Richard Anderson

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Richard Anderson

Graeme Sweetapple is a man down on his luck, reduced to stealing cattle to pay the mortgage on the family farm. Early one Christmas morning, Sweetapple is heading home with a truck full of stolen steers when he comes across an upended ute that has hit a tree. Anna, one of the two passengers he helps out, is an anti-coal mine protestor, and she has stolen a small explosives pack that one of the more extreme protestors had taken from the mine. When she spots the cattle, she blackmails Sweetapple into taking the explosives and hiding them.   

Sweetapple cares for the horses of his wealthy neighbours, Bob and Caroline Statham. He despises the dodgy big-business ethics of Bob and his ex-politician wife, but he loves horses and needs the money, so when Bob asks him to steal a very expensive horse for him, he agrees.   

The horse is called Retribution, and Sweetapple forms a strong attachment to her. He fantasises about keeping her, and finds it difficult to ultimately hand her over to Bob. So when Bob subsequently does something terrible to the horse, Sweetapple wants revenge. But is revenge the solution or the problem?


For those resolutely suburban readers, like me, the allure of rural crime is relentless: all those long, dark roads, the expansive farmland where anything can hide, and a certain type of character who says more with a long stare than with anything so overt as words. In Retribution, Richard Anderson delivers all of that and more: retribution here is not only a side project but the name of a horse whose disappearance is about to turn a community to violence.

It begins in the lead-up to Christmas, when Graeme Sweetapple, celebrating the holiday season by driving some stolen steers back to his place, encounters a bad car accident on the side of the road and an injured woman who cuts a deal with him: look after the bag she’s got and she won’t tell the police who helped the ute’s occupants get to safety.

Elsewhere, Luke, a protestor at the mines, is leaving the protest life behind and stepping back into his old one; Carson, a woman on the wrong side of men’s advances, is searching for a way out of the town she loves and loathes; Caroline, an ex-politician and Sweetapple’s neighbour, is recovering from the brutal loss of her position in the world. All of them feel the burn of rage and disappointment in their losses, all have someone else to blame, and one stolen horse will see the flames rage. A simmering, gripping tale fraught with emotional tension, populated with rich characters, heavy with the past – and what the future will hold.

Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also blogs about children’s books at

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