Grace thought her sister led a perfect life.
She was wrong. Now she has to pay the price.
When Grace’s beloved sister Glory dies in a car crash, her carefully considered life spirals out of control. She discovers Glory was laundering money through her café for a local crime lord. What’s worse, Grace finds herself an unwitting accomplice, now forced to take over her sister’s shady dealings.
Determined to protect herself and those Glory left behind, Grace plots to turn the tables on Glasgow’s criminal underworld. But her plans unravel when more family secrets emerge and she starts to question Glory’s past intentions.
Hello and welcome to my review of this self-published debut novel. Perhaps you’re a tad worried about the “self-published debut” part of that introduction, but don’t be, it does not read that way at all, there is nothing even remotely amateurish about this book! Let’s jump in and look at some key words, shall we?
I is for Investigation: After Glory’s death, Grace soon realises that there is a lot that she didn’t know about her sister, she starts investigating and the more she digs, the shadier the stuff she unearths.
N is for Not your problem: That is what Grace’s boyfriend tries to make Grace see: that she is not in servitude of her sister’s family nor her sister’s legacy, that she doesn’t have to be the one the fix anything, let alone everything.
S is for Secrets: Not only Glory kept her secrets close to her heart, lots of the characters in this novel have secrets they do not want revealed but we see them unravel before our very eyes, which is a huge part of the fun of course!
E is for Exercise: Grace is a personal trainer. If you think this can’t be relevant, it can and it is: it means she gets a lot of psychical exercise and she has more muscle than you might think. Remember that…
R is for Ramifications: Just like her sister, Grace fails to see the possible ramifications of her actions. She often makes spur of the moment decisions and acts without first thinking through the consequences those actions might entail.
V is for Veg&Might: Glory’s vegan café, what started as an idealistic idea and a bright business plan turned into something much darker and Grace is left to pick up the pieces.
I is for Illegal: As the blurb tells you: there are some very shady dealings going on, and money laundering is just the tip of the iceberg.
T is for Trust: Who can Grace trust? And who can we trust, as readers? Is Grace even a reliable narrator? We are kept guessing until the final pages. I for one felt very distrustful of one person who turned out to be the most trustworthy character of them all in the end. (Yes I would be a lousy detective!)
U is for Unputdownable: As soon as I’d started reading, I knew it was my cup of tea, I was hooked right away. Every little reveal triggered another question and I hated it when life got in the way and I had to stop reading. I quite liked Heleen’s writing style: fluent and laced with humour.
D is for Dementia: Grace’s mum suffers from dementia. Although only a minor storyline, it was interesting to see Grace unravel this little secret, and struggle with its consequences, especially in terms of her mum needing care, and how expensive that is.
E is for Ending: Aaah, the finale. Well, the finale is…. a bit controversial or so it seems. I think it’s a bit of a marmite situation, most people will either hate it or love it. I’ve read reviews by people who loved it, and I’ve read reviews by people who hated it. One Goodreads reviewer gave this novel 1 star because she hated the ending, although she apparently did like everything preceding it. While I appreciate the need for a great finale, deducting that many stars is perhaps a bit on the drastic side. I won’t lie, I still haven’t figured out for myself how I feel about it, I’m still on the fence, which is why it’s one of my key words. Since this is a spoiler-free environment I won’t go into detail, but I will say in broad terms what’s on either side of that fence I’m sitting on: on the one hand it’s a plausible ending and I can see how the characters could have evolved in such a way, on the other hand it jars and it seems quite out of character, especially in a rather limited space of time. So by all means, read it, judge for yourselves, and be sure to let me know which side of the fence you’re on!
Many thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
About the author
Heleen Kist is a Dutch businesswoman who lived all over the world while growing up and for her career. Then she fell in love with a Scotsman and his country, and now writes about its (sometimes scary) people from her garden office in Glasgow.
She was selected as an ‘up and coming new writer’ and awarded a Spotlight at Bloody Scotland 2018, the International crime writing festival.
‘In Servitude’ was inspired by Heleen’s expertise in small business finance mixed with her friend’s courageous idea to open a vegan cafe in a city renowned for its dubious diet. She is currently working on her next book, which will be dark women’s fiction.