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Dust City

by Robert Paul Weston

Henry Whelp doesn’t want to take after his father, a convicted murderer, but things aren’t looking good. Serving out a juvenile sentence at the St. Remus Home for Wayward Youth for an act of vandalism that nearly killed someone, Henry seems to be proving correct all those folks who assumed “like father, like son.”

When Henry’s psychiatrist is found dead, secrets begin to emerge, including the fact that the doctor was also treating Henry’s father and had withheld from Henry letters in which his father claims that the murders he was convicted of were part of a larger conspiracy – one that threatens the city itself.

Those murders? An old woman in a cottage and her young granddaughter, who was fond of her red hood. Yes, Henry’s father is the Big Bad Wolf, and the murder of Little Red Riding Hood is but one small element of Zorgamazoo author Robert Paul Weston’s impressive new novel.

There was a time, before the events of Dust City, when the fairies lived in Eden, a floating community high above, descending to Earth with their fairydust to create destinies (as fairies have always done). But the fairies disappeared, and now the only fairydust to be had is the weak commercial variety, mined from the surrounding countryside by corporations like Nimbus Thaumaturgical.

So how can the nixies make such powerful black market dust? And how does this all connect to the murder of Red Riding Hood and her grandmother?

Weston has created a tightly paced mystery, a coming of age story, and a vivid fantasy, all set against the backdrop of a world in which fairy tales are real. The book succeeds on nearly every level. The characters, whether they’re wolves, dwarves, goblins, or (in rare cases) human, are well-drawn and convincing. The overall mystery is compelling and firmly rooted in the world itself.

The only caveat is that Weston, with his deliberate, winking inclusion of fairy tale characters (like Detective White, a police officer whose toughness is rooted in her early years with seven coal miners), runs the risk of negative comparisons to writers like Bill Willingham. Whereas Willingham accounts for such characters, Weston just drops them in. That’s not a terminal issue, however, and on the whole, Dust City is a winner.