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Dust Off the Bones: A Novel (Hardcover)
“Arresting, powerful, and very much worth reading.”—Scott Simon (NPR)
The author of the acclaimed Only Killers and Thieves returns to turn-of-the-century Australia in this powerful sequel that follows the story of brothers Tommy and Billy McBride, the widow of their family’s killer, Katherine Sullivan, and the sadistic Native Police officer Edmund Noone
In 1890, estranged brothers Tommy and Billy McBride are living far apart in Queensland, each dealing with the trauma that destroyed their family in different ways. Now 21, Billy bottles his guilt and justifies his past crimes while attempting to revive his father’s former cattle run and navigate his feelings for the young widow Katherine Sullivan. Katherine, meanwhile, cherishes her newfound independence but is struggling to establish herself as head of the vast Broken Ridge cattle empire her corrupt late husband mercilessly built.
But even in the outback, the past cannot stay buried forever. When a judicial inquest is ordered into the McBride family murders and the subsequent reprisal slaughter of the Kurrong people, both Billy and Police Inspector Edmund Noone – the man who led the massacre – are called to testify. The inquest forces Billy to relive events he has long refused to face. He desperately needs to find his brother, Tommy, who for years has been surviving in the wilderness, attempting to move on with his life. But Billy is not the only one looking for Tommy. Now the ruthless Noone is determined to find the young man as well, and silence both brothers for good.
An enthralling, propulsive adventure that builds in suspense, told in gorgeous prose and steeped in history and atmosphere, Dust Off the Bones raises timeless issues of injustice, honor, morality, systemic racism, and the abuse of power. With an unflinching eye, Paul Howarth examines the legacy of violence and the brutal realities of life in a world remarkably familiar to our own.
About the Author
Paul Howarth is a British-Australian author and former lawyer who holds an MA in creative writing from University of East Anglia, where he was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Scholarship. In 2018 his debut novel, Only Killers and Thieves, was published to international acclaim, winning the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for best fiction, and appearing on numerous other awards and books of the year lists.
"Dust Off the Bones is a terrific sequel to one of my favorite novels of the last few years and takes us in a new and wholly unexpected direction with many of our favorite characters from Only Killers and Thieves. Highly recommended."
— Adrian McKinty, author of The Chain
“A complex, sophisticated morality play….Fast-paced and brimming with colorful, realistic detail, DUST OFF THE BONES paints a vivid portrait of colonial Australia in the midst of its transition to independence as the 20th century begins while posing disturbing questions about the country’s historic cruelty to its native inhabitants.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Howarth’s sequel to Only Killers and Thieves is as searing and savage as the Australian frontier setting that both novels share… This masterly tale of trauma and retribution is more than worthy of the original.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[Dust Off the Bones] creates a vivid landscape against which the book’s events play out. Howarth is genuinely gifted writer, and Dust Off the Bones should be recommended.”
“Rich and vivid….Recommended to readers of Kate Grenville, Peter Carey, and Colleen McCullough.”
“Just try putting this book down. An original, breathless, compelling debut.”
— Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins and The Cold Millions, on Only Killers and Thieves
“Engrossing….a riveting, action -packed tale of life in Australia between 1890 and 1910…[with] strong women characters.”
— Library Journal (starred review)