The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick de Witt

imageIn Oregon City, in the era of the California gold rush, Charlie and Eli Sisters are professional killers, though to be fair Charlie would be an enthusiastic amateur even if he wasn’t paid.

Their employer, known as the Commodore, instructs the brothers to head to San Francisco to kill a man called Hermann Kermit Warm, for unspecified infractions against the person of the Commodore.

The novel traces Charlie and Eli’s bloody odyssey in search of Warm, in the course of which they encounter a motley bunch of inhabitants of the Pacific North West. It is beautifully written and unsettling. But for the bloody violence this would be a novel of an amiable road trip.Eli, the narrator, gives the impression of wishing to be a decent man, but he is still ruthlessly violent when angry, or when he sees the logic of the situation demands it.

I am not sure there is a deeper message to the book, in spite of the entertaining philosophising that runs through the narrative. But it is still diverting ride through the old West.