This novel pulls zero punches. It makes no concessions to sensitive or squeamish readers. With precise delicacy, author Will Dean exposes a festering wound of western society and challenges the reader to hate the crime – but love the storytelling. Where a lesser writing talent might’ve stumbled into the sleazy territory of titillation through graphic brutality, Dean skilfully avoids presenting emotional and physical abuse for the reader’s gratification while making it absolutely clear what’s happening.
The Last Thing To Burn takes us into the nightmare territory of a young woman imprisoned in a domestic setting. She’s one of those unfortunate souls sold a lie in her homeland, whose family may be indebted for her ‘new life’ in Europe, and who then is kept in 21st century slavery. The bars of this young woman’s cage are both literal and psychological: her tormentor has broken her body so that she cannot run and he’s imprisoned her psyche so her familial duty keeps her tethered in domestic servitude.
This sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? Fear not. This story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit, to the sheer grit of the survivor. This woman may be fictional but she’s 100% convincing, and channels the indomitable determination of trauma casualties who stubbornly cling to life and to what they love.
At first, the similarities with Stephen King’s Misery are inescapable, but where King’s story is an obvious flight of imaginative inventiveness, Burn is blisteringly grounded in the real. It explores unsettling aspects of Stockholm syndrome, of intentional drug addiction and of the massively powerful forces of parenthood. All this, and tension strung so tight it’s a surprise the pages don’t squeak as you turn them. Don’t start this unless you have the time to finish it!
Oh, and the title is brilliant too. But you’ll have to read the book to find out why…
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean is available at Amazon
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