A calmly vicious journey into avarice and revenge.
The unusual title refers to Charlie and Eli Sisters, the latter of whom narrates the novel. The narrative style is flat, almost unfeeling, though the action turns toward the cold-blooded. It’s 1851, and the mysterious Commodore has hired the Sisters brothers to execute a man who’s turned against him. The brothers start out from their home in Oregon City in search of the equally improbably named Hermann Kermit Warm. The hit has been set up by Henry Morris, one of the Commodore’s minions, so the brothers set off for San Francisco, the last-known home of Warm. Along the way they have several adventures, including one involving a bear with an apple-red pelt. A man named Mayfield is supposed to pay them for this rare commodity but instead tries to cheat them, and the brothers calmly shoot four trappers who work for him. Charlie is the more sociopathic of the two, more addicted to women and brandy, while Eli, in contrast, is calmer, more rational, and even shows signs of wanting to give up the murder-for-hire business and settle down. But first, of course, they need to locate Warm. It turns out Morris has thrown in his lot with Warm, a crazed genius who has seemingly discovered a formula that helps locate gold—so much so that he can get in a day what it takes panners a month to glean. When they finally get to the gold-panners, the brothers wind up joining them, removing literally a bucket of gold from the stream. The caustic quality of Warm’s formula leads to disaster, however, and Indians show up at an opportune moment to steal the gold.
DeWitt creates a homage to life in the Wild West but at the same time reveals its brutality.