THE SISTERS BROTHERS, by Patrick deWitt, and THE WATERY PART OFTHE WORLD, by Michael Parker.
This novel is an on-the-road tale of two hit men in the Old West. It's insightful, and at times funny. But it is also a book that has competed for literary prizes -- not a traditional pulp western. Somewhere in the second or third chapter you realize you are enjoying the story of two contract killers, neither of whom has much of a conscience. Its humor may remind you of the strangely laughable moments in a violent Coen brothers movie. This story is set on the West Coast, during the 1849 Gold Rush. Two brothers, Eli and Charlie Sisters, travel from Oregon to California in the employ of a criminal boss with instructions to kill a miner. The story is told by Eli, who is the lesser of two evils. His twisted tale of redemption is highly recommended.
A barrier island off the coast of North Carolina is the strongest character in this engaging but sometimes uneven novel, or perhaps more accurately, the island is the shaper of strong characters. Two stories unfold in this isolated, wind-pounded place. One, set in the early 1800s, features a woman named Theodosia who is kidnapped and marooned by pirates in the early 1800s, the enigmatic man named Whaley she eventually falls in love with, and Hezekiah, a taciturn slave whom Whaley buys and frees. The second, set in the modern era, is about the island's last three residents -- two elderly, eccentric white sisters, Miss Maggie and Miss Whaley, and Woodrow, the aging black fisherman the women depend and dote on but also blithely betray. The first set of characters are ancestors to the second, and it's surely one of the novel's themes that though times change, human nature does not. Captivating as the book's intertwined stories are, they sometimes suffer from clichéd and predictable plot twists, or conversely, moments where it's just hard to understand what's going on. It pleases most as a set of love stories, for when it's examining the mysterious seaweed-like tangles of love, it rings resonantly timeless and true.
NIGHT METRO EDITOR