Extra,  Guest Reviews

GUEST REVIEW: Julie Gooding reviews DUST DEVILS, by Jonathan Janz

Published by Flame Tree Press Genres: Crime/Serial Killer, Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Horror Western, Paranormal, Suspense, Thriller, vampires
Format: eBook

When traveling actors recruited his wife for a plum role, Cody Wilson had no idea they would murder her. Twelve-year-old Willet Black was just as devastated the night the fiends slaughtered everyone he loved. Now Cody and Willet are bent on revenge, but neither of them suspects what they’re really up against.

For the actors are vampires. Their thirst for human blood is insatiable. Even if word of their atrocities were to spread, it would take an army to oppose them. But it is 1885 in the wilds of New Mexico, and there is no help for Cody and Willet. The two must battle the vampires—alone—or die trying. 

FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launched in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voice

4 Stars.

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DUST DEVILS by Jonathon Janz is a horror, thrill-seeking wild west romp with a twist on the classic vampire. Janz is an excellent writer with great pacing and innovative ideas. His action scenes are highly detailed and fun (if you love reading action because there is A LOT of action.) He taps into that wild west setting with genre tropes and uses them to put a unique twist on the vampire legend. 

The aspect of the work I’d say lacks depth is his characterization. The female roles are shallow and not given as much care and attention as the two main male leads. And even the male leads often fall into some shallow or at least stereotypical character traits. Since this is based off of the Western genre, there is a bit of wiggle room in regard to the stereotyping and the simplistic motivations and elements to the characters, but it still didn’t feel quite right to me while reading it. I craved more layers to the story. I wanted his issues with his wife to feel less simplistic, and I really wanted the lead Vampire to be even just a bit more than a comic book villain.

The most disappointing element though had to be the romance. Like the rest of these elements, it just didn’t hold up. It was cheesy, simplistic, and out of nowhere. And again, I excused it due to the genre, but it was hard to forgive completely when I was really getting into the main character and what he was struggling with.

That’s my favorite part of Janz’s work: the humanity. Despite the simplistic character arcs, Janz still made me feel for Cody when it came to him and his Dad. I didn’t care about it at first since his father was not a huge role in the actual story, but when it came to the last third of the book, I couldn’t put the book down. Cody’s past with his father leaves him with a mixture of guilt, anger, resentment, and regret. It’s learning how to move past those things and on to a better future that I loved about the ending of this book. It’s the character depth I wish the rest of the characters had.

This book is a fun thrill ride with horror elements abound, however the lack in character depth can often take away from the fun genre elements. Definitely worth a read if you are a horror or western fan.

Julie Gooding, our guest reviewer, has her own business on Etsy, where she creates: “Book Nook Accessories inspired by the Magical and the Macabre.” These currently include Woodmarks, Bookish Coasters, and Wooden Pins. You can visit her at www.etsy.com/shop/thebookishden . Also, follow her on Instagram @the_bookish_den .

About The Author

About Jonathan Janz

Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories. His work has been championed by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Brian Keene, and Jack Ketchum; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and School Library Journal. His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for Best Horror. Additionally, his novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children. You can sign up for his newsletter, and you can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.


I am an avid reader/reviewer and collector of books--primarily horror, supernatural, and supernatural-themed thrillers.

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