KayKay #CRB5 Review #56 The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt


Minute Review

I picked this book up based on a comment from I read on Cannonball (maybe Jen K?), read the sample and was intrigued by the writing style.  The story moves quickly, two assassins (brothers whose last name is Sisters) are heading to California to execute a job.  They have several interesting interactions on the way, and even more when they arrive.  Not only is this a story of the physical journey the brothers take, but the emotional/spiritual journey that Eli takes.  I found it to be very enjoyable ended up giving this book 4 stars.

Here’s a breakdown…


My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers.  Continue on at your own risk!

World Building

This story takes place in the old west, during the California gold rush.  I normally don’t read Westerns (or historical fiction), but the setting was a perfect back drop to this book.  The time period was captured brilliantly, for example, Eli’s introduction to a toothbrush and toothpaste was a beautiful touch.

World Building Score: 4/5


Eli and Charlie Sisters are assassins for The Commodore who has commissioned them to kill Hermann Warm, who is in California.  The brothers are notorious (no matter how far they travel, people know of them).  The deal in death: “‘There are many kinds of death.’ I counted them off on my fingers: ‘Quick Death, slow death.  Early death, late death.  Brave death, cowardly death.'”

The brothers head out for the mission and have several interesting adventures on the way.  When they arrive, they find Morris (who the Commodore hired to find Hermann Warm and keep an eye on him until the brothers arrive) has defected to the side of Warm and his gold-finding invention.  Unfortunately, the solution that finds the gold also kills both Morris and Warm and costs Charlie his hand.

Interesting plot points:

-The run in with the dentist.  After introducing taking care of Eli, introducing him to toothbrush and toothpaste, he gets robbed by the brothers (for his numbing medicine)

-Eli’s soft spot for his horse Tub.  After being trapped in a house with a curse on the door (and being too fat to escape through the window) he runs out to save his horse from a bear.  The horse loses his eye, but Eli keeps him to the end.  What’s interesting here is that Charlie would not cross the threshold when he thought his brother was in danger, but Eli crossed it for his horse (that he did not even want).

-Charlie’s story of how Eli got his freckles.  He was basically badly sun burned after Charlie leaves him in the sun all day to take his mother to the hospital after his father breaks her arm.

Plot Score: 4/5 


Eli- the younger brother, I hesitate to call him the tender hearted one, but compared to his brother, he is pretty sensitive.  As much as this book is about the brothers making their way to California to kill Hermann, it’s also about Eli figuring out who he is, and who he wants to be.  And he no longer wants to be a killer.  Despite his desire for ‘normalcy’ and to be loved (which is seen in his relationship with two women who are nice to him), he has a hard time feeling emotions.  He also admits to finding amusement in things that a normal man would not (like being crushed to death by a horse).

Charlie- the older brother, also the mean one.  As children, his dad breaks his moms arm so Charlie kills his dad.  This starts him on a path of violence.  Despite the violence, he is always tight with his brother.  Once he loses his hand (his main shooting hand) some of the fight goes out of him.  At the end of the book, we do not see how he recovers from the loss of his hand, and I wonder whether he finds trouble.

Characters Score: 4/5


I have several times wondered whether I loved the book because the simplicity in the writing, or whether I thought the writing was too simple.  My final conclusion is that the writing style suited the main character (Eli).

I felt the prose was lyrical.  It was beautiful in it’s simplicity.  The phrase construction was superb.  Some of my favorite lines:

“The creak of bed springs suffering under the weight of a restless man is as lonely a sound as I know.”

“..but the good was there in such measly quantities you had to keep a sharp watch lest you miss it entirely.”

Style Score : 4/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

I’m not sure how much of a lesson you can take from a pair of assassins, but I think there is something to the journey of self discovery Eli takes.

Life Lessons Score:  2/5 

Final Thoughts?

-I really wish all the best for Eli, and I hope he gets his trading post.

-I wonder about the beads the witch left on the door of the house.  Eli ran across them, and could have been cursed, but it doesn’t seem to change his luck.  Perhaps the curse is just in the fear of it.

-Eli’s diet- when he decides he wants to find someone to love (and someone who loves him), he tries to cut down on his food and eat carrots and such.  His brother Charlie gave him a hard time about it “My brother is fasting in the name of love”.  It was a ‘murderers are just like us- they want to lose weight too!’ moment.

-I would get nervous anytime these brothers came across someone, I knew death would soon follow.

– I loved it when Eli said “My name is Eli Sisters, you son of a whore, and I will kill you dead where you stand if you don’t hurry up and serve me what I asked for.”  Eli is normally very tolerant, so when he said this I knew he was at the end of his line.

+1 bonus point for the awesome cover!

Total Score and Recommendation

19/25- An easy to read, enjoyable story.

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