- I Am Dust.
- Louise Beech.
- 300 pages.
- Thriller / Psychological Thriller / Mystery.
- My Rating: Hellyeah Book Review.
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…
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I really don’t know where to begin with this review, that sounds great for a blogger doesn’t it?!?! When I finished I Am Dust I was in awe. I was speechless and I had to sit back and take a few minutes to reflect on what I had just read and the profound journey that I had just been taken on. I cannot rate or recommend this book highly enough and I know that whatever words I now find won’t do the book justice. But, I will try my best, it is all I have and all that I can do.
Dust was the first show to be shown at the newly opened Dean Wilson Theatre in 1999. Esme Black was one of the two main characters, Morgan Miller the actress who played her. During the interval of the fourth performance of Dust Miller was murdered in her dressing room. The show was shut down, cancelled, it never got to finish its run and Miller never got to finish her performance. Since then, it has been rumoured that Miller haunts the theatre, the gossamer, wraith-like and restless ghost of her in full Esme Black costume has been seen on occasion and numerous times her voice has been heard singing the songs from Dust…her killer was never found and her murder remains unsolved.
Now, after twenty years, Dust is returning to the stage, to the theatre where it began for its twentieth anniversary. The revival of Dust is controversial, some think that due to its tragic history that it shouldn’t return. But, for most, the return is met with enthusiasm and excitement. The theatre hasn’t been doing well in recent years with subpar shows and a dwindling audience. Going back to where it all began and with the celebrity of the unsolved murder of the original leading lady hanging over the revival of Dust all that will change, there will be a surge in popularity, a clamour to see the show, every night the seats will be full and the show sold-out.
I Am Dust is told in dual timelines that blend flawlessly together and are attuned in perfect harmony. 2005 with Chloe and her two teenage friends Jess and Ryan rehearsing for a performance of Macbeth over the summer at the local youth theatre. And, in 2019 with Chloe now an usher at the Dean Wilson Theatre where she has worked for six years.
Back in 2005, against the backdrop of teenage angst and unrequited love, it is the last summer before Chloe, Jess and Ryan will go their separate ways and they decide that when not rehearsing to play a dangerous game, taking part in things that are better left alone and they start using an Ouija board. The three are messing with forces beyond their ken, summoning spirits and talking to the roaming departed of the in-between.
In 2019, while the other shows are still taking place in the run-up to the premiere and the opening night of Dust the Dean Wilson Theatre is preparing, getting ready and building the anticipation with journalists and film crews documenting the return, the new cast, the rehearsals and the new stage also being built. Showing you the hustle-and-bustle, the flurry of activity, the movement and the sound, the glitz and the glamour of the theatre and those who are the glitter. Along with the backstage, the workers who fly under the radar, who make it all happen and who pick up the glitter. Dust was the musical that made Chloe fall in love with the theatre and since then, it has always held a place in her heart. Chloe loves Dust, it is the musical that started her love of the theatre. But, she is reticent about the return, she has a bad feeling, a sense of foreboding that the show shouldn’t happen and with the return, Chloe starts hearing eerie and ominous messages crackling over the radio and seeing hallucinations. Chloe has forgotten about that summer. But, memories have started coming back to her, hazy recollections as seen through a fog getting clearer and clearer like the fog, the mist is lifting. The events of those long-ago days linger, they cast a long shadow, what was awoken still roams and there are consequences that finally, after fourteen years come to a head in the present.
As the main character, my heart broke for Chloe, she is damaged, real, scarred and, sadly, for many, certain aspects of her will be easy to relate to. The daily and never-ending battle that they have to face, that never goes away and that is always there. There’s a sense of sadness to reading about Chloe, how you find a way to take away the pain even if only for a moment, hurting physically to forget the mental torment that you are suffering. Even if that isn’t the case for you, as a character she is easy to connect with, likeable with someone who you care about.
There are themes of ambition, greed, love, loss, obsession, jealousy and betrayal to be found in the story. A feeling of tension runs through the unfolding story in I Am Dust, a disquiet and unease for what is yet to come and, for what will come to pass. It is a captivating story that is saturated in atmosphere and is highly atmospheric throughout. In places it is sinister, sinistrous in a grounded, understated and subtle way that crawls, that creeps under your skin with some sublime imagery that sets you on edge. The Dean Wilson theatre and the old church are both characters and more than the mere locations where the story takes place. There’s no overembellishment or added dramatics to the haunting of the theatre or when the trio are sat in the darkened church, simply, they aren’t needed. Within the theatre, the ghostly occurrences are spooky with, if you will pardon the pun no theatrics. For the church, the minimal and sparse setting, the three candles flickering in the dying light of the day upon the stage where the Ouija board is set is all that is needed and it is chilling as they commune with the dead.
I Am Dust is beautifully written, evocative and powerful. Humour also has a place in the story thanks to Chester, a co-worker of Chloe’s at the Dean Wilson Theatre and a terrible gossip. There is an emotional undercurrent to the story, the type of emotion that ignites, that sparks, that courses through the pages like electricity, that is charged and the words are layered with depth and significance. They are the base, the core, the foundation, the heart and the soul and they mean everything. With Beech, there is magic at play in Chloe, in the story and in the words that she has written. You aren’t just reading a story, you are transported, you are with the characters living their story. There is something heartbreaking about the story, that rends, that tears at you, that moves you, that touches your soul and that leaves you brittle from what you have just experienced. I’m not going to lie, as I turned the final page of I Am Dust I had a tear in my eye.
There is beauty to the darkness and to the sadness found within the story of I Am Dust that haunts both the pages and the words. It combines together murder mystery, love story, ghost story and psychological thriller to create sheer emotional brilliance.
Pre-order I Am Dust by Louise Beech released in ebook on February 16th, 2020 and released on April 16th, 2020 in paperback.
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