Book Reviews

In Servitude – Heleen Kist

In Servitude
Published: 31st August 2018

Welcome to the Blog Tour for 'In Servitude' by Heleen Kist.  Thanks again to Shalini of Digital Reads Blog Tours for allowing me to be a part of this Blog Tour!

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.

When the email for this novel pinged into my inbox with the blurb above, I knew it was one I definitely wanted to read.  Not only because it's set in my home country of Scotland but because who doesn't like a good, gritty story about shady dealings and a 'criminal underworld'??

Imagine my joy when I realised that not only was this book set in Scotland, but it's also partly set in my hometown of Perth!  I have never found a book set in Perth before and it was quite surreal to read about the characters going about their business in my old stomping ground.

To illustrate:

  • Swimming off Moncrieffe Island? Done it.
  • Lounging about on the North Inch (a large park in the centre of Perth)? Check.
  • Driven Viewlands Road? Check and double check - I went to school on that road and I had a friend who lived in one of the houses nearby.
  • Visited Perth Royal Infirmary?  Oh yes... my Mum worked there for many, many years.
  • Driven the A9/ M9/ M80 between Glasgow and Perth?  Many, many times.

It was AMAZING to be able to properly picture the places they were going and the things they were talking about.  It really made my day and added to my enjoyment of this book.

The Story

Glory was dead.  This isn't a spoiler, it's the first words of the book - don't panic!  The story follows Grace, Glory's sister, as she tried to pick up the pieces following her much loved sisters death in a car accident.  Grace is tasked with helping Patrick, her brother-in-law, care for his 2 young boys as well as Blue their pet dog (I had serious fears for Blue... as I always do when there's an animal in a psychological thriller, will they survive?!).  Grace also takes charge at Glory's hipster Vegan Cafe in Glasgow and this is where the twists and turns start!

Discrepancies in the cafe's financial accounts, strange men following her in the park and odd deliveries of boxes of money lead Grace on a perfectly plotted journey into her sisters life.  There are secrets galore which leave Grace wondering if she really ever knew her sister at all.

The Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Not only because it's partly set in my hometown but because Grace is a genuinely likeable character.  I found myself rooting for her, worrying about her and what was going to happen to her next.  The novel talks of accounting and finance but not in a way that alienates the reader, it's all believable and easy to understand.  There is also the family dynamic between Grace and her parents.  Her mother has Alzheimer's and her father acts as primary carer.  This along with the death of her sister, caring for her nephews, brother-in-law and dog, running the cafe as well as her own personal training business IN ADDITION to keeping a boyfriend happy poor Grace has a lot going on!  Add a splash of Glaswegian Gangster to the mix and you get a totally enthralling read!

I will say this though - and no spoilers here - the ending is... surprising.

A splendidly-Scottish 4 stars - highly recommended.

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. Trained at work to spot and prevent financial crime, she put this knowledge to good use for her debut novel, In Servitude.


Twitter:  @hkist

An Excerpt from 'In Servitude'

Blue pulled at the lead. I let him off once I’d scanned the area and noted no loose dogs. Only a lone figure loitering. His eye line crossed mine as he also examined the park, and paused on me long enough to raise a creepy sensation.
I moved to a bench by the play park and pretended to tie my laces. When I straightened up, the man was striding straight towards me. I searched for Blue, hoping for a semblance of protection, but he was nowhere to be seen. Nor was anyone else.
Before I could stop him, the man sat down next to me. He whistled and shouted, ‘Here boy!’ then faced me with a disturbing grin. As if he knew the dog wouldn’t come. I jumped to my feet and looked around. What had he done?
On the second blow of silent air through my dry mouth, Blue appeared from behind a tree thirty yard away. Safe. He showed no interest in me or the man, instead sniffing out the ground’s many treasures.
I turned back to the intruder. Standing over him gave me an edge—at least I thought it did—and I raised my chin and my voice when I asked, ‘Do I know you?’
He chuckled. ‘Nah, hen. I’m only the messenger.’
His smile faded. ‘We’re not very happy about you closing the café for so long. You need to open up again. There’s a delivery coming on Thursday.’
‘What do you mean? How do you—’
His eyes turned to ice as he grabbed my wrist in a flash. ‘We’ll be very disappointed if you’re not there to receive the goods. Ken what I’m saying?’
He rushed off, his dark coat billowing behind him like a cape, almost engulfing Blue who circled his legs, tail wagging, until he turned towards the road.


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