James Reasoner’s Dust Devils opens with recently-outta-high-school Toby signing on as a ranch-hand for the middle-aged-but-still-smoking-hot Grace on her small farm. She’s wary of the stranger at first, bringing him his meals to the guest house though otherwise steering clear. But soon his manners and hard work eventually gain him entrance to her kitchen. His sweet nature and easy charm soon lead him to her bedroom.
It’s a wonderfully romantic set-up to a novel that immediately turns dark and violent from this point on. In fact, one of the many pleasures of Reasoner’s extremely tight and fast-paced crime novel is its first act twists, twists that the Nerd will without a fucking doubt spoil from here on in.
So just so you’re forewarned, if you want the experience I had with Dust Devils stop here and know that this shit gets my seal of approval, a seal which would probably be stamped in blood and look like Moe Green’s glasses at the end of The Godfather – patent pending! (Oh and just so’s ya knows, the jacket of my copy, the one in the picture to the right, did a helluva job keeping the plot good and vague as well so you’re in the clear there too, trusting reader.) But now, for you high-maintenance readers who need more foreplay before they get down to ruttin’ and readin’, here’s some more of them sweet, sweet deets, as I’m told the kids say these days.
It turns out that “Grace” (there’s more behind her assumed identity that I wouldn’t dare spoil) is actually a bank robber on the run after being framed by one of her heistmates. (Totally a real term, don’t worry about it.) Two of the falsely spurned robbers show up at her door with guns drawn looking for the money she supposedly has but Grace takes them out with style, grabs her bags and gives Toby the ol’ “Come with me if you want to live” T2 line. But not only is Toby up for running, he’s okay with taking on all comers at Grace’s side, even helping her get revenge on the man who set her up.
From there it’s a big wild-ass chase across Texas with the two of them fucking, running, shooting, and pulling off an intense armored car job to boot. Reasoner keeps everything punchy, from the direct prose to the brutal violence and sharp characters. There’s rarely a moment to breathe as there’s alway another action-packed scene just a few scant pages away. But just under the surface of all the pulpy, no-apologies badassery there’s a sad, sinister undercurrent to the novel that isn’t made fully clear till the very end.
But the Nerd has already said too much about this ridiculously satisfying read. If you like cool-as-shit antiheroes shooting motherfuckers while carting around large amounts of American Dream green in suitcases, chances are you’re gonna have a helluva good time with Dust Devils. And if that doesn’t sound just short of a sweaty roll in the hay to you? Well, I guess I’m just surprised you’re still reading this shit. I guess all I can say to you at this point, hypothetically-lame-taste-in-books reader, is thanks for hanging in there.