On an isolated farm in the United Kingdom, a woman is trapped by the monster who kidnapped her seven years ago. When she discovers she is pregnant, she resolves to protect her child no matter the cost, and starts to meticulously plan her escape. But when another woman is brought into the fold on the farm, her plans go awry. Can she save herself, her child, and this innocent woman at the same time? Or is she doomed to spend the remainder of her life captive on this farm?
I’ve been a huge fan of Will Dean’s books ever since an early copy of his debut novel Dark Pines popped through my door in early 2018. I’ve watched as he’s built on that strong start to just get better and better with every Tuva book he writes.
Then we come to this book, The Last Thing To Burn. And it’s like until now he was just coasting, and has just put his foot to the floor.
It’s not an easy read, and the subject matter is horrifying, and horrifyingly plausible. A young woman lives on a huge farm in the middle of nowhere, held captive by her husband. He calls her Jane.
That’s not her name. Her name is Thanh Dao, and she’s been brought over to the UK from Vietnam by traffickers promising a new life, only to find herself captive of the most hideous of men. Who keeps her by his side by threats against her sister, safe in another part of the country. Trapped in a vast, flat landscape, with a badly damaged ankle and no hope of escape.
Thanh Dao is our narrator and takes us through her life with Lenn, with his bland food and bland life, living in the shadow of his beloved, dead mother. But make no mistake, he’s pure, distilled evil. Everything has to be just so, or she’ll lose another of her dwindling collection of personal possessions. A photo of her parents. Letters from her sister. A book. Hers, hers hers. Not his.
Lenn is the most unpleasant, unredeemable character I’ve read for a long, long time. Utterly controlling, utterly convinced by his rightness, utterly nasty.
It’s a bleak book, set in a bleak landscape, but at every step of the way we’re rooting for Thanh Dao. Tiny slivers of hope keep her, and us, going.
It’s an astonishing book, a world away from Tuva Moodyson and her Swedish forest. And one where the subject may be too much for some. It’s a nail-biting, compelling, just one more page book, one where you’re willing Thanh Dao to get away from the very first page.
The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is out now.