The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…
Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?
Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?
Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?
Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.
And Chloe has been watching…
Hi and welcome to my review of I Am Dust! Massive thanks to Karen from Orenda Books for sending me a beautiful review copy!
If you visited FromBelgiumWithBookLove last year, you may have noticed me gushing about Louise Beech on a rather regular basis… I could gush about Louise for my country, I could, so why stop now. The truth is I fell in love with Louise’s writing with The Lion Tamer Who Lost and I’ve never looked back! Well no, that’s not true, I did look back, to Louise’s entire backlist, which I read and listened my way through all last year, leaving me utterly bereft and Louiseless by the end of #Orentober. Naturally, I Am Dust became my most anticipated read of 2020, but thanks to Karen’s generosity I was able to read it before 2020 even came around! (Best Boxing Day ever!) I was planning on only reading books I didn’t need to review during the holidays, but I just had to get stuck in I Am Dust at the first opportunity I got!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Louise Beech is the most versatile author I know. Although her particular style is there in all her books, she refuses to be crammed into one little genre box, and with I Am Dust she ventures into yet another genre. Like last year’s Call Me Star Girl, I Am Dust is a thriller, but it veers into the occult and it’s part ghost story, tinged with urban fantasy. If you’re not into all that, don’t let me spook you (see what I did there), it’s all very subtle and I’m sure that you’ll be able to enjoy I Am Dust just as much.
There are two alternating storylines: one in 2019 and one in 2005. Both feature Chloe, a teenager in 2005 and a theatre usher in 2019.
In 2005, Chloe is part of her school’s production of Macbeth, and she has a best friend who she secretly has a crush on. And that’s where to trouble starts: the best friend, Jess, has a crush on one of the boys, Ryan, who desperately wants them to try and conjure spirits by means of a Ouija board. Jess is interested because she has a thing for Ryan, and Chloe is not interested at all, but lets herself be persuaded by Jess. I personally have never used a Ouija board, it creeps me the hell out, and so did a large part of this storyline! I don’t really believe in ghosts and spirits, but I have always thought that one shouldn’t dabble in things one does not understand. A bit like an unholy Pascal’s Wager: ghosts or not, if you don’t try to conjure them, nothing happens either way, but if there are ghosts and you do try to conjure them, who knows what could happen, so it’s better to act like ghosts are real and steer clear of things like Ouija boards. In I Am Dust ghosts are real, and not all of them are benevolent…
In 2019, Chloe is a far cry from the upbeat girl she was in 2005. She was self-harming for a large period of time and has the scars to prove it. She’s only now noticing that she has forgotten almost everything about that summer in 2005 when she and Jess and Ryan were talking to ghosts, now that her memories are starting to come back. What happened that summer? I needed to find the answer to that question but both storylines kept it shrouded in mystery. The theatre Chloe works at is allegedly haunted: the lead actress of Dust, the most successful musical ever performed there – and Chloe’s favourite – was found murdered in her dressing room and she’s rumoured to have never left. Now Dust is coming back in a whole new production, but if the lead part and the play are cursed and the theatre is haunted, little good can come of it…
It’s clear all these elements are connected, but how? All the mystery kept me on my toes, making I Am Dust literally unputdownable. The world could have gone to hell outside my window, I would not have noticed!
The theatre setting is absolutely brilliant. Even without rumours of a resident ghost, a theatre has a certain vibe, it makes for a very atmospheric setting, adding drama without it having to be spelled out. Knowing that Louise Beech works in a theatre only added to my enjoyment, I loved finding out more about the inner workings of theatres and what the job of usher entails.
Once again I dived into a Louise Beech novel with ridiculously high expectations, but I don’t even try to lower them anymore, I just know she is that good and with I Am Dust she has proven it again. If you’ve read any of her previous novels you may be wondering right about now if you’ll be needing a handkerchief… Let’s just say you might want to keep one handy for those final chapters… I really thought I’d got through it without crying, and then those final pages did me in anyway, don’t count your chickens and all that, I did, I got cocky and I paid the price!
I Am Dust is Louise Beech’s most atmospheric novel to date. A ghost story, a murder mystery, a riveting thriller, with a broken girl at its heart, a beautifully written tale that will haunt me for a long time to come. I can’t wait to re-read it. Highly recommended!
I Am Dust is out in eBook format today (happy epub day, Louise!!), and in paperback on 16 April, (pre)order now, don’t miss out!