At times the writing can be a little pat. “It was his first encounter with an important truth — that good things come from being kind to animals,” Callaghan writes of a dog-whispering moment from Abu Laith’s childhood. In fact, some of her best, most revealing passages are nothing to do with rescuing animals. An award-winning Middle East correspondent for The Sunday Times, Callaghan knows her way around a war. Her portrayal of a city under siege is many-layered and brilliantly told. The gallows humour and defiance of Mosulis in the most desperate circumstances will appeal to British readers.