cover image Dust Off the Bones

Dust Off the Bones

Paul Howarth. Harper, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-307600-6

Howarth’s sequel to Only Killers and Thieves is as searing and savage as the Australian frontier setting that both novels share. After a brief recap of the massacre of the aboriginal Kurrong tribe that ended the first novel—set in motion by 16-year-old Billy McBride and his reluctant 14-year-old brother, Tommy, seeking vengeance for the killing of their parents, which they believed was done by an aboriginal man—the story moves ahead five years to 1890. Billy has married the wealthy widow of a cattle rancher near his family’s homestead in Queensland, and Tommy is on the run after accidentally killing his boss during a dispute at a sheep station in the southern territories. Their lives are again upended in 1897 when a witness to the Kurrong killings hires an attorney to investigate the massacre, thus incurring the wrath of Edmund Noone, the Native Police Inspector who perpetrated the slaughter and threatened both brothers were they to ever say anything. Noone is a thoroughly terrifying creation, a violent psychopath whose long shadow casts a chilling pall over the McBrides’ and their loved ones. This masterly tale of trauma and retribution is more than worthy of the original. Agent: Anna Stein, ICM Partners. (June)