The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean – Review
By Karl Hornsey
With the appetite for well-written Scandi Noir showing little sign of abating, Will Dean burst onto that particular scene a couple of years ago with his debut novel Dark Pines, which introduces deaf news reporter Tuva Moodyson, and follows her quest to help solve some gory crimes set deep in the Swedish wilderness. Dean followed this with Red Snow, and the third and latest instalment, Black River, which is now out in hardback.
So it was with great interest that I heard of his latest standalone novel, The Last Thing to Burn, which demonstrates that Dean is anything but a one-trick pony when it comes to being a budding master of his art. This offering is very different in tone to the Moodyson novels, and takes the reader on an immersive and harrowing journey that delves into the horrific world of people trafficking.
The story centres on ‘Jane’, who is being held captive by her husband in an isolated cottage somewhere in the English countryside, and unfolds over a matter of weeks and months, as the gravity of her situation continues to worsen. ‘Jane’, the name given to her by her husband, and her sister came to the country on the promise of finding work and a new life, but fell into the hands of traffickers, and the story is told in her words, as she goes about her daily life cooking, cleaning and effectively being a slave for her husband, and trying desperately to keep hold of her remaining few possessions, as referenced in the title.
This is a thoroughly addictive read and one that, had I had the time, would happily have devoured in one sitting, as I found myself needing to know what fate was set to befall ‘Jane’, and which direction the story would take. Seldom have I read a story that had me as hooked as this, building the tension towards the end to the point where there was no way I could put it down until I’d finished. That may sound something of a cliché, but the pacing and character development, with very few characters in the book, made it so.
While I wouldn’t dream of giving anything away other than the basic plot, there are enough shocking twists and turns to leave the reader on edge and with no clue as to what might happen next. It has been described as ‘Misery meets Room’, and that is a spot-on description. It’s not hard to envisage this transferring to the big-screen very easily and, should that be the case, and the Moodyson saga makes it to, say, the Saturday night BBC4 slot that has piqued the interest in foreign snow-bound dramas, then Dean will gain the further recognition and acclaim that he so clearly merits.
‘The Last Thing To Burn’ by Will Dean is published by Hodder & Stoughton – out 7th January 2021