A Nasty Piece of Work

( 7 )

Overview

Former CIA agent Lemuel Gunn left the battlefield of Afghanistan for early retirement in the desert of New Mexico, where he works as a private investigator from the creature comforts, such as they are, of a mobile home.

Into his life comes Ornella Neppi, a thirty-something woman making a hash out of her uncle’s bail bonds business. The source of her troubles, Emilio Gava, was arrested for buying cocaine. Ornella has reason to believe he is ...

See more details below
Hardcover (Large Prin)
$28.79
BN.com price
(Save 10%)$31.99 List Price
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (9) from $22.55   
  • New (8) from $22.55   
  • Used (1) from $28.78   
A Nasty Piece of Work

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price

Overview

Former CIA agent Lemuel Gunn left the battlefield of Afghanistan for early retirement in the desert of New Mexico, where he works as a private investigator from the creature comforts, such as they are, of a mobile home.

Into his life comes Ornella Neppi, a thirty-something woman making a hash out of her uncle’s bail bonds business. The source of her troubles, Emilio Gava, was arrested for buying cocaine. Ornella has reason to believe he is planning to jump bail. Unless she can find him, her uncle is going to be $125,000 out of pocket.

For $95-a-day plus expenses (not to mention the pleasure of her company), Gunn agrees to help Ornella track the wayward suspect down. Curiously, no photographs of Gava seem to exist. Once Gunn begins his manhunt, he starts to wonder whether Gava himself existed in the first place.

            Robert Littell has been widely praised as one of the best espionage writers of our time. Now, he’s turned his formidable skills toward crime fiction in A Nasty Piece of Work, a novel that Le Monde has already praised as “one of those page-turning detective tales that feels like an instant classic.… A Chandleresque noir novel, as delightful as it is suspenseful.”

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/02/2013
At the start of this throwback to Raymond Chandler from bestseller Littell (Young Philby), bail bondswoman Onella Neppi calls on Lemuel Gunn, a former CIA agent turned wise-cracking PI who lives in a trailer on the edge of the New Mexico desert, for help. Emilio Gava, who was recently arrested for buying drugs in Las Cruces, has absconded after Neppi posted his $125,000 bail—a sum of money she’s sure to lose if Gava doesn’t turn up soon. To complicate matters, all photos of Gava at the Las Cruces Star and the police station have disappeared. Gunn’s search for Gava’s identity brings him in contact with the FBI and, finally, with rival mob families in a small gambling town. The would-be witty writing often turns hokey—a pitfall of trying to approximate Chandler—and most characters speak in the same banter to the point of being indistinguishable, but the solid plot will keep readers engaged. Agent: Ed Victor, Ed Victor Ltd. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
International Praise for A Nasty Piece of Work

Nominated for L’Express Magazine’s Readers’ Grand Prix, and the Grand Prix of Detective Fiction.

“Brainy when it needs to be, arch at every conceivable opportunity and good-natured withal. It’s a pleasure to see Littell, who’s always seemed kind of tightly wound, relax a bit and invite readers along for the ride.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Littell certainly proves with this book that he can delve into the crime realm just as easily as the spy game universe he usually writes about.” —Suspense Magazine

“If Littell’s superb espionage novels are a figurative blazing fastball, Gunn’s debut is a tantalizing changeup. … Fans of quirky gumshoes will love Lemuel.” —Booklist

"I want to rave about the plot, but I don't want to spoil any of it for you. But then, Littell is so gifted a creator of intelligent entertainment that I could give away almost everything and still not spoil your pleasure in reading this neat, new genre novel by one of our best." —Alan Cheuse, NPR

“Robert Littell is a master of the delicate art of storytelling. He has produced a first-rate homage to the great Chandleresque detective novel. Humor and melancholaly are on the agenda.” —L’Express

“Robert Littell offers us a world-weary, wise-cracking detective who is drawn into a mysterious case by the mysterious charms of a bare-footed client. Since he is a man of principle, and a man in love, they will go the distance, from one dirty trick to another…. With its fully-formed and vibrant characters, the novel us in a suspenseful thrall throughout.” —La Croix

