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…
Louise Beech is fast developing a reputation as a purveyor of finely crafted and emotionally taut psychological thrillers. Her last novel, Call Me Star Girl, was acclaimed by readers for its dark atmosphere and her latest, I Am Dust, is a more than worthy follow up.
Part mystery, part psychological thriller, and part ghost story, I Am Dust follows theatre usher Chloe as she gets caught up in the return of the infamous musical Dust. Famed, or maybe cursed, following to the murder of its lead actress Morgan Miller during its original run, the revival of Dust brings ghosts of a different kind back to the Dean Wilson Theatre. The new lead is Ginger Swanson, an old friend of Chloe’s, and her return brings with it old memories of teenage misadventures, lost love, and a deadly curse. As preparations for the show begin, Chloe is caught between the past and the present, and the worlds of the living and the dead.
I Am Dust is absolutely dripping with atmosphere. From the eerie emptiness of a nighttime theatre to the glitz and glamour of curtain up, I was utterly absorbed into Chloe’s hauntingly evocative world.
Chloe herself is a complicated character. Emotionally scarred, she’s an unreliable narrator by circumstance rather than by choice. Teenage trauma has shuttered off her memories, which are gradually drip-fed to the reader in the form of flashback chapters to Chloe’s youth when she, Ginger, and a boy called Ryan played games with the occult that have dangerous consequences for the trio.
I really felt for Chloe as the book progressed. Traumatised and uncertain, her chronic lack of self-belief prevents her from seeing her own talent and charm. The supporting cast are also well-defined and believable. From the enigmatic Ginger, on the verge of stardom and with her own haunted past, to cheeky co-worker Chester, desperate to avail himself into the latest Dust gossip no matter the consequences, each of them like rounded human beings, each with their own foibles.
Without giving away any of the plot, I will say that readers are in for an atmospheric and haunting experience filled with twists, turns and unexpected reveals. I was absolutely hooked from page one and raced through the book over the course of a couple of days. Beech really knows how to keep the pace up, alternating deftly between the past and the present and weaving the tragic tale of Morgan Miller and Chloe’s tattered memories into the present-day story of Dust’s revival.
I Am Dust is a brilliantly executed tale of love, jealousy, and self-belief wrapped up in a satisfying mystery. Add in a dash of the supernatural and you’ve got yourself a precisely crafted, poignant, and emotionally layered tale that is sure to leave you with shivers up the spine.
I Am Dust by Louise Beech is published by Orenda Books and is available now from all good booksellers (while physical bookshops may be closed, don’t forget that many indies are still selling online and via phone/email!) and online retailers including the Orenda store, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, as well as to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me onto and organising this blog tour. The tour continues until 30 April so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!