Jane is an unwilling participant in her marriage. She is a captive. She stays only to keep someone else safe, although her husband has made it impossible to escape his clutches. Hope seems to be a thing of the past until something changes her determination to break free of the chains that bind her so tightly.
Dean certainly is full of surprises, which isn’t a bad thing when it comes to writing or creating captivating stories. Just when you think you have the measure of the flair, spectrum and ability, and then he goes and writes a complete curveball. A brilliantly engaging, intense and incredibly important one.
Aside from the immaculate plotting and on point characters there is another element of the story that absolutely deserves a kudos. The way Dean was able to immerse himself into the world of coercive, mental, physical abuse and the psychological abuse that goes hand-in-hand with trafficking and modern day slavery. You’ll often hear or read cries of indignation ‘why didn’t he/she leave or ask for help, which of course is one of the many reasons abusive relationships are incomprehensible to someone who hasn’t experienced them – the inability to comprehend the dynamics of control, power and abuse.
Whilst it is absolutely true that the young, vulnerable and inexperienced are statistically more likely to become victims, abuse does not halt before the intelligent, educated mind or person. It is far more complex than that. Anyway I digress.
My point is that Dean writes this with such an in-depth perception it made me wonder about the ability of certain storytellers to write beyond the construct and patriarchal dogma or bias of their gender, which is important depending on the topic and the gender of their characters. This story would have been ruined by tropes, instead it is a hard-hitting piece of fiction set in realism.
It is also written in an almost minimalistic style and mindset, which captures the isolation of the main character and the surroundings. An element I found extremely intriguing given where the story takes place. It serves as a stark reminder as to how disconnected the majority of us are from each other. Easier to look away and ignore the obvious signs than to become involved and help.
Above all Dean shines a spotlight on one of the most prevalent crimes of our modern era, although one could argue that slavery and human trafficking has merely evolved with the times and the demand. Unfortunately it’s a very profitable, albeit completely despicable business and crime.
This is a cracking read. Oh and kudos to the author for the name and identity part of the story, especially in relation to Mary. Subtle, and yet simultaneously gut-wrenching and visceral.
Buy/Pre-order The Last Thing to Burn at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; pub date 7 Jan. 2021. Buy at Amazon com. Hive. Bookshop org. Waterstones.
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