Marie’s Reading: “The Sisters Brothers” by Patrick deWitt

sisters brothersEli and Charlie Sisters are known throughout the Oregon Territory as deadly killers.  They’re on a job for a man known as the Commodore.  The brothers are to hunt down and kill a gold prospector in California.  The story follows their mission, and the side adventures they have along the way.

The novel is narrated by Eli, who does not share his brother’s love of drinking and killing.  Eli does, however, really love his brother.  As the story goes on and he starts to grow a conscience about this particular mission, Eli begins to think that this life might not be for him anymore.  But how can he make a break and not lose his brother?

One of my favorite aspects of how deWitt tells this Western is in his characterization of the brothers, Eli in particular.  It’s when Eli’s character and story arc really clicks that the novel drew me in the most.  These two are hired guns, but there’s enough backstory to tell you  that Eli and Charlie came from pretty troubled circumstances.   There’s also a curious spareness, almost a flatness, to Eli’s narration–as the story went on, I began to read it as an unwillingness on his part to do too much self-examination.  You get the sense he doesn’t like what he’s become, doesn’t like his temper or his circumstances, but he doesn’t see a suitable way out.

Though it’s violent (sometimes intensely so), it’s also darkly funny, and the tone is never terribly intense.  There’s a wonderful sense of place, too–the West Coast in the early 1850’s comes through as an area full of danger, freedom, and promise.  The story is very fast-paced and compelling, and, as I said, Eli is a fascinating and complex narrator.

If you like Westerns with great characters, some moral quandaries, a nice setting, and plenty of shoot-outs, give this one a try!

–Marie

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Marie’s Reading: “Three Graves Full” by Jamie Mason

three gravesWhile working on his property, landscapers uncover human remains in Jason Getty’s yard.  Jason is horrified, but also confused–neither of these bodies are the one that he buried himself.

Years before Jason committed a murder.  He never reported it, and he buried the man at the edge of his property.  He thought he’d covered for himself pretty well.  But now detectives are swarming, and Jason just knows they’re going to find the third grave eventually.  So he has to decide what to do before his crime is uncovered.

 

There’s also the mystery of the identities of the two bodies eventually found in Jason’s yard.   A team of detectives, Bayard and Watts (along with faithful dog Tessa), are working to figure out what happened to them and why.  Watts and Bayard were my favorite characters in the book–they both come across as dedicated, kind guys who are good at their jobs and have great instincts, as well as being great friends with each other.  Their interactions are great to read.

Jason is fascinating as well.  I like how Mason crafts his mindset.  It takes a while to discover how off-kilter he really is, and it’s a nice build.

Three Graves Full reminded me of a darkly comic “The Tell-Tale Heart,” with some police procedural thrown in.  It’s a fast-paced read with entertaining characters and really well-done action sequences.  If you like mysteries with a slightly different angle with lots of threads that come together at the end, you should give this one a try!

–Marie

“Horrorstor” by Grady Hendrix

Just look at this cover.

Just look.

horrorstor

Orsk is a furniture store that feels like a prison to many of its employees.  It’s the sort of retail hell that’s designed to never let you leave.  As the story opens we learn that merchandise is being damaged overnight.  There are Orsk company inspectors on the way, so the store manager has to get to the bottom of the mystery quickly.  So the devoted-to-the-company manager puts together a small crew to wait overnight so that they can catch whoever is responsible for messing with the inventory.

Unfortunately, weird things begin to happen once night falls.  Graffiti appears on the walls that references “the Beehive.”  Stains and mold and scratches appear on normally flawless surfaces.  Then the shadowy figures start to appear.  Turns out the store was built on the swampy remains of a notorious prison.

Horrorstör is clever, fun, and pretty darn creepy–I snorted with laughter even while being scared.  Think Shaun of the Dead style, where the gore is paired with a laugh.  Actually, there are lots of horror movie references and tropes here.   This novel is particularly cinematic in pacing and tone and, because of the catalog framing device, relies a lot on visuals.  So it’s even more like a horror movie than it might be otherwise.

The catalog device is very well done, especially in the chapter-heading ads for furniture (which morph into something altogether different as the story goes on).  The phrasing for the merchandise description is spot-on.  And so is the corporate-speak of the employee manual and the more devoted employees.

Retail, man.  It can trap you.

If you’re a fan of clever creepiness with a quick pace and a nice foreboding ending, give this one a try this month.  Here’s the book trailer: