My thanks to Sian Baldwin of HQ at Harper Collins for including me on this blog tour. I loved Kia Abdullah’s previous book and Truth be Told has not disappointed.
Kamran Hadid feels invincible. He attends Hampton school, an elite all-boys boarding school in London, he comes from a wealthy family, and he has a place at Oxford next year. The world is at his feet. And then a night of revelry leads to a drunken encounter and he must ask himself a horrific question.
With the help of assault counselor, Zara Kaleel, Kamran reports the incident in the hopes that will be the end of it. But it’s only the beginning…
Powerful, explosive and important, Truth Be Told is a contemporary courtroom drama that vividly captures today’s society. You will not stop thinking about it for a long time to come.
‘Vividly examines some of the issues that shape (and deform) society …. A gritty, extremely hard-hitting drama’Adele Parks, Platinum magazine
‘Gripping, sensitive, nuanced and heart-breaking, it will stay with you long after you read it’Roz Watkins, author of Cut to the Bone
Our Author – Kia Abdullah
Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London.
Kia has written for The Guardian, The New York Times, BBC and Lonely Planet, and is the founding editor of outdoor travel blog Atlas & Boots.
Born in Tower Hamlets in east London, Kia was raised in a family of eight children. As the most stubborn of six daughters, she constantly found herself in trouble for making choices that clashed with her parents’, a habit they came to accept when she became their first and only child to graduate from university.
In 2006, Kia wrote and published her first novel, Life, Love and Assimilation (Adlibbed), which she now describes as an “angry, cathartic, messy diatribe of a novel”. The book’s candid look at the trials and tribulations of living between cultures strongly resonated with her generation of British-Asians, but also drew controversy for its portrayal of drug abuse in Tower Hamlets.
In 2009, Kia published her second novel, Child’s Play (Revenge Ink), a dark psychological thriller with more sex and violence than one would expect from a nice girl with a name like Abdullah. Surprisingly, her sophomore effort was embraced by those in her community. It seemed that they, just like her parents, had come to accept this young writer with her troublesome impulses.
Kia went on to join global publisher Penguin Random House where she helped grow digital readership at Rough Guides to over a million users per month. Today, she lives in the Yorkshire Dales town of Richmond and spends her time writing, hiking, mentoring pupils from Tower Hamlets and visiting exotic locations for Atlas & Boots.
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, is out in September 2020 (HQ/HarperCollins).
Kia loves to travel, hates to cook and periodically highlights that, in actual fact, she is one of nine children (one passed away a few days after birth), making her Seven of Nine… which is cool but only if you’re a Star Trek fan… which she is. But please don’t hold it against her.
My Review – Truth Be Told
Where do I Start? This book, wow!
I knew having read Kia’s previous book, Take It Back that this would be just as powerful, and it is. Great writing from start to finish, great plot, great characters, and with the determined and fierce Zara Kaleel as the main protagonist leading the helm it was never going to be a quiet walk in the park storybook, no way – Zara is a force to be reckoned with and she does not hold back.
Zara now works as an ISVA – an Independent Sexual Assult Advisor, using her knowledge as a barrister to help those who have been sexual assault confront their attacks and therefore brave reporting their crimes.
Which brings us to meet Kamran Hadid, he’s 17 and attending a private boarding school, Hampton. He’s Muslim and comes from a wealthy family, who live in a Belsize Park, London and have a driver, a cook, and a cleaner. His parents are both intelligent business people, his father Mustaque “Mack’ runs a medical provisions company when he isn’t playing golf or shooting. And his mother Sofia attends lunches and tries to placate the situations that often arise at home. Adam, Kamran’s brother also attends their school and both are doing well. Kamran is due to finish soon leave and head to University – he’s had an interview at Oxford, much to his father’s joy. Sadly not from pride but from tradition and keeping up with what is best for them all and a sense of duty.
So after a party at school Kamran wakes the morning after to find a fellow student in his bed and blurred recollections of a sexual encounter, that he did not consent too, Kamran is faced with admitting what’s happened or staying quiet and suffering – in the end, he goes to Zara, who after her publicity in her previous case with Jodie Wolfe, featured in Take it Back. She persuades him to go to the police and this means telling his family too. That’s the hardest part, to admit to male rape – a virtually taboo subject is one thing, but to admit to it in a Muslim family, is another. Being gay isn’t considered correct by Muslim teachings and so Kamran not only faces the fate of his parents, mainly his father but also the possibility of being cast out as a blight on the Muslim community, and his extended family and their friends. Sofia is much more understanding and wants to comfort her son and make everything ok.
Most people, including Hamptons staff, are quick to assume its drunken schoolboy’s fumblings gone wrong and that Kamran is gay but doesn’t want to admit it, that he’s denying it was consensual rather than admit it openly. The Pressure Kamran feels is prevalent and yet the oppression also weighs heavy.
Zara faces opposition, yet again and struggles not only with her own demons, but also fights Kamran’s for him too. The case goes to court and his offender gives evidence. And what’s worse is that they both still attend school and are faced with avoiding each other and the jibes and condemnation that are also ever-present.
The case hits the headlines and yet again Zara feels immense pressure to protect her client and gets into some very nasty situations. I like Zara – she’s tenacious, spirited, and highly committed to what is right. She is thrown in at the deep end with moral, religious, and family dilemmas but she strives to keep on the right path regardless of the outcome and do what’s best for her and her client.
And even after the case is closed and she could move on, she doesn’t just drop Kamran, she needs to protect him and keep the contact going. And in the end he needs her as much as she needs him, to feel complete.
I highly recommend Truth Be Told, it’s relevant and feels progressive – purely because of the shameful nature of male rape – it shouldn’t be a taboo subject, its real-life and Kia Abdullah really manages to bring the subject matter and even better, the characters involved to life in her writing.
I for one can’t wait to see what’s next for Zara Kaleel – she is truly a one woman force of nature and someone who never gives up.
To buy Truth Be Told – https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Kia-Abdullah/Truth-Be-Told/24437859
@KiaAbdullah @HQstories #TruthBeTold