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Only Killers and Thieves

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  1,282 Ratings  ·  262 Reviews
Two adolescent brothers are exposed to the brutal realities of life and the seductive cruelty of power after a tragedy shatters their family 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 Western, a tough coming-of-a
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Harper
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Bradley Valentine What do you mean? Like a sweepstakes promotion or like do character interactions that make sense rather than lie to throw you off leading up to the…moreWhat do you mean? Like a sweepstakes promotion or like do character interactions that make sense rather than lie to throw you off leading up to the big “twist”?

If the second, yes. It’s pretty clear who the killers are almost from the beginning. (less)

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Will Byrnes
The guilt is collective, the responsibility shared. In a hundred years no one will even remember what happened here and certainly no one will care. History is forgetting. Afterward we write the account, the account becomes truth, and we tell ourselves it has always been this way, that others were responsible, that there was nothing we could have done.
Australia, 1885, drought-stricken central Queensland. The McBrides struggle to scratch a living from their parcel of land, raising bony cattle,
Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth is a 2018 Harper publication.

Absorbing coming of age tale of two brothers who took different paths in the harsh scrublands of Australia in the 1800’s-

When Billy and Tommy find their parents brutally murdered and their sister barely clinging to life, they make an uneasy bargain with the rich landowner, their father had not trusted, to hunt down the man accused of killing their family.

There is a horrible backstory that leads up this chain of events, as t
Rebecca McNutt
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Australian literature that captures the beauty of the continent is always interesting, and Only Killers and Thieves transports readers to an earlier and very brutal Queensland stricken with a serious drought. As if times aren't hard enough, a shocking serial murder leaves three siblings struggling to survive and to find out what happened. For Billy and Tommy, it's as much a self journey as it is a rush to find who killed their parents and injured their sister. Full of bittersweet nostalgia and d ...more
"We're on our own, Tommy. There ain't no God out here."

Two brothers, growing up during a time of turmoil in 1885 Australia. The land is harsh, the climate unforgiving. Their indigenous neighbors are considered to be less than human, and destined for "dispersal."

"These natives . . . they've the Devil in them, Tommy, they're naught but killers and thieves."

This book is not for the faint of heart; there are trigger warnings galore: rape, the liberal use of the N- and C-words, and one horrific chap
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh my. Where should I begin? Perhaps here: it is not yet 2018 and this book has already earned a secure place on my Best of 2018 list. It is a searing indictment of racism, and injustice, a glowing tribute to the part of us that struggles to remain human in the worst of circumstances, and a riveting testimony to the power of the writer.

I’ve seen this book compared to Philipp Meyer’s The Son and the works of Cormac McCarthy, but to me, the most apt comparison is to Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow R
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, overdrive
This book is a coming of age story, a western, a depiction of Australia's racist past and a really good book. Blurbs generally oversell, but in this case I believe that the comparison of this book to the work of Philipp Meyer and Cormac McCarthy is justified, although I liked this book a lot more than I liked "The Son" by Meyer.

In 1885 Tommy (14) and Billy (16) McBride live on a Queensland cattle ranch with their sister Mary (11) and their parents. They are in the midst of a drought and their c
Melissa Crytzer Fry
This gritty, brutal book set in late 1800s Australia by Paul Howarth was intense. And well-written.

This novel has been compared to Philipp Meyers’s THE SON (which I loved), but I’m not sure it’s a truly accurate comparison. Yes, there are parallels to the horrible treatment and ‘displacement’ of Aboriginal people in Australia vs. the same treatment of Native American Indians in the United States around the same time. Both have an ‘old west’ feel to them with uncharted territories as the backdro
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book (IMO) is THE BEST book I think that I’ve read so far in 2018. With that said, this book won’t be for everyone. I’m a western type of girl. I love western movies and tv! This is a different type of western set in 1880’s Australia.
The writing is fantastic!! The story is heartbreaking but so poignant. The characters come alive with raw emotion and ego! Often situations are difficult to read but necessary for the time and life of the book.
GREAT debut!! Look forward to many more Mr. Howart
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Somewhat slow start but gains speed. Nasty and violent characters....thus the title is perfect. Superb, debut novel.
Jen from Quebec :0)
***UPDATE***--- I have decided that I simply enjoyed this book too darn much to leave it as a 4 star rating, and want to tell the world I hereby give it the fabled '4.5' rating! (Alas, the uneven ending can't allow the full 5). Also, I liked this book enough that I need to take some real time, return to this page and write a much longer, full, detailed review. This book has earned one. --Jen from Quebec :0) (Feb 27th, 2018)

WOW! For a debut novel, this book was incredible. I have a LOT to say abo
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Only Killers and Thieves is a personal reading highlight for 2017. The blurb on the back of the cover compares Howarth to Philipp Meyer and Cormac McCarthy. I’ve become leery when I read such comparisons because I’ve been disappointed so many times and though I haven’t read Meyers I have read Cormac McCarthy and loved his writing. In this case the comparison of Howard’s to McCarthy is apt in that they both write on the edges of what is almost too horrifying to think about but the language is so ...more
Roger Brunyate
The Devil in the Mind
Men fear that which is alien, that which they cannot control. Hence most are afraid of certain animals, predators, those they cannot tame. In this country that would be snakes, dingos to an extent, but mostly the wild native. It is remarkable really, to see how afraid you all are. They have become like the Devil in the minds of white men.
Goodreads has you choose shelves for books you review. I am making a new one for this, Top Ten 2018 maybe; of course, it is provisional
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I just finished Only Killers and Thieves, and I’m heartbroken to be at the end. I was hesitant to read it, because it's clear by reading the description that this wild west saga set in 19th century Queensland will be violent & cruel which is not my favorite.

