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Dust Off the Bones

Written by: Paul Howarth
Narrated by: David Linski
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Publisher's Summary

“Arresting, powerful, and very much worth reading.” (Scott Simon, NPR)

"A tale of violence and redemption in the Australian Outback....Fast-paced and brimming with colorful, realistic detail, the novel poses disturbing questions about the Australia’s historic cruelty to its native inhabitants....A complex, sophisticated morality play."  (Starred Kirkus Review)

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.

©2021 Paul Howarth (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

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Profile Image for Matthew S. Hill
  • Matthew S. Hill
  • 2023-05-13

Australian historical fiction at its finest!

First off this is a sequel. Read “Only Killers and Thieves” first .
Great story, great characters, great narrator.
It achieves its mission of expressing parts of history that a lot of the rest of the world (outside of Australia) may not be very aware of.

Addressing the violence: if you are a person who can’t handle extreme violence this and (I’d dare to say) most historical fiction is not for you… no judgements, everyone has things that trigger them. Unfortunately a lot of history is violent and people were and are inherently violent. So all of the things that today we feel are reprehensible are there.

When you read comparisons of the author to Cormac McCarthy it lets you know that there’s going to be a serious amount of cold bloodshed to get its point across… and there is a point. It’s making you feel as well as learn and be entertained. It’s a different color in the palate of an artist in order to draw out a deeper emotional connection. I think of “The Crucifixion” painted by Matthias Grünewald. Stark, savage and moving. Or something most have watched “Game of Thrones”… Spoiler Alert about GOT. Almost all of your favorite characters die horribly.
Personally, I get triggered more from animal deaths of all kinds.

With all of that said, great books and I with Paul Howarth had more available on Audibles.

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  • Tom Ervasti
  • 2022-11-10

More senseless violence, but is that the point?

Man's inhumanity to man, with a few souls here and there who manage against all odds to mix in a little redemption.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Bubba
  • 2022-04-14

A decent sequel.

Despite “only Killers and Thieves”, having a far greater impact upon reading, this sequel as it is, does piggy back well onto It, In fact I would have rather it ended there with the first novel. I believe the character of inspector Noon being one amongst few of the great antagonist in lit. I did notice however the narrator wasn’t able to give Noon the sophisticated English/ Australian accent he was aiming, but rather someone more foreign. Do read
-Only Killers and Thieves.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Hannah Ball
  • 2021-07-09

Great read "Spoilers"


While the first book is the better of the two in my opinion this one is a proper continuation.

The performance of the Narrator is excellent.

The chapter Titles describing only the characters point of view was a really nice feature. The pacing aswell of the small group of characters is done well. It doesn't linger to long on one character before swapping to another then back again.

Well written and engrossing.

Decent Plot and execution.

Pacing was done really well I cant say that enough.

Moments of suspense and action were all consuming.


Most of my complaints are with character development. In my opinion most characters outside of maybe two are very two dimensional. Most of those that aren't part of the main group are portrayed as ignorant, sexist and bigoted as thier defying traits and that is all that is ever put forward. They are almost all cookie cutter caricatures.

The aborigines are barely in this book. Besides two characters most are portrayed as either impotent or evil. Only Arthur has a down to earth personality. His part in the story fades the more you get into the book.

While the book had a really good strong female character probably one of the best characters in the book. It really didnt have a strong Male character, thier is Arthur but like I said after the first half he is barely in it.

Tommy is mostly a coward with breakthrough moments of bravery that last maybe a chapter then he is back to being terrified and having flashbacks and being terrified of his own shadow.

Billy is just a buffoon. While it portrays him as wild and competent man who most fear and revere in one chapter, it lowers him to being laughed at by most around him and thought of as a fool in the next.

The backand forth is constant and a little draining.

I understand what the author was trying to do but it seemed a bit redundant after awhile.

The ending was good but I never got my head around why after the visit to Noones house and Noones visit to the hospital, why Tommy thought he was safe.
It explained his reasoning but it just sounded stupid and half assed reasoning. The man promised to kill you and time and time again you saw him make good his promises. Yet Tommy thought Noone would just stop and let it go.

"Final thoughts"

Overall the positives outweigh the negatives and this a great book and I would recommend it to anyone Noone while not as deep as I would like is still in my top 5 villians of all time.