With each book, Kia Abdullah continues to highlight her willingness to tell the difficult stories, the ones that most writers would conjure in their mind before kindly telling themselves “there’s no way in hell I’m going there.” Because of her bravery, each novel resonates in a way that makes them memorable and iconic. Take for example, Truth Be Told. In this novel, Kia Abdullah tackles not just the difficult subject of rape, but goes one step further and delves into the complexity of male-on-male rape with insight, compassion, and authenticity.
Truth Be Told centers on Kamran Hadid, a student at a prestigious all-boys boarding school in London. As the semester draws to a close, the students are celebrating with multiple parties around campus. That night, Kamran stumbles to his dorm room in a drunken stupor, forgets to lock the door, and falls into a deep sleep. The next morning, he wakes to find one of his closest friends, Finn, in bed beside him—fully aware that something he never consented to has occurred.
Fans of Kia Abdullah’s Take It Back will remember its lead character Zara Kaleel, now a rape counselor and the person to whom Kamran Hadid turns. Despite her clinic’s mandate to only treat female and trans victims, Zara is unable to turn her back on a fellow Muslim. She realizes what strength it took for this boy to come forward.
This is a Kia Abdullah novel, so readers know that the story presented in the first part of the novel will lead to a trial in the second half. As Zara consults on the case with the attorneys, readers are given glimpses into how this crime affects not just the victim, his family, friends, and community, but also the ramifications for the perpetrator and his inner circle. As always, Abdullah shines when highlighting the Muslim community’s beliefs and practices—especially for those readers unfamiliar with the culture.
Truth Be Told is a Gordian knot of complex topics. Kamran’s home life, not unlike Zara’s, is rife with toxic masculinity and this plot demonstrates how this learned behavior can ultimately lead to tragedy. Like any rape, the case at the core of Truth Be Told has little to do with sexuality, but this author is not going to let the opportunity pass to include some pointed critiques about organized religion and its continual lack of acceptance. But it is also a novel about support—namely, finding validation and assistance where one can, even if those closest to us choose to turn their backs.
Kia Abdullah crafts characters readers care about and Truth Be Told is no exception. By the time the final revelation is made—just pages from the end of the book—readers will have been put through an emotional wringer. And yes, that final moment when everything becomes clear, is utterly and completely, heartbreakingly bittersweet in its simplicity. A true sign of a well-constructed crime novel.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.