A Nasty Piece of Work is one of those page-turning detective tales that feels like an instant classic. … A Chandleresque noirnoir novel, as delightful as it is suspenseful.” —Le Monde

“Robert Littell never fails to surprise us. An irresistible adventure…. A real dance of mutual seduction…. There are deserts, organized crime families, murders, incredible kidnappings and blood in the sand. … Littell has written a superbly gritty novel.” —Le Canard Enchaîné

“The hero finds himself enmeshed in an investigation that only gets more complicated the further he goes and in which people are seldom what they seem. Murders, muggings, impossible love, sweet bitterness, nostalgia for what might have been – all presented with subtlety. With its fierce aura of real life; this novel delivers an intoxicating blend of desire and freedom that one savors from the first page to the last.” —Toute la culture.com

“Lemuel Gunn is an authentic tough guy who has seen everything and lived to tell the tale. He pursues his investigation with flashes of wit and literary references, in a picturesque universe filled with sinister characters and sleazy decors that call to mind the films of the Coen brothers.” —Les Inrockuptibles

“The well-paced plot, full of clever twists, keeps us in suspense right up to the last sentence (yes, the last sentence). Certain pages, in particular those about the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, are like so many uppercuts to our complacency. A Nasty Piece of Work opens the reader’s eyes, with its subtle and deceptively light-hearted take on universal themes.” —Juror’s report, Readers’ Grand Prix, L’Express Magazine

“A detective novel with a nostalgic tone (Bogart is not far off!), a wonderful plot, and a surprise ending that leaves the reader happy to have spent time with its wise-cracking hero. Written in a world-weary but enjoyable style, the author is clearly eager and probably amused to sweep us up into an adventure with a beauty named Friday.” —Juror’s report, Readers’ Grand Prix, L’Express Magazine

“Humor is the main ingredient. Littell loves digressions, crazy details, short silences. From time to time, there is a touch of melancholy, as when he evokes memories of war. … Somewhere, Raymond Chandler is rubbing his hands together in glee. He is in no danger of being forgotten. The fact that a writer of Littell’s stature is paying homage to him can only make him blush with pleasure.” —Le Figaro

“This well-seasoned cocktail served up by Robert Littell has a delectable taste of nostalgia. He offers us a sparkling homage to the ‘50s detective novel. A timeless hero, a manipulative female, and childishly bickering Mafiosi are the truculent heroes of this novel which is spiced with a good dose of hard-hitting humor.” —Paris-Match

“When Robert Littell, the master of the espionage novel, decides to amuse himself with an homage to Raymond Chandler, the result is sheer pleasure. A book to be read in a single sitting. Then reread, many times, as a fabulous exercice de style on the art of writing a classic American noir novel.” —Corsicapolar

“Robert Littell is the author of bestsellers read the world over, set in very different universes. … In his new ‘Chandleresque’ novel, we meet a femme fatale, an Afghanistan veteran living in a mobile home in New Mexico, and some quite irresistible characters in supporting roles.” —Télérama

“With themes like gambling, Mafiosi, and the underbelly of America, A Nasty Piece of Work is evocative of both Chandler and Scorsese.” —LIRE

“The novel is filled to the brim with a crowd of characters and atmospheres – cops, newsmen, security guards, FBI agents, mysterious beauties…and what a treat it is to discover them through the eyes and the caustic commentaries of the ex-CIA agent Gunn: nothing escapes him of the faults and foibles of our society. The former spy not only has no illusions about his peers, but few about himself either, and the novel quickly becomes an irresistible page-turner.” —Bouqintessences

A Nasty Piece of Work? Pure pleasure…. A totally different and absolutely superb book, a treat to be savoured on a sandy beach, a real old-fashioned noir novel. The couple of the older detective and the young ‘barefoot contessa’ works perfectly in this novel filled with irony, humor, and sensuality.” —La Libre Belgique

“Narrated by this funny, erudite, romantic and nostalgic hero, the story plunges the reader into the scorching heat of the Nevada desert…an exercice de style to be devoured on a torrid summer night, with a glass of Southern Comfort close to hand. The ferocious if somewhat beat-up humanity of this ‘Last of the Mohicans’ is hard to resist … and as one reads the final pages one cannot help hoping that Littell will soon be giving Gunn another occasion to take some hard knocks.” —Le Matin de Lausanne

