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Publisher's Summary

Two brothers are exposed to the brutal realities of life and the seductive cruelty of power in this riveting debut novel - a story of savagery and race, injustice and honor, set in the untamed frontier of 1880s Australia - reminiscent of Philipp Meyer's The Son and the novels of Cormac McCarthy.

An epic tale of revenge and survival, Only Killers and Thieves is a gripping and utterly transporting debut, bringing to vivid life a colonial Australia that bears a striking resemblance to the American Wild West in its formative years.

It is 1885, and a crippling drought threatens to ruin the McBride family. Their land is parched, their cattle starving. When the rain finally comes, it is a miracle that renews their hope for survival. But returning home from an afternoon swimming at a remote waterhole filled by the downpour, 14-year-old Tommy and 16-year-old Billy meet with a shocking tragedy.

Thirsting for vengeance against the man they believe has wronged them - their former Aboriginal stockman - the distraught brothers turn to the ruthless and cunning John Sullivan, the wealthiest landowner in the region and their father's former employer. Sullivan gathers a posse led by the dangerous and fascinating Inspector Edmund Noone and his Queensland Native Police, an infamous arm of British colonial power charged with the "dispersal" of indigenous Australians to "protect" white settler rights. As they ride across the barren outback in pursuit, their harsh and horrifying journey will have a devastating impact on Tommy, tormenting him for the rest of his life - and will hold enduring consequences for a young country struggling to come into its own.

Re-creating a period of Australian and British history as evocative and violent as the American frontier era, Only Killers and Thieves is an unforgettable story of family, guilt, empire, race, manhood, and faith that combines the insightfulness of Philipp Meyer's The Son, the atmospheric beauty of Amanda Coplin's The Orchardist, and the raw storytelling power of Ian McGuire's The North Water.

©2018 Paul Howarth (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Slow build to a powerful story

I would describe this a a very deliberately-paced story, and that is meant as praise for the author's ability to establish the settting and characters. The writing is almost cinematic - I could visualize the scenes so clearly ( be forewarned, there is horrific violence, vividly discribed, so this isn't for the faint-hearted). The story is somewhat predictable, but this is a morality tale, not a tale of suspense. I thought the ending was poignant and haunting.

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Australian Blood Meridian

Well deserved 5 stars. This story is excellent, but this Narrator is over the top. Noon is one of my all-time favorite audiobook characters now. This read is savage man. I couldn't help feeling the same way I did while reading Mcarthy's "Blood Meridian". Just pure, open-mouthed disgust at the situations portrayed. In a good way. I loved this one. I now have an interest in Australian history. Check it out, you'll like it.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

more like Django Unchained than The Son

Really cool to see a western set in Australia.

I read this because it was billed as being similar to the Son by philip meyer. not really on the same level.

good story, good characters, great setting. the issue I had with it was the comic book quality of the antagonists. the bad guys in this book are exactly that....bad guys. they do evil things for evil reasons and have none of the nuance or relatability that a believable antagonist needs. at times this novel felt like a children's book. overall I'd recommend it but believe that this novel could have been so much more than what it is.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Eye opening, moving, bleak but touching

I loved this book. People will make obvious comparisons to McCarthy and those aren't wrong. The narration was also great.