I picked up this debut novel, read the flap and thought I would give it 20 pages-no more. Although it is brutal and violent, I found myself enthralled with the main character and the plot. Most of Only Killers and Thieves takes place in 1885 in a desolate, arid part of Australia, The McBride family is literally starving. Their cattle are bone-thin and thus not saleable, and because of the drought, nothing will grow in their sandy, parched soil. Also, Mr. McBride does not see eye to eye with John Sullivan, by far the wealthiest man in the territory, so the family is unable to purchase anything on credit. Tommy and Billy McBride are away from home when tragedy befalls the rest of the family. Both boys, age 15 and 16, are coerced into facing many dangerous situations in order to avenge their family.
Parts of this novel is distasteful with characters that are despicable. However, Paul Horwath’s prose is so clean and clear (much like Cormac McCarthy’s), that I felt compelled to read on.