Past Praise for Robert Littell

“One of those writers, like Elmore Leonard, who have risen far above genre . . . One of the most talented, most original voices in American fiction today, period.” —The Washington Post

“If Robert Littell didn’t invent the spy novel, he should have.” —Tom Clancy

“Psychologically interesting thrillers that rival in their intensity and the delivery of their plots the best work of John le Carré.” —Chicago Tribune

“Arguably, along with le Carré and Alan Furst, one of the best three or four espionage writers alive.” —Boston Globe

 “The American master of literary espionage.” —The Independent (UK)

“The nearest thing America has to a John Le Carre.” —Birmingham Post (UK)

“Littell has carved an ever growing niche for himself as one of the most literate spy plotters around.”

Sunday Business Post (UK)

Library Journal
11/01/2013
New Mexico-based PI Lemuel Gunn likes his independence and hates the memories of his CIA stint in Afghanistan. A new client, the gorgeous and mysterious Ornella Neppi, hires him to track down a bail jumper who's left her in the lurch. Trouble is, the missing Emilio Gava is so much more than what we think initially. Apparently, he was in the FBI's Witness Protection Program but couldn't quite behave himself. Mix in Lemuel's adopted college-age daughter, a couple of key FBI agents, and a host of Nevada casino personnel, and things get crowded out in the desert. Both Lemuel and Ornella are slaying dragons near the end with an expertly orchestrated climax. VERDICT This case starts light, but don't be surprised when a darker, violent side rears up near the end. If you're expecting espionage (The Company is Littell's big title), think again. This is a detective tale, styled more along the lines of Elmore Leonard's novels but told by a master storyteller in his own right. [See Prepub Alert, 5/13/13.]
Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-01
And now for something completely flip, as ironic spymaster Littell (Young Philby, 2012, etc.) turns to the vicissitudes of domestic crime. Ornella Neppi isn't really a bail bondsman. She's a puppeteer who's minding the store while her uncle recovers from ulcer surgery. But she knows he's not going to be pleased that after she accepted the deed to a $375,000 condo in East of Eden Gardens as surety for accused cocaine seller Emilio Gava's $125,000 bail, Gava skipped Las Cruces and the deed turned out to be a forgery. Now she wants Lemuel Gunn to hunt Gava down. Gunn is a former New Jersey homicide detective who was tossed out of the CIA for making trouble in Afghanistan, where they already had enough of it, settled in New Mexico and got a PI license. He can't resist his client's legs or the chances she provides for nonstop banter ("The sight of her vertebrae left me short of breath"). And Gava seems to have so little sense of self-preservation that he's phoned the cops in advance to warn them when and where he'll be selling coke. Why he'd dime himself out is the most pleasing puzzle here, and once Gunn and Ornella figure it out, nothing that follows quite measures up to it. But a good time is guaranteed for all--except maybe for the Baldinis and the Ruggeris, feuding crime families who seem determined to wipe each other out. Brainy when it needs to be, arch at every conceivable opportunity and good-natured withal. It's a pleasure to see Littell, who's always seemed kind of tightly wound, relax a bit and invite readers along for the ride.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781410465801
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/2014
  • Edition description: Large Prin
  • Pages: 311
  • Sales rank: 1,447,194
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT LITTELL is the author of seventeen previous novels, most recently Young Philby, and the nonfiction book For the Future of Israel, written with Shimon Peres, president of Israel. He has been awarded both the English Gold Dagger and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for his fiction. His novel The Company was a New York Times bestseller and was adapted into a television miniseries. His novel Legends, currently being made into a television series by Twentieth Century Fox Television, will air on TNT. He makes his home in France.

