Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah

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Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A courtroom thriller that's a masterclass in how it should be done. An exceptional read and highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384/10h30m Date: September 2021
Publisher: HQ
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0008433635

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Shortlisted for CWA Gold Dagger Award 2022

It was the sort of thing that happened every day, although not to Leila Syed. She'd never driven her nephew, Max, to school before but his father, Andrew Hanson, had rung her in a panic. He was supposed to be taking Max to school but he'd been called into work and the delay in getting there could lead to financial losses. As the school was only five minutes out of Leila's way, could she drop him off? Of course, she could and a sleeping Max was duly strapped into the back of her car. On the way Leila took a phone call - there was panic at her work too, with a problem which could put a multi-million-pound contract at risk.

Totally engaged with what needed to be done - this was her business after all - Leila parked her car and dashed into work, completely forgetting that Max was in the back of the car. It was the hottest day of the year and Leila didn't realise what she'd done until Andrew rang to say that Max's school had rung to say that he hadn't arrived. The temperature in the car was such that Max had no chance of surviving.

The police were suspicious: Leila had been her sister's guardian from the time that Yasmin was eleven and Leila was only eighteen. She'd given up her place at St Andrew's and transferred to a course at a London polytechnic and took on three jobs to support them both. Only, one of the jobs required that she go on a three-day residential course and with no childcare available, Leila decided to leave Yasmin at home on her own. Distraught over losing Max, Yasmin told the police about what had happened all those years ago.

If Leila had genuinely forgotten that she had left Max in the back of the car she'd been negligent but not criminally so. If, on the other hand, Leila had decided that she would risk leaving Max in the car whilst she dashed into the office, this would amount to manslaughter. This would be something for the courts to decide.

I first encountered Kia Abdullah when I read Truth Be Told. It was five-star superb. Could Abdullah repeat this? Yes, she could. Before I reached the bottom of the first page I knew that this was going to be a book that I would resent putting down and I finished it over the course of two days during which everything else got scant attention. The characterisation is perfect: Leila Syed is 'perfect'. No one can believe that she could forget that Max was in the back of the car but there was ample evidence of what the boy had meant to her and to her estranged husband, Will Carmichael. Leila had helped Yasmin and Andrew financially as well as practically: why would she risk harming the boy she obviously loved? Her sister, Yasmin, is spoilt, used to getting her own way - and resentful of her sister but there's been sorrow in her background too.

If the characters stay with you, the plotting will blow you away. By the time we get to the end of the court case, you already feel that you've read an excellent book but the best is yet to come. The denouement is one of the best endings I've ever read: completely stunning and totally believable. It's a book to read again to see how Abdullah did it because all the clues are there.

I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy available to the Bookbag.

For another courtroom drama, we can recommend House of Correction by Nicci French.

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