of Kin perfectly blends the melodramatic tone and deep emotional core perfected by that cable network. Kia Abdullah brings a new and much needed voice to the legal thriller/courtroom drama and fans old and new will eagerly await her next trial – on the written page.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.