The Dust That Danced
by A. Cavuto
New Degree Press

"CLOSE-UP: Alice’s eyes flick from me to the books, then back to me."

In the fall of 1992, Stella is happy to return to her prestigious university as a sophomore. With her first year now in the rearview mirror, there’s no need to make new friends and no reason to make all those phone calls back home. That freshman target on her back is also, mercifully, gone. Stella intends to focus on her schoolwork and bask in the sun of her sophomore status. But everything changes when Stella meets Alice Dayholt, a transfer student. Alice holds her cards close to her chest, but she seems she will fit in just fine with Stella and her friends. Plans go awry, however, and what follows is a gripping tale about superstitions, mythology, and friendship.

Cavuto writes with a commanding use of the first person point of view, and the reader is immediately connected to the story. Stella is a reliable narrator, as well as a relatable character. Anyone who has ever gone to a university will be transported back to it as they follow along with Stella’s inner voice. She is not the only interesting character, however. Cavuto has a cast of engaging players, and she includes their ages, academic majors, and general personality traits upon introducing each one to the reader.

One need not be a movie buff to appreciate the creative structure that Cavuto uses in her novel. For readers who might not be familiar with cinematography jargon, Cavuto makes it easy to follow along. The book is divided into five parts, with headings such as “The Wide Shot” and “Deleted Scenes,” and the chapters are each referred to as “Scenes.” The author also breaks through the first-person narrative with “Quick Shots” of the action, which quite literally pull the reader out of the scene to offer a wider look at the events unfolding. At times, Cavuto even writes as if the first-person narrator is the camera lens, an omnipresent eye that witnesses the plot building to its final conflict. “My mind was preoccupied with blinking rapidly and pulling the lens into focus.” This clever format has a “meta” feel to it and makes for an even more enjoyable read. Cavuto adds poignant references to some of the most popular films and novels along the way, including Vertigo.

The author is clearly well-versed in mythology and masterfully weaves it into the mysterious plot. Anyone who has ever visited an old cathedral or lived on a traditional college campus will be easily reminded of the dark hallways and musty smells of very cold and usually scary buildings. The plot is both entertaining and thrilling, and the author writes with vivid detail. The dialogue is also very well-written, and each character speaks in a believable and convincing voice. The author’s love of mystery and cinema comes through loud and clear in the book. It is hard to believe this is a debut novel, and it is easy to assume this is only one in a long list of well-written books by this talented author with many more to come. Cavuto’s book is truly a must-read.

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Mystery/Crime Category Honorable Mention

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home