Even though there is brutality which is painful to read, this is a gorgeous story. I was especially impressed by how convincingly the different characters were written.

Tommy is a teenager searching for himself and a place to belong in t
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“. . . they’ve the Devil in them, Tommy, they’re naught but killers and thieves.”

Doings and undoings, survival, war, blood, and loss set in motion.
An unsettling relevant timeless tale coming out of Australia.
Tommy and Billy were fourteen and sixteen years old caught in a web of doings, some done complicitly in the whirlwind of there minds in the blood and thunder of events. The fates of the two brothers and a community of people a hook in the narrative, the justices and injustices upon the page
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A predictable result, but that doesn’t hurt the enjoyment of this novel. Crisp writing accompanied with clipped dialogue. Noone and Tommy are great characters and their interactions carry this novel (well, that, and all the terrible bloodshed). It’s fun to watch Tommy develop from boy into a man who has seen and participated in some terrible stuff. A fun and excellent read.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
“The frontier crossing turned Tommy's gut. Their passing from settled land to wild. All his life he feared it, the uncharted west, looming like a shadow on the edge of the world.”

It is 1885, Queensland, in the Australian outback. The McBride family are struggling to survive on a drought-ridden piece of land. There are two teenage sons and a younger daughter. When tragedy strikes the family, the sons are set adrift and take refuge with John Sullivan, a local, rich, landowner. Sullivan is convince
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5*Read this one for bookclub. As much as I appreciated the language and the themes, the story itself felt like something I'd come across too many times before. The characters were great as well, especially the dynamic between the brothers.
Mary Lins
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: complete
“Only Killers and Thieves”, by first time novelist, Paul Howarth, has been compared to Philipp Meyer’s, “The Son”, and Paulette Jiles’, “News of the World”; masterpieces both, I’d also say that it has a “whiff” of Steinbeck’s, “East of Eden”, and though it is beautifully written and an arresting tale, it’s is not quite up to these lofty comparisons.

Set in the harsh edge of the Australian Outback of the late Nineteenth century; comparisons to the American West and the relationship between the whi
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs-tysm
3.5 stars

You can also find this review on my book blog.

What attracted me to this book was that it’s something different from what I usually read. I wanted to challenge myself and discover a new genre to see how I will perceive it.

The year is 1885, the location Queensland, Australia where racial tensions and land-owning have become big issues. We meet Tommy and his brother Billy who live with their parents and sister Mary on land which their father takes care of, they live a somewhat normal lif
Robert Intriago
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, action
An Australian Western that has everything that an American counterpart has with exception that the natives being killed are Aborigines and not Native Americans. Beautifully written with some well-developed characters. The descriptions are so vivid that you feel at times you are participating in the action. That action tends to be brutal and the descriptions very raw. The story revolves around the coming of age of two brothers who have suffered a major tragedy. In the pursuit of vengeance they ma ...more
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is riveting powerful writing. The description of the Queensland frontier with its wide open spaces is rapturous. Scorched scrubland, drought, dust storms, rare chilling heavy rain, the blank wasteland stretching beyond, all vividly expressed in glorious prose. The story is set in the 1880’s in the untamed Australian frontier, it is a gripping tale transporting the reader to the time and place.

The characters are complex and compelling. The heart of the story is 15 year old Tommy who sees a
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it

Almost 4.5. Quite timely, in a way, given That Man the President's address to the Coast Guard Academy and how we 'tamed' the country. This is the saga of two brothers growing up much too fast in the Australian outback at a time of Native people's genocide and the toll it takes. Not at all a happy story but very well written and evocative and deeply human
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway. The release date in US is February 6, 2018. Thank you to the publisher for the free copy and to the author for such an engaging read. I thought the writing was impeccable. The story grabbed at my heart and I didn’t want it to end.
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I received a copy of Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth in a goodeads give away in exchange for an honest review. To be fair, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy reading this book when I first read what it was about. However, once I started reading it I had a hard time putting it down. I didn't know much about Australia's history during this time period. Paul Howarth did an excellent job describing the terrain of the Australian outback during this time. The characters he created were believ ...more
Bonnie Brody
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This amazing book takes place in late nineteenth century Australia in a remote location that is barely settled and has suffered drought for so long that everything is covered with a coat of dust. The McBride family has been trying to make a go of ranching but things are looking very bleak. One day the two boys, Tommy and Billy McBride, go out for a ride and come home to find their parents murdered and their younger sister Mary very close to death from gunshot wounds.

Tommy and Billy take their si
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read a lot of historical fiction but this is the first that I have read that is set in Australia and also the one with the biggest impact. It is set in Queensland in 1885 at a troubling time with the white settlers determined to remove the Indigenous Australians from the land that they want for their own. I had heard of the horrific events that had happened but I had never heard of the role that the Native Police played.
It is a fascinating book to read, often upsetting, often sickening but it’
Amy "the book-bat"
Mar 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
I made it half-way and had to stop. It was SOOOOOOOO boring. It is also loaded with the "n-word". It is totally not for me.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

Only Killers and Thieves is a beautifully written novel about the Australian outback. This was hard to put down and the ugliness of the chaos that the main characters experience makes this a gripping and entertaining read.
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing read - finished it in two days!
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's been a while since I read this and honestly I still think about it so often. It's not the type of book I usually read but I loved every part of it.
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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