|The Sisters Brothers|
Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers is a dark picaresque. The two brothers of the title, Charlie and Eli Sisters, are guns for hire that work for a mysterious man known only as the Commodore. We meet them just as they've been given another job, to track down a chemist and prospector named Hermann Warm. Eli, however, is starting to have second thoughts about being a killer.
The Sisters Brothers is set in 1851, mostly in the California territory. DeWitt tells the story in short chapters that read more like vignettes. The Sisters' world is a violent one. Charlie in particular doesn't mind using his guns to get his way when people don't respond to his "reasonable" requests. Eli is more of a sensitive soul and on this trip, he starts to wonder why the Commodore sends them after people, why do they end up killing so many people, and maybe he could retire and set up a little shop somewhere.
The brothers track their quarry to San Francisco only to discover that their spotter has switched sides. Warm, it appears, has discovered an easy way to find gold in California's rivers. Morris was supposed to just point Warm out to the brothers, but he went into business with Warm. Eli tries to convince Charlie that this might be their way out of the killing business.
Some other reviewers (on GoodReads) commented that they didn't like the structure of the book because it meanders so much. But I think it works for this story. Reading it was like sliding into their lives for a few weeks. I enjoyed Eli's narration and DeWitt's snappy dialog:
"He describes his inaction and cowardice as laziness," Charlie said.
"And with five men dead," I said, "he describes out overtaking his riches as easy."
"He has a describing problem," said Charlie. (174*)
I had a great time reading this book. And not just because of the cover.
* From the Kindle edition.