The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean

Brenda’s review

Big sigh!!! Just another abduction, imprisonment, control over women story marketed as a “claustrophobic thriller.” Wait, hmm, Lenn has my attention with his claustrophobic, disturbing, controlling way over Jane, but did that created the tension, sense of dread, and fear needed to create a thrilling, chilling and exciting thriller?

Will Dean offers us something different here with this “domestic thriller,” and it was claustrophobic, but it didn’t deliver on that slow-building tension, sense of dread, or fear. As disturbing as Jane’s environment was, I never really got that sense of fear I wanted to feel from Jane. Maybe it had something to do with the author being male writing the POV of a woman fearing a man that distracting me from that. It was all about the strong theme of men controlling women, and I could feel that coming from Lenn. There is something a little different here with the way Lenn controls Jane, which was the driving force of the story for me.

Jane is not her real name but the name Lenn has given her. Her real name is Thanh Dao, she came to the UK with her sister and the promise of a good job but instead is sold to Lenn. A claustrophobic feeling is created here with the isolated wooded farm Jane is imprisoned in. Lenn is creepy, disturbing, and unsettling with the way he uses psychological coercion in a haunting way and physical abuse to control Thanh Dao. Lenn uses threats against her sister and the possessions that keep her connected to who she is. When Thanh displeases Lenn or breaks the rules, he burns one of her possessions. She loses a piece of who she is and struggles with being replaced as Jane, his wife, and the image of his mother.

Jane is a strong character, and I love the strength she finds to hold on to who she is while trying to survive, however her conflicts and actions felt a bit predictable. It was Lenn who stoled the show for me with his unsettling calm way of thinking the forced daily repetitive routine Jane must do just the way his mother did is a perfectly normal life with Jane that intrigued me from start to finish. A couple of turns to the story left me pleasantly surprised, and I didn’t expect or see the twist coming in the end. The ending blurs the lines of fiction and reality a bit too far, but I did like the way it all wrapped up.

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley.