I came into Kia Abdullah’s legal thrillers at Book 2 with “Truth Be Told” (2020) which blew me away and ended up in my Books Of The Year. Stand-alone novel “Next Of Kin” (2021) made it two five star reads elevating Kia Abdullah, in my opinion, into the Premier League of contemporary crime-writers.
With a new novel not due until to the start of 2023 I thought I’d catch up with the one I missed out on which introduces Zara Kaleel, a Muslim woman who has given up her six figure lawyer’s post to work in counselling and support at Artemis House- a sexual assault referral centre. Zara is struggling to adapt to all the changes in her life and one day Jodie arrives at the centre, 16 years old with the disfiguring disability of neurofibromatosis and tells Zara she has been raped by a group of four Muslim teenage boys. This is a case which can only be explosive- with disability, faith and consent being the triggers and is one which places Zara into great conflict with the Muslim community and her family. Justice for Jodie takes over Zara’s life but doesn’t reduce any of her demons.
The case does not feel quite as central stage as it is in the other two books. The author takes time to establish Zara’s character as a strong determined woman who has defied expectations in terms of her career, faith and relationships which adds fuel to the fires of the rape case. This focus does actually make it feel a little less intense than the subsequent novels but you can really appreciate the author is here honing the skills to knock readers for six in the future.
There’s twists and turns, some anticipated and some I certainly didn’t see coming and the court case is as engrossing as always. I’m not sure if it felt totally resolved this time round which may grate on some crime readers. I notice in my reviews of the other two books of hers I’ve read I cannot even bring myself to reveal any details of the cases and I have here because just the bare bones would open up a raft of ramifications whereas the cases in the follow-up books are more complex and you need to be within the narrative to get the full horrors of the implications.
So, whereas this is a really impressive legal thriller I think this author upped a level with Books 2, where Zara supports another case and Book 3, a stand-alone. Here she is learning to write the crime novel masterpiece which she hits home with next time round.
Take It Back was published by HQ in 2019.