I Am Dust by Louise Beech – a supernatural thriller set in an atmospheric theatre



In this book, the statement “I Am Dust” has more than one implication in the several time periods it covers. Chloe is the focus of the novel, remembering the performance of the musical “Dust” she saw as a child, the teenage years where she was part of a theatre group and experimentation of various kinds, and her current work as an usher in the Dean Wilson theatre. There is a lot of history connected with the original production which opened the theatre building, as the lead actress, Morgan Miller, had been brutally murdered in her dressing room. Chloe is a disturbed young woman, especially as the proposed revival of “Dust” is reawakening interest in the ill fated show. Chloe is vividly remembering a time when she and two other teenagers played what Ryan, a talented young amateur actor, proposed what he called“ playing a game”. Chloe is having nightmares based on what happened then, but is also focused on her attempts to cope since the explosive events of that summer. She is struggling with her current existence of frustration and inability to move on from past loves and experiences. The production of the musical with which she was obsessed is deeply disturbing not only to her, but to many people involved with events of the past. I was intrigued and pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book. 


Chloe is seen as a successful employee at the small struggling theatre. She “picks up the glitter” and makes sure that the audience is supervised during the performance. Nevertheless, she is worried by the atmosphere of unexplained noises and subtle hints of what had happened in in the dressing room which had been the scene of Morgan’s murder. She is forced to recall the summer when Jess, Ryan and herself had got into the old church where the youth theatre met and experimented with an Ouija board. All three made discoveries that were unexpected, as Chloe seemed to have unleashed powers that she cannot understand. She remembers her clumsy attempts to express her feelings for one of her friends, which will haunt her forever afterwards. The revelations from the game included references to the murder that had taken place years before, and warnings that the three of them should never be be together again. Choe becomes obsessed with the actress who is to revive the tragic role in the musical, and she reacts to the memories that are awakened. She recalls that her grandmother had suggested there was something about her, something magical, and she begins to recreate in her mind the emotions and results of her previous experiences. 


This is an amazingly atmospheric novel, with subtle suggestions of horror and supernatural events. Chloe is a damaged character, hurting in many ways, and in unusual circumstances. It is a haunting book which makes effective use of suggestion and superstition, shadows and threats. It goes beyond the simple use of ghostly appearances, using the mind games, the emotions of teenagers and the special atmosphere of a theatre after the show is over. It is an incredibly well written book, offering real insight into the emotions of a young woman, the nature of theatrical personalities, the danger of dabbling into unexplained elements of life, and the power of unrequited love. I found it a chilling and powerful read, and I thoroughly recommend it to those who enjoy an absorbing story.   


This was an effective and chilling book,  a very contemporary thriller. It certainly makes a change from some of the other books that  have been reviewing recently.  Happily another package of books arrived from Cogito books this morning, including a book called “The Fall of the House of Byron” by Emily Brand – a non fiction book which both of us are keen to read, and Claire at Cogito had managed to get very quickly. She is still answering the phone during normal hours, and maintaining the website https://www.cogitobooks.com/ . Why not have a look?