Shepherd is historical fiction story set during 1840 in New South Wales.
Tom Clay is barely a teenager when caught poaching in Suffolk, and sent to an Australian penal colony for seven years. Taken on as a shepherd, Tom falls back on all he has learned from his hardened and ruthless father to survive in a dangerous land filled with desperate men.
One of his adversaries is Dan Carver, a murderer. Tom knows how Dan treats any surviving witnesses to his murders and flees to the bush with his dog and an Irish friend, in a perilous chase that can only end in death.
I could easily picture the violent and inhospitable conditions that convicts faced in the era and I understood how dangerous men might go to extremes to endure their punishment. Tom was a likeable character and I enjoyed learning more about him as the author slipped in details of Tom’s life back in Suffolk.
I liked reading about Tom’s poaching skills and how he put them to good use in the inevitable confrontation with Dan. I could also empathise with Tom over his frustrations that no one could teach him about the flora and fauna of this strange land.
Overall, this story is a well-written piece that depicts some of the horrors which, no doubt, faced many of the thousands of men, women and children who were subjected to transportation to the Australian colony.
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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.