Reviews for Only killers and thieves : a novel

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

This debut novel is set in Australia in the mid-1880s. A lengthy drought is likely to spell disaster for the McBride family's cattle ranch, but, just when the situation seems hopeless, rain comes three solid days of it. It should be a time of great joy for the McBride sons 16-year-old Billy and 14-year-old Tommy but, instead, with the rain comes tragedy: returning home one day, the boys find their parents have been murdered. Engulfed by rage, they plead with a rival cattle farmer to help them find the people responsible. But how far are the boys willing to go to get revenge? Rich in character and period atmosphere, this effective blend of family saga and historical mystery will please fans of Jeffrey Archer and Wilbur Smith.--Pitt, David Copyright 2017 Booklist


Library Journal
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DEBUT In this powerful debut novel, set in 1870s Australia, two teenage brothers ride into the desert interior, along with an unscrupulous neighbor and a cadre of the infamous Native Police Force, to avenge the deaths of the boys' family. Billy is the elder, but Tommy, the central protagonist, is more intuitive and comes to realize the troop's actual intent: a genocidal raid on remaining aboriginal inhabitants. With sweeping descriptions of landscape and the journey's hardships, the novel feels like a modern Western along the lines of -Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses. Howarth's narrative is almost cinematic and, like a modern Western film, includes scenes of graphic violence. Tommy's empathy with the natives he encounters immerses readers in the history of Australia's treatment of its indigenous people. Howarth is British but lived in Australia for several years and here draws on his research of the Queensland Native Police Force. U.S. readers will make the connection with our country's oppression of Native Americans and gain an understanding of the fundamental racism of both former British colonies. VERDICT Highly recommended; Howarth is a novelist to watch.-Reba Leiding, emeritus, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
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A quest for frontier justice drives the events of Howarth's devastating and impressive debut, set in the Australian outback in 1885. Sixteen-year-old Billy McBride and his 14-year-old brother, Tommy, are orphaned when, they believe, their rancher father's disgruntled aboriginal stockman guns down their parents and younger sister in cold blood. Enlisting the help of neighboring rancher John Sullivan (with whom their father had a prickly relationship) and Edmund Noone, an inspector with the Native Mounted Police, the boys embark on a manhunt. Things quickly go awry when their confederates use evidence Billy fabricated as a pretext to slaughter the alleged culprit's entire tribe. This atrocity is emblematic of the novel's theme concerning the strained relations between white settlers and the natives whom they have displaced from their lands. Howarth skillfully uses the fraying relationship between the two brothers-Billy embraces vigilantism with vengeful zeal, while Tommy is revolted by both the carnage and its effect on his brother-to illustrate the moral issues at the heart of his story. The narrative is empowered further by his searing descriptions of the outback, a drought-ridden landscape of desiccation and death that provides a backdrop as bleak and merciless as the characters who move against it. (Feb.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


School Library Journal
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Set in 1885 Queensland, Australia, this taut and harrowing narrative begins with 14-year-old Tommy uncovering a brutal crime, the murder of his parents and the wounding of his sister. He begins to believe that the investigation is spiraling out of control when the notorious Inspector Noone of the Queensland Native Police accuses the local Kurrong tribe of the crimes. Recruited to Noone's tracking party, Tommy becomes increasingly convinced of the man's corrupt, unfettered power as well as the Kurrong's innocence. This fast-paced story explores the psychology of complicity in uncomfortable detail: Tommy faces harsh punishment for voicing dissent in a time and place where white masculinity is defined by collective assertions of dominance over racialized bodies. Graphic violence and dire moral concessions ensue. Throughout, Howarth creates a strong sense of place, with Tommy's diction and syntax shaping readers' perception of the unforgiving social and natural landscape. Because of the focus on Tommy's perspective, the Indigenous characters only appear when Tommy tries-and often fails-to reach out to them. An author's note lists useful historical resources. VERDICT For readers seeking morally complex revenge plots or a fictional gateway into international histories of colonial violence.--Katherine Magyarody, Texas A&M -University, -College Station Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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