Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m very excited to be posting my review of Will Dean’s utterly sensational psychological thriller, ‘The Last Thing To Burn’. I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC by Hodder & Stoughton – thanks so much for the opportunity! I absolutely loved this book, and it even made my Top 5 Books of 2020 list. Today is actually publication day for the novel, so you can go out and bag yourself a copy NOW! So, keep reading to discover my thoughts…
He is her husband. She is his captive.
Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.
She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.
Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.
For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting . . .
‘The Last Thing To Burn’ (7th January 2021) is Will Dean’s fourth novel, following on from ‘Dark Pines’ (2017), ‘Red Snow’ (2019) and ‘Black River’ (2020). Dean grew up in the East Midlands and studied law at the LSE, before going on to work in various jobs in London. He has now settled in rural Sweden with his wife, and writes from his self-built wooden house in a boggy forest clearing.
The novel has received positive reviews, from the likes of fellow authors such as Steve Cavanagh: “A visceral nightmare of a book with one of the most evil villains I’ve come across in a long time”, Emma Curtis: “Seriously nail-biting stuff!”, C.L. Taylor: “Claustrophobic, compulsive, and almost unbearably tense it’s a heart-in-mouth read that’s packed with suspense”, Erin Kelly: “
The novel has received positive reviews, from the likes of fellow authors such as Steve Cavanagh: “A visceral nightmare of a book with one of the most evil villains I’ve come across in a long time”, Emma Curtis: “Seriously nail-biting stuff!”, C.L. Taylor: “Claustrophobic, compulsive, and almost unbearably tense it’s a heart-in-mouth read that’s packed with suspense”, Erin Kelly: “Heart-stoppingly suspenseful, a masterclass in tension”, Jane Casey: “This is a brilliant, chilling depiction of life on the very edges of society” and Liz Nugent: “Ratchets up the tension to the point where I had to check my pulse.”
‘The Last Thing To Burn’ follows the life of Jane, as she is held captive and forced to live a life of pain and misery with “husband” Lenn. She has tried to escape several times in the past, but all have been to no avail. However, something has changed and she now has a reason to fight – Jane is watching her husband, and waiting for the right time to make her move…
The narrative is told from the first-person perspective of Jane throughout. The reader is given a deep insight to her thoughts, feelings and emotions, as she struggles to cope with her life in captivity. The story is narrated in the present day throughout, with some allusions to the past. There isn’t too much to say about the narrative – it is really easy to follow, yet still very effective.
Jane is my favourite character by far. She was trafficked and transported to the UK from Romania, and has been held against her will by farmer Lenn. She is extremely lonely, not to mention being sexually, physically and mentally abused almost every day. Her every movement is tracked and watched back by Lenn at the end of each day, and if she has done something he doesn’t like then she is punished. Jane limps around every day on a battered and swollen ankle, and her captor controls her access to pain medicine. She has some momentos from home, and loves to read over her sister’s letters to give her strength. Jane is extremely strong-willed and determined, even though her life is unbearable; one day everything changes and she does everything in her power to escape and protect others. Jane is a very well-written, three-dimensional character, and I felt really inspired by her spirit and power.
Lenn is a very evil man. He is a deeply troubled character, who is obsessed with keeping Jane all to himself. He clearly has a lot of issues, and has some form of oedipus complex – naming his “wife” after his mother and forcing her to wear his mother’s old clothes. Lenn is a busy farmer and is often out tending to his crops or livestock – but he is always watching and checking upon Jane, and he is never far from the cottage where she resides. He controls every single aspect of Jane’s life; from the chores she is forced to do, the clothes she must wear, the sleeping arrangements and being the only source to provide the pain medication that she desperately needs, Jane has been completely stripped of her freedom by this horrible human being. I felt a great deal of hate towards this man, and I honestly wanted him to die a slow and painful death. He is a fantastically-written character who you can’t help but absolutely despise.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** The narrative is centred around the theme of abduction and captivity. The reader is given a detailed insight into the protagonist’s daily struggles and suffering, as she attempts to physically and mentally survive throughout this ordeal. The novel explores the theme of abuse in great detail, including physical, emotional and sexual violence. The reader follows as Jane is beaten and raped, and controlled in every aspect of her life. The theme of suicide is also explored, with references to suicidal thoughts and overdoses. Finally, the novel contains references to physical injuries and bodily harm, as Jane is forced to undergo a life-changing event in captivity. All of these issues are explored with appropriate sensitivity – but if you feel that they may trigger a negative response, I suggest you skip this book.
As the narrative motors onwards, Jane begins to plan her escape. Her situation becomes more and more dire, and she must act quickly if she is to save herself and ultimately survive. Will Jane ever be able to escape from the evil Lenn? Or is she destined to be his “wife” forever?
So, let’s talk about the ending. There’s a really dramatic end scene in which Jane finds herself on the brink of death, and she must fight hard for survival. The ending is jam-packed full of action and suspense, and I simply couldn’t tear my eyes away! I was really satisfied with the ending, and felt that it tied everything together brilliantly. A fantastic ending to a fantastic novel!
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy psychological thrillers, particularly if you’re interested in reading books about abduction and captivity. This is a very dark book and is definitely not for the faint hearted – but it is so brilliant, and I couldn’t fault it if I tried! The characters are very well-written, the plot contains plenty of mystery and suspense, and the ending is simply fantastic … what more could you want?! This book is going straight on my favourites shelf and I highly urge you all to go out and buy it – I promise you won’t regret it!
Happy reading 🙂