A Dream to Die For is an engaging mystery novel, with some fantastical and science-fiction elements. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Celeste and the Dreamers, the story leaving me guessing right until the end. I was only slightly let down by the climax, as it wasn’t the biggest twist possible, but it was still good.
Susan grew up in Minnesota, but lived, studied, and worked as a social worker in Kenya, Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia. She was also a human rights lobbyist but now lives in Vermont with her husband and three children where she has again worked for several nonprofit organizations, especially those promoting equality for women. It is apparent that some of these personal experiences were transferred to Celeste, the main protagonist of this story, and the story also features some strong women.
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary, Magical Realism, soft sci-fi, Adult | Publisher: She Writes Press (self-published)
And now for the rest of this book review!
The book is about Celeste Fortune, one of Larry’s disciples in the Dreamland cult. She wakes up from a frightening dream and hopes to get answers with Larry. Perhaps she finally broke through to the collective dreams of the Dreamland cult. Still, she’s decided to leave the cult to get back together with her fiancé, who is against the cult. However, things don’t go as she thinks, and she breaks under Larry’s spell yet again. Things get even weirder when she tells him about her dream, and he sends her away instead, never to come back. But he has her ring, so she goes back to get it. She discovers Larry dying in a pool of blood, his skull stove in by his healing crystal. Celeste is the immediate suspect. Thankfully, her former friend, Gloria, helps her clear her name and find out together who killed Larry and why. However, things get dangerous, very fast…
It was a good and thrilling story, keeping me reading to know all the secrets everyone is keeping. I will say the climax as to who did the murder and why was slightly anti-climactic, probably because I could see it coming once I had the information. It was an exciting ending, but I’d hoped to more of a: “I did not see that coming at all!” moment.
As for the theme of the story, I’m not quite sure. I can see it being along the lines of knowing that your past is a part of you and that it makes you who you are today. And who you are is good; we all have our issues, and they can only make us stronger. It also shows how difficult it can be to get out of an abusive relationship, but that it is possible.
The main character of this novel is Celeste, who works in Riverton Falls as a bartender. She’s traveled her whole life, working mostly as a social worker. She came to Riverton Falls to see her college friend, Gloria, and stayed when she met Jake. But by then, she was already in the claws of Larry, the Dreamland cult leader. So, when we meet Celeste, she’s no longer the confident globe-trotter she used to be, but she’s a woman with low self-esteem and utterly dependent on Larry instead.
Speaking of Larry, he’s an ass, with a talent to manipulate people to do whatever he wants them to do. He strips them of their confidence, discrediting whatever makes that person unique. So basically, he’s the perfect cult-leader.
Luckily, Celeste gets help from Gloria, who is a total bad-ass woman. She used to be part of the Dreamers as well but managed to get out. Gloria is strong and confident and an excellent friend to Celeste. She’s very secretive, but she does everything to help Celeste. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Jake, Celeste’s ex-fiancé, but I reckon that was the point. He seems to love Celeste still, but because Celeste doubts him, I, as a reader, doubt him too.
Riverton Falls felt like a typical small American town (as a non-American, I imagine it like the towns in movies). Most people know each other within their communities, but still large enough to not know everyone. The Dreamscape and the power of dreams and illusions were a nice touch, and I enjoyed reading the different dreams and illusions people had. There’s also quite some technological talk, with technology I think doesn’t exist yet (though I’m sure they’re getting closer every day). So, the fantastical and science-fiction elements are small in A Dream to Die For, but it is present if you want to read something ‘lighter’ in that sense.
The book flowed nicely, was easy to understand, and kept the suspense going throughout. Celeste’s backstory was spread throughout, and always in an engaging manner. There wasn’t a moment where I felt bored, or thought things were ‘over-explained’. The dialogue was strong, as were the descriptions. I felt immersed in Celeste’s world, and I felt connected to her. What Susan did well, was sprinkle new information as you go along, which keeps you wanting to read on and know more. We all just want to uncover the killer, right?
So, to conclude this review of A Dream to Die for: it’s a great book if you love murder, mystery, and intrigue, with just a splash of the magic and advanced technology. It has stellar, strong female characters, who show you can overcome the dominant influence of a toxic relationship.
Have you read this book? Or are you interested in reading it? Do you love a good murder mystery? Let me know in the comments!