Evan Reed is a political dustbuster—an investigator that looks for the dust hiding in the deepest, darkest corners of the backgrounds of political aspirants. Evan’s 14 year old daughter, Stevie, has just shipped out to prep school, leaving Evan alone and at a loose end. That is, until her old college friend and Stevie’s father, Dan, calls her to investigate a junior Senator who’s being considered by his party as the next big political contender.
On the surface, Andy Townsend is squeaky clean, a hard-working man with every chance of one day becoming President. But Evan knows that everything is rarely what it seems, and she’s determined to find out what he is hiding.
When Evan meets Julia Donne, Andy’s reclusive (and very attractive) wife, things become more suspicious, and everyone more secretive. Does Andy actually have something to hide? And can Evan get past her attraction to Julia and uncover all of the secrets before they come back to haunt them both?
Erin: Evangeline “Evan” Reed is everything I ever wanted in a character. Evan is smart, cynical, savvy, and sweet. Evan starts off appearing to be quite closed off and almost cold, but it becomes clear the more you get into the story, and the more you see of her character, that Evan is very good at her job, and very vulnerable in her personal life. In a political world where she is used to digging up dirt and finding ways to clean it up, Evan is someone who has walls up to protect herself.
Julia is a woman I would like to know better. Somehow Julia immediately gets under Evan’s skin, and despite appearing to be someone who should be impersonal and distant, Julia is anything but. The thing I liked most about Julia was that her desire to get to know Evan was completely unmatched by her need to protect herself, her need to project a particular persona, or her need to keep her life on course. In fact, Julia is a woman who follows her heart more than her situation would suggest she is capable of, and she gets immense respect from me for that.
Marcus is the other character that I think is worth mentioning. Marcus is the walking stereotype of a political fixer—grimy, unprincipled, and greedy. He is really well written, and despite not seeing a lot of him throughout the book, he is one character that I thought was pivotal to the success of the story. In my view, if he had been written poorly, Dust would not have been as good as it is.
Tara: Okay, Erin, tell the truth. Would you like to get to know Julia better because she’s super hot? I kid! Except the part about Julia being super hot. Because she totally is, and so much of that is exactly what you just said. She knows what she wants, and she’s not afraid to go after it, even if what she wants happens to be a commitment-phobic Catholic who’s suspicious of everything and drops way too many f-bombs.
Speaking of Catholics, I loved Evan. As a former Catholic myself from a large Catholic family, I appreciated a lot of her perspective and her worldview, especially the idea that you can’t always kick away those ingrained beliefs, no matter how long it’s been since you walked away. Evan’s mind is as brilliant as her mouth is filthy and that’s a combination that worked very well towards making her someone I’d want to have a drink with. I also appreciated that she’s a mom and getting to see that side of her because it allows more tenderness to come out than we may have seen otherwise.
The Writing Style
Erin: Dust is the first political thriller I have read in a while, and only my second Ann McMan novel. I see now what Tara is always going on about with McMan. The storytelling is masterful, eloquent yet raw, and the characters are believable. McMan does such a great job of pacing this book, with a build up to the climax that is twisty and interesting, and with a few surprises left in her back pocket for after the climax. A really great example of how to keep a reader on the edge of their seat until the last page.
Tara: I agree with all of that except for the part about me always going on about McMan. I am very dignified, I never get over the top with my fangirling, and it’s not my fault that I can’t help appreciating very fine writing.
Okay, whatever, I’m a well-known Ann McMan fangirl. But! In my own defense, she truly is a master at crafting excellent stories that are beautifully written and have compelling characters, and Dust is no exception. I rarely like thrillers, but this is one that I enjoyed immensely.
Erin: I loved that this book presented an opportunity to do a joint review with Tara. That’s my first and biggest pro. But there are many things to love about this book, and the one that really sold it for me is that I finally get the McMan buzz. The storytelling is excellent, the character development is exceptional, and I was left wanting a whole lot more but still feeling completely satisfied. Dust is also yet another fine example of the high quality writing, editing, and publishing I have come to expect from a Bywater Books product.
Tara: I’ll echo the joint review sentiment! And all of Erin’s other sentiments!
On top of that, however, I’d add that Evan Reed is a HUGE plus for me. She’s one of my all-time favourite McMan characters and I hope we see more of her in the future. I also appreciated that while there’s a nice romance between Evan and Julia, that’s just one element of the book and it doesn’t overpower the thriller side of things.
Erin: I don’t have any cons for this book.
Tara: Me neither!
Erin: Dust is the best political thriller you will read in a long time. Believable, well crafted, and with a romantic subplot that took nothing away from the thriller storyline, Dust is a book that you won’t want to put down, and when you do, you’ll be a little sad that you’re done. Ann McMan is an exceptional storyteller, and her character development will leave you feeling like you have met and interacted with real people. A definite must read for anyone who likes political thrillers, great characters, and twisty plots with tantalizing climaxes.
Tara: I don’t think I could say it any better than that! Seriously, if you want something different from the usual lesfic fare that’s interesting, funny, and memorable, you’ll want to pick up Dust. Yet again, Ann McMan delivered an original story that’ll stick with you long after you’ve finished.
Excerpt from Dust by Ann McMan
“Ms. Reed? I apologize for keeping you waiting.”
Evan turned around and got her first real look at Delaware’s former first lady. Her photos had not done her justice.
“I’m Julia Donne.” She crossed the room and extended her hand. “Dan has spoken very highly of you.”
Evan looked up at her as they shook hands. She had to be at least five-ten. That was a surprise, too. “I’m afraid you can’t believe too much of what Dan has to say, but I’m glad you’re inclined to value his opinion. Otherwise, I think it would have taken me six months to get this appointment.”
Julia smiled and gestured toward the sitting area. “I’m sorry about that. But you’re here now, so let’s make the best of the time we have. Please sit down.” She walked to her desk and deposited the notepad and pen she had been carrying. “Would you like some coffee or a cold drink?”
“No, thank you. I’m fine.” Evan dropped into one of the armchairs. “I confess that I stopped about three times for snow cones on my walk here from the train station.”
Julia sat down across from her on the small sofa. She crossed her long legs. “What flavor?”
“Personally, I like the lime ones.” She smiled.
Evan sighed. “Where would we be without our guilty pleasures?”
“Isn’t that what you’re here to find out?”
Evan noticed that her eyes were very blue. “Did Dan tell you that, too?”
“No. Andy told me that, when he called me in a panic about four hours ago.”
Evan was intrigued. “In a panic?”
“There might be some room for interpretation, but, yes. I’d say he was in a panic.”
“And why do you think that?”
“If I had to guess, I’d say it was because he had no confidence in what I might reveal to you about the real status of our relationship.”
She sighed. “Have you ever read a novella, Ms. Reed?”
“It’s Evan. And, yes. I have.”
“So you know that it’s a literary form that’s longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel?”
“That’s my understanding.”
“Well, that same description can apply to relationships, too.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781612941271
- Publisher: Bywater Books (reprinted in May 2018)
Ann McMan Online
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