Header collage featuring the cover of The Last Room by Danuta Reah

The Last Room

Death, grief and danger face a father determined to clear his dead daughter’s name.

“A richly plotted, multi-layered drama with raw emotions and boundless grief at its heart.” – Crimesquad

Was Ania’s fall to her death suicide? Her father, Will Gillen, believes he knows his daughter, but Ania was keeping dark and dangerous secrets.

Seal: Nominated for the CWA Gold Dagger award
Seal: Nominated for the CWA Steel Dagger award

The Last Room

The Last Room, like The Forest of Souls and Strangers, has an international setting, moving from Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa at the height of the brutal civil war to Łódź, in Poland. Like Silent Playgrounds and Night Angels, part of the book focuses on forensic linguistics: in this case, voice identification and the implications of recording.

Ania Miloscz is a forensic linguist who specialises in voice identification. Her evidence in the trial of a man accused of child murder was crucial in his conviction. Now, the evidence she gave in court is being challenged. But she is not being accused of making an error: she is accused of falsifying her analysis and tampering with the original recording.


She faces charges of perjury and of perverting the course of justice. Before the news breaks that a notorious child-killer may be freed because of her actions, she calls her father, Will Gillen, and warns him that a shocking news story is about to break. Then, instead of facing her accusers, she travels to Łódź in Poland where she has work and personal connections.

Perverting the course of justice

Will, an ex-police officer who reluctantly took early retirement in the aftermath of a botched intelligence operation, is no stranger to scandal and tragedy. His other daughter, Ania’s twin, was abducted and murdered when she was a young child, her killer never found. His wife Elžbieta died in a fall some months later. Now he must face the fact that his surviving daughter may be facing a long prison term for perverting the course of justice.


But then the news comes through. Ania, too, is dead. She fell from a high window in the University of Łódź late at night. The local police are satisfied that no one else was involved. Ania, like her mother, killed herself. All that is left for Will to do is go to Łódź and collect his daughter’s body. But he is determined to find out why she falsified the evidence in the trial of Derek Haynes for the murder of the refugee child, Sagal Akindes. Why was she so convinced of his guilt that she was prepared to risk her future and her freedom to see Haynes convicted?


When he arrives in Łódź, he meets Ania’s lover, Dariusz. The two men are hostile towards each other. Dariusz can’t forgive Will for doubting Ania. Against overwhelming evidence, he refuses to believe she falsified anything and he doesn’t believe she killed herself. He says the words Will finds unforgivable: did you know your daughter at all?

Hidden messages

As Will investigates, he realises that the investigation into her death was not carried out properly, and that Ania herself has left a trail of odd messages: a link to a Facebook page, evidence that something was hidden in an old stuffed toy. But why would she do it like that? Why didn’t she just tell him what she wanted him to know? What happened to the letter she told him she had sent to him?

Returning to the last room

Investigating Ania’s death is not a popular decision. Will comes under pressure from the local police to stop. When his health breaks down, he has to leave Łódź. Dariusz, despite the animosity between the two men, promises to continue what Will started. But this means Dariusz has put himself in grave danger as he goes back to the last room, the place where Ania died.

Côte d’Ivoire

The story moves between Łódź, Manchester, where Ania lived and worked, and the small town of St Abbs on the coast of Scotland that is now Will’s home. The complexity of Ania’s investigation is the key to Sagal Akindes’ death. The case has links with all these places, and to the horrors of the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire that Sagal’s parents were fleeing. And who is the mysterious lawyer, Sarah Ludlow, who comes to St Abbs before Ania’s death, apparently just a random visitor?

Nothing is what it seems, and Will and Dariusz both learn that no one can be trusted; or for Will, only his daughter, who seems to be reaching out and guiding him through the convoluted trail that will ultimately lead to the truth.

How I wrote The Last Room

I first got the idea for The Last Room when I worked with an asylum seeker who had come the UK from Côte d’Ivoire during the revolution. She told me a shocking story and said I had her permission to use it in any way I chose. This story, with much of the graphic detail omitted, is used at the start of the book, as Nadifa, a young mother in Côte d’Ivoire, struggles to keep her daughter Sagal hidden from the marauding soldiers.

The Łódź Ghetto

I also wanted to write about forensic linguistics and how it can be used to investigate a crime. I attended a forensic linguistics conference in Łódź at the university, and was very drawn to the city. It is beautiful, with the largest urban forest in Europe. It also commemorates the tragedy of the past with its memorials to the war dead, particularly the Jewish victims of the Nazi occupation. The boundaries of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto, where many European Jews were held, are still marked out.

The wartime dead

The field where the dead of the ghetto were buried in unmarked graves is preserved in the Pole Gettowe. Łódź is an important stop on Holocaust memorial trips. It made me sad when I saw one of these and saw how many young Jews were hostile to the Poles. Łódź remembers the Jews of the city. The Pole Gettowe and the older Jewish cemetery are preserved with love and respect. Many Poles are remembered among the righteous at Yad Vashem, where the heroes of the Holocaust are celebrated. My father was Polish, and I have always been very aware of the unresolved tragedy of our Eastern European allies after the war against Hitler.

Grief and loss

The Last Room is a book about more than one crime, though Will’s investigation focuses only on the crime that ended his daughter’s life. It is also a book about grief and about living with loss. I wanted to write about the compromises we have to make to survive, but also to tell a good and gripping story that would engage people both with the serious issues the book addresses, and with the narrative of what happened to Ania Miloscz. Despite everything that has happened, I wanted to end the book on a note of hope, and I think I achieved that.