EXCERPT: I wash up and listen for the front door.
The noise of the bolt.
Blessed relief. I breathe out and wait, scouring pad in hand, and then he’s there at the back field on his quad, a monster riding away on four wheels, riding off towards the pigs, his brethren. I wish upon him a heart attack and a bad fall, perhaps into the dike, drowning, the quad on top, and a lightning strike. But nothing ever happens to him, no consequences. He’s as solid and as basic as a concrete wall. The times I’ve begged to all the gods, to the horizon, to the four spires I can see to the north on a clear day and the three to the south, to the wind turbines, for some retribution to be brought, some penalty, and yet he thrives on.
The tapes are rolling. They’re always rolling. If I move, they start recording, that’s how he installed them. Leonard’s quite handy with electrics and plumbing. And he may come back. He says he’s off to feed the pigs, those royal animals luxuriating on their throne of filth, unaware of their relative freedom, but he could just as well race back in five minutes. To surprise me. To control his small world and keep things exactly as he likes them.
ABOUT ‘THE LAST THING TO BURN’: 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?
MY THOUGHTS: The cleverly titled The Last Thing to Burn is an intense read, dark, gripping and heartbreaking. Trafficked from Vietnam, Thanh Dao is systematically stripped of everything, including her identity, by the cruel and controlling Lenn. Renamed Jane after Lenn’s mother, she is forced to live in a ramshackle dwelling in the Fens, to wear Lenn’s mother’s clothes, to cook the food she used to cook in exactly the same way, to clean the house to her exacting regime, and to submit to Lenn’s precise demands for sex.
This is not an easy read and nor should it be. Lenn is nasty, cruel and abusive, and yet every now and then he throws out a nugget of relative kindness to keep Jane off balance.
Jane is an amazing character. In spite of being stripped of her few precious possessions, her language and her identity, she remains Thanh Dao in her mind. She creates a space for herself where Lenn cannot go, where she can talk to her sister Kim-Ly who escaped Vietnam with her and whom she believes to be working in a nail salon in Manchester.
The story of Thanh Dao’s struggles is an emotional and heartbreaking one. It is one that, although fiction, depicts the plight of many and deserves to be shared. Will Dean has done his research well. I appreciated the fact that in the afterword he listed organisations able to help if you suspect someone needs help.
Well done Will.
I: @willrdean @atriabooks
T: @willrdean @AtriaBooks
#contemporaryfiction #crime #humanrights #thriller
THE AUTHOR: Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Atria Books, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, for providing a digital ARC of The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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