Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah #BookReview



Leila Syed receives a call that cleaves her life in two. Her brother-in-law’s voice is filled with panic. His son’s nursery has called to ask where little Max is.


Leila was supposed to drop Max off that morning. But she forgot.

Racing to the carpark, she grasps the horror of what she has done.


What follows is an explosive, high-profile trial that will tear the family apart. But as the case progresses it becomes clear there’s more to this incident than meets the eye…

A gripping, brave and tense courtroom drama, Next of Kin will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final, heart-stopping page.

I'm thrilled to be sharing my publication day review of Next of Kin today. Many thanks to Kia Abdullah and HQ for my advance digital copy of the novel, received through Netgalley.

Next of Kin is Kia Abdullah's third legal thriller but unlike her previous novels, Take It Back and Truth Be Told which were about rape accusations, racism and prejudice, this is a family drama centred around a heartbreaking tragedy but it's no less gripping and I read it in a single sitting. 
The main character of the book is Leila Syed, a driven and successful architect. It's quickly apparent that she protects her younger sister, Yasmin although the reasons for her fragility aren't revealed until later in the story. While it's perhaps not fair to describe her as beholden to Yasmin and her husband, Andrew, it does seem that she will do whatever she can to support them, both financially and more practically - and it's this which leads to the agonisingly sad death of her three-year-old nephew, Max.
From the moment she straps Max into her car then receives an urgent phone call from her office, we know what the horrific outcome will be and that dreadful inevitability is almost too overwhelming to read about. I knew what she would find when she returns to the car, trying to reign in her rising panic but it's still devastating when the worst possible news any parent or relative could hear is confirmed.
The book is divided into three parts; the first following the immediate aftermath of the tragedy as Leila realises she is going to be charged with manslaughter and will face trial, the second is the case itself and the final part of the novel reveals what happens afterwards. Next of Kin is difficult to review without giving away too much about the plot, and it needs to keep its secrets and shocks but I can say that from start to finish, this emotive, hard-hitting story is imbued with the provocative authenticity I so admire in Kia Abdullah's writing.
While the court case to decide whether Leila is guilty of negligence leading to Max's death is fascinating, the exploration of other issues that arise during the course of the novel are equally as compelling. This is really a book about misogynistic societal demands, from the judgement of women like Leila who don't have children to the concurrent deification and demonisation of mothers. The unrealistic expectations heaped on women to be less emotional but then criticised and doubted for being cool under pressure - Leila is described as an ice queen on more than one occasion - and the difficulties of managing work and raising a child with little money and no family support are examined with piercing insight. 
The preventable death of a small child is a terribly distressing subject, of course but what makes this such an absorbing story is that it's also a beautifully empathetic observation of family dynamics, love, grief, miscommunication and fear. The characterisation of these flawed, broken people is superb and the pacing is perfect, allowing for moments of reflection as well as the tense, more dramatic scenes. 
Next of Kin is a compulsive, jaw-dropping read; it's not about the whodunnit, there is no violence but this quiet exploration of a harrowing death and the terrible consequences left me breathless. Shatteringly poignant and utterly engrossing throughout; Kia Abdullah's star keeps shining brighter and this excellent book deserves to be a huge success. Very highly recommended. 

Next of Kin is published today by HQ, purchasing links can be found here but please consider supporting independent bookshops whenever possible.

About the Author
Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. Her novel Take It Back was named one of the best thrillers of the year by The Guardian and Telegraph and was selected for an industry-first audio serialisation by HarperCollins and The Pigeonhole. Her follow-up novel, Truth Be Told was published in September 2020 (HQ/HarperCollins).

Kia has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Times, and is the founder of Asian Booklist, a non-profit organisation that advocates for diversity in publishing.