My father trained me to silence the way he trained his dogs, with food and a cane. Speech, he said, was poison. It scared the game, alerted the gamekeepers and betrayed your friends and family.
Tom Clay was a poacher back in Suffolk. He was twelve when he was caught, tried and transported to New South Wales.
Now, assigned to a shepherds’ hut out west, he is a boy among violent men. He keeps his counsel and watches over his sheep; he steers clear of blowhards like the new man, Rowdy Cavanagh. He is alert to danger, knowing he is a foreigner here: that the land resists his understanding.
The question is: how fast can he learn?
Because a vicious killer named Dan Carver is coming for Tom and Rowdy. And if Tom can’t outwit Carver in the bush – and convince Rowdy to keep his stupid mouth shut – their deaths will be swift and cruel.
This riveting, fast-paced new novel from the multi-award-winning Catherine Jinks brings the brutality and courage of Australia’s colonial frontier vividly to life – and sees one of our master storytellers at the peak of her powers.
Catherine Jinks' books for adults, young adults and children have been published in a dozen countries and have won numerous awards, including a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and the CBCA Book of the Year Award (four times). She lives in the Blue Mountains.
Tom Clay, the 12-year-old hero of this suspenseful cat-and-mouse thriller set in 1840 from Ned Kelly Award winner Jinks (The Inquisitor), was transported to Australia after being caught poaching in England. Tom has begun a new life as a shepherd in New South Wales for Mr. Barrett. Tom takes pride in never having lost one of his charges and enjoys his work, but he runs afoul of a violent employee of Mr. Barrett, Dan Carver, who boasts of killing both white men and native Australians and keeping their body parts as trophies. Jealous of Tom's ability to read and skill at herding sheep, Carver lures Tom into a forest, ostensibly to search for a lost animal, and his attempt on the boy's life fails. Carver escapes, only to resurface weeks later, still bent on killing the boy. The bulk of the book consists of Carver's efforts to attain his bloody objective and Tom's efforts to thwart them. Multiple pulse-pounding sections compensate only in part for the lack of character depth. This amounts to a YA novel with a high violence level. Fans of Jinks's YA City of Orphans trilogy may want to take a look.