When Heleen Kist contacted me and asked me to review her debut novel, “In Servitude” my first reaction was to decline the request as my review schedule was through the roof, never mind my own TBR pile languishing away. However, there was something about the email, the blurb and that cover that intrigued me and I felt compelled to read the novel.
Before I share my thoughts, here’s what the official blurb says:
Do you owe your family your life?
When Grace McBride’s beloved sister Glory dies in a car crash, her carefully considered life spirals out of control. She discovers Glory had been drawn into illegal activities at odds with her seemingly charmed existence. What’s worse, Grace finds herself an unwitting accomplice now forced to take over her sister’s shady dealings.
Determined to keep her fingers clean and redeem her sister’s reputation, Grace plots to extricate herself—and all those Glory held dear—from the clutches of Glasgow’s criminal underworld. But her moral certitude is challenged when familial pressure mounts and Glory’s past intentions remain unclear. Grace grows convinced Glory’s death was no accident, even if no-one will listen…
Seeking justice, she finds betrayal
Two sisters, one dies, how many secrets will the one left behind uncover and just how well did Grace McBride know her sister, Glory? When Glory dies in a car crash her sister Grace is left to pick up the pieces and while she expected to be offering comfort and practical support to her brother-in-law and nephew she had no idea of the secrets that she was about to uncover.
At first, my heart went out to Grace as she tried to come to terms with the secrets she uncovered following the death of her sister. Each little stone turned over unearths another dark lie and it seems at times that she is the only one who doesn’t know what is going on. To add to the pressure she discovers her parents are also hiding things from her and when she goes to visit them in Perth it is a heart-wrenching scene. But while I felt for Grace she also caused me to feel quite conflicted; her constant need to be the avenging hero took her to places where she really shouldn’t have been going and seen her becoming involved with people she really shouldn’t have been consorting with! While at times her behaviour seemed to be rather unbelievable, the sense of place that the author created was so strong that I was able to forgive Grace’s behaviour, suspend my belief and read on anxious to know the outcome! Grace’s boyfriend Dave and her sister’s husband Stephen were both very different characters and the reader is often left wondering if either of them could be trusted.
The author certainly nailed the sense of place and for readers who know Glasgow and Perth, there is a strong sense of being right in the heart of the storyline as they will recognise streets and landmarks. For those who don’t know the areas, you will feel like you do by the end of the novel!
There was one reference to the “mentally disabled” and this jarred me a little, as someone who works in this field, the language we use to talk about conditions and individuals is important in challenging stigma.
The plot was perfectly paced, taut and gritty. It kept me engaged and short chapters made it perfect for the “just one more chapter” feeling that I enjoy! Alongside the characters that Grace finds herself embroiled with there is plenty of realistic everyday situations that readers can identify with. Grace certainly tried to fit the mould of the “perfect woman” running her own business, dealing with her sister’s business, looking after her brother-in-law, nephews and her own parents while dealing with her own grief and anxiety at what she was uncovering. It was hard not to become emotionally invested in the storyline.
Blackmail, conflict and corruption all tie in neatly with the title of the novel “In Servitude” and the concept that we are all beholden to others in some shape or form but just what level of control do we try to maintain in our own lives?
This was an excellent debut from the author and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!
In Servitude is available to purchase from:
About the author:
Heleen Kist is a Dutch quintilingual Stanford-educated globetrotting career woman who fell in love with a Scotsman and his country and now writes about its (sometimes scary) people from her garden office in Glasgow.
‘In Servitude’ is her debut psychological suspense novel. She was selected as an ‘up and coming new writer’ and given a Spotlight at Bloody Scotland, the International crime writing Festival 2018.
She hopes you enjoy her writing, reach out on twitter (@hkist) and/or leave reviews.