Child’s Play, by Kia Abdullah

Nine stars

Returning to read a little more Kia Abdullah, I turned to one of her novels from a decade ago. This is one of Abdullah’s early novels and it pulls the reader in, while disturbing them to the core at the same time. Allegra Ashe enjoys her work with a graphic design firm, so much so that she is willing to meet clients outside the office. When she agrees to meet Michael Stallone, she thinks she might be able to land a new account. Little does she know, Stallone is head hunting her for a very specific job. When Allegra learns a little more, she cannot run away fast enough. Michael Stallone is a special agent for a top secret organisation that hunts down paedophiles. He’s come to recruit Allegra, not only for her intelligence, but because she could easily pass for a young teen, the target age of the girls these criminals find the most attractive. While Allegra rebuffs him on the spot, she soon becomes redundant at work, forcing the idea of working for Stallone to resurface. After agreeing to help, Allegra is thrust into gruelling training, both emotional and psychological, before she is able to make her first contact. The target Stallone chooses for her is Joseph Drake, a man who is suspected of sexually abusing and murdering a young girl. While she has everything to lose, Allegra causally weaves her way into Drake’s life, trying not to bait him, but hoping that she can catch him in the act and have him taken off the streets. While she panics in the midst of her mission, she knows that she can help many. However, even after Drake is off the street, it will only be the beginning of a tangled web that could strike at the core of what Allegra holds most dear. A stunning novel that is as captivating as it is sexually sadistic. Not for the weak of stomach or those who cannot divorce themselves from the fiction on the page. Highly recommended for those who can handle deeply disturbing themes in crime thrillers, as well as the reader who cares to explore the underbelly of society’s worst offenders, those who prey on children.

I was not ensure sure what to expect when I began this book. I was slightly underwhelmed with parts of Abdullah’s latest book and hoped that this one would redeem her in my eyes. From the outset, I must say that the content is raw and extremely graphic at times. I wanted to pace myself, so as not to get emotionally unregulated, but Abdullah’s writing is so good that the pages flew by as I read. Allegra Ashe is a wonderfully complex protagonist whose issues stem from many sources. The reader learns a great deal about her throughout this piece, though there are darker sides that many would perhaps wish remained untapped. The growth within the novel is apparent throughout, though it will take a dedicated reader to see how loose ends are eventually tied off and some resolution found. Of particularly interest is the chemistry she has with Michael Stallone, which is as complicated as the rest of her life. QThere are a handful of others whose expertise shines through and they complement the complicated aspects of the narrative. The reader will need a constant reminder that this is fiction, but that these sorts of people do exist in real life, both the good and the bad. The story is deep and will not digest with ease. The theme alone is horribly painful to read about, but I feel Abdullah wanted to shed some light on the subject matter to ‘de-ostrich’ the reader throughout the journey. Child abuse, particularly that of a sexual nature, occurs all the time and those who prey on them cannot always be easily identified. Abdullah tackles this throughout and leaves the reader highly cynical of stereotyping the most heinous of abusers. A story that needed to be told, particularly because it takes most everyone out of their comfort zone.

Kudos, Madam Abdullah, for this piece that needed to be written. I applaud you for the courage in writing it, though I cannot say I was ‘happy’ for most of it.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: