The violence piles up quickly in Roger Smith's action packed yet depressingly realistic thriller Dust Devils. Set in South Africa, it tells a story full of deception, corruption, murder, revenge and pretty much everything else you might find in a thriller. The author's strength is not just that he can handle all of this and keep you on the edge of your seat but that he can also transport you into the South African culture in a way that makes you feel you are there. At the end you may be glad you are not there.
South African journalist and pacifist Robert Dell is framed for the murder of his wife and son. At the same time, a powerful ex-warlord who is entrenched in the upper echelons of the Zulu nation is preparing for his marriage to his fourth wife, a young girl whose mother he killed. Dell is broken out of jail by his ex-CIA father who is the total opposite of everything Roger stands for. All of this comes together in a tale of revenge but one that is also a story of political corruption and cultural conflict.
Roger Smith has a talent for creating real life characters. They are not good or bad but just real. The Zulu villain is the only one that comes out as basically evil. The rest seems more like people caught up in a complex and corrupt environment. They have done terrible things but are trying to atone fr them in their very imperfect way. The story barrels through on all six cylinders and even when you think you know what is to happen, the author throws a little reality your way. Due to its foreign setting, it is hard for me to compare it to any other novel. Yet I feel there is some similarity to fellow thriller writer Jim Thompson's ability make the lurid and unthinkable believable. They also are similar in having a taut, frankly brutal style that manages to have its own poetic and literary charm. This is one of the most powerful thrillers I have read in a long time. Roger Smith is a writer who is deserving of a wider audience.