Those of you who know me will know that, particularly because of my research interests, I love hauntings that aren't quite ghosts, remote rundown houses, dangerous relationships and found manuscripts. Every once in a while you come across a book that you think might be made for you, and for me, this is how I felt with almost every page of The House of Dust.
The House of Dust introduces Bradley as he is about to kill himself. To do so, he has randomly chosen a small town where he intends to take an overdose. Instead, he is caught up in the death and burial of an old woman living in a remote former plantation house, the matriarch of the strange town of Three Summers. A true crime author, Bradley senses a story behind the strange ritual he witnesses, and we re-join the story as he and former escort Missy are about to move into the house.
What follows is sometimes surreal, often strange, and at times confusing -- but in a good way. Broyles makes interesting use of the typical tropes of the American Gothic, the use and erasure of slaves, the insular and stunted Southern States community both shunning and shunned by outsiders. It is often difficult to establish how much of what happens in the book is real as it feels so much like a fever dream, and Broyles has a few tricks up his sleeve to misstep the reader from the beginning.
The thing I really enjoyed about The House of Dust were the doomed main characters, both of whom seem to press against the strange goings on around them, but in doing so, only tangle themselves deeper. I was put in mind of another of my favourite books, Ghoster by Jason Arnopp. There is a sense of inevitability to The House of Dust that is encapsulated in the dust of the title, which coats characters and seems impossible to remove. And a sense of inevitability is, of course, incredibly gothic!
The House of Dust has all the makings of a gothic classic, almost a definition for its genre. But more than this, it provides an engaging story beyond the tropes and allegory, one that is wide open to interpretation.
Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an e-advanced review copy of this book.
The House of Dust is released on May 18th and is available to preorder here.