Dust Off the Bones
by Paul Howarth
Death follows young Tommy McBride everywhere. Five years ago his family was murdered, and now a freak accident sends him fleeing into the wilderness of the Australian outback with a man lying dead in his wake. But Tommy is haunted by even worse - as children, he and his brother Billy witnessed the state-sanctioned massacre of the Indigenous Kurrong people by the ruthless Native Police Inspector Noone, and they haven’t seen each other since.
When an official inquiry is launched into the massacre, the successful life that Billy has built for himself comes under threat. He sets off in search of his long lost brother, but isn’t the only one on Tommy’s trail―Inspector Noone is looking for him too, and will do anything to stop the truth from coming to light.
Even in the vast outback, the past can’t stay buried forever!
This powerful sequel to Only Killers and Thieves returns us to late 19th – and early 20th century – Australia, a dangerous time. And we revisit brothers Tommy and Billy McBride plus the sadistic and much feared police chief Edmund Noone. Noone has told the McBride brothers that they must never see each other again, or else, and they are following orders.
You don’t need to have read book 1 but, if you have, you’ll already be invested in the poor now estranged siblings and what they have been through. Following their family’s murders and the subsequent massacre of the Kurrong people, both Tommy and Billy are still struggling with the horrors and aftermath of trauma, including guilt.
This was a violent period of history. Life is fragile and the brothers face escalating difficulties. Billy has some success, marrying a wealthy widow, but his work life is challenging. Tommy, surviving in the wilderness, has his Aboriginal friend, Arthur, with him, but they are forced to flee, on the run for murder!
The chapters bounce from character to character. Not just the brothers, but Billy's wife too, and Henry Wells, an attorney, well aware of the racism within the legal system. Wells hears of what happend in the Kurrong massacre and attempts to force an inquest.
Meanwhile, Noone is determined to silence the McBrides.
There’s something of a Clint Eastwood western about this novel. The power struggle, miscarriage of justice, and violent past. It’s a suspenseful adventure story, well told, and based on real Australian history. Only Killers and Thieves was a compelling if slightly heavier read, with more difficult scenes. For this reason, on balance, I think Dust off the Bones is even better!
About the Author
Paul Howarth was born and grew up in Great Britain before moving to Melbourne in his late twenties. He lived in Australia for more than six years, gained dual citizenship in 2012, and now lives in Norwich, United Kingdom, with his family. In 2015, he received a master’s degree from the University of East Anglia’s creative writing program, the most prestigious course of its kind in the UK, where he was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Scholarship.