Good To Know

About his past, Littell told us, "No account of my education would be complete without mentioning my four years in the Navy; I served on board the USS John R. Pierce (DD753) where I was, variously, the ship’s navigator, antisubmarine warfare officer, communications officer and deck watch officer. These years were extremely formative for me."
Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Martel, France
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 8, 1935
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Alfred University, 1956

Read an Excerpt

One

 

 

 

Some things you get right the first time. With me it was cutting fuses to booby-trap Kalashnikovs being shipped to footloose Islamic warriors looking for a convenient jihad. It was making a brush pass with a cutout in the souk of Peshawar. Other things, no matter how many times you do them, you don’t do them better. Which I suppose explains why I still can’t make sunny-sides up without breaking the yolk. Which is why I refuse to leave messages at the sound of the beep. Which is why I wear my father’s trusty stem-winding Bulova instead of one of those newfangled motion-powered watches. Which is why I put off wrestling with the IRS’s 1040 until the divorced French Canadian lady accountant in Las Cruces comes by to hold my hand. My pet hate this week is balancing the monthly statement I get from the Las Cruces Savings and Loan over on Interstate 25. I have this recurrent fantasy that this craze for plastic with built-in credit lines and buy-now, pay-later schemes is this year’s skirt length, that consenting adults are bound to wise up and come home to the crisp comfort of cold cash. I once made the mistake of sharing this fantasy with my lady accountant but she only rolled over in my bed and treated me to a short course on how credit greases the economic skids. At which point I trotted out the Will Rogers chestnut I’d come across in the Albuquerque Times Herald and squirreled away for just such an occasion, something about how an economist’s opinion is likely to be as good as anyone’s. What could France-Marie say except “touché.” True to form, she managed to pronounce it with a French Canadian accent.

The other thing on my hit list, as long as I’m on the subject, is flushing out septic tanks. If you live in a mobile home, which I do, it’s something you have got to deal with eventually. I’d put it off so long there was this distinctly unpleasant sloshing down in the bowels of the Once in a Blue Moon every time someone went to the john. Made it hard to fall asleep, made it harder to stay asleep after you fell asleep when the lady accountant from Las Cruces slept over. So I’d finally gotten around to connecting the hose to the park’s sewage line and, using an adjustable wrench I’d borrowed from a neighbor five mobile homes down, started up my spanking-new self-priming pump. When the sump gurgled empty, I closed the line and unhooked it. Crawling out from under my mobile home, I cut across half a dozen yards to return the wrench, then came back by the street side to retrieve Friday’s Albuquerque Times Herald, along with the fistful of ads stuffed into my mailbox. I was checking out the headline—something about Republican senators defending the construction of a missile shield to protect America from an attack the Russians were unlikely to launch—when I noticed the footprints in the sand. Someone had come down the walkway between the street and my front door. They were light prints set on the surface of the sand path, as if the person responsible for making them was featherweight, with the turned-out profile that suggested a ballet dancer’s way of walking. Coming up to the Once in a Blue Moon, I batted away a kamikaze flight of insects and squinted into the brutal New Mexican sun and found myself staring at a very shapely pair of naked ankles.

I saluted the ankles respectfully. “You must be Friday,” I said.

The voice attached to the ankles turned out to be a throaty contralto that sounded as if it had surfed through several hours of scales. “Why Friday?” she asked.

I must have shrugged, which is what I usually do when I make a joke that goes over somebody’s head. “That’s how Robinson Crusoe came across the visitor on his island—he found footprints in the sand on the beach. Called his visitor Friday because of the day of the week this happened. Today’s a Friday. Robinson Crusoe? Daniel Defoe? Ring a bell?”

She favored me with the faintest of smiles devoid of any residue of joy. “You can call me Friday if it tickles you. I’m looking for a Mr. Lemuel Gunn.”

I was still wearing my septic-pumping finery, a decrepit pair of once-white mechanic’s overalls which, to make matters worse, had shrunk in the wash. I shifted my weight from foot to foot a bit more clumsily than I would have liked. I’ve been told I have good moves when it comes to what in polite circles is called hand-to-hand combat but women somehow bring out the elbows in me. I blinked away more of the sunlight and began to make her out. The barefoot contessa was pushing thirty from the wrong side and tall for a female of the species, at least five-ten in her deliciously bare feet. Two rowboat-sized flat-soled sandals dangled from a forefinger; a bulky silver astronaut-fabric knapsack hung off one gorgeous shoulder. She had prominent cheekbones, a slight offset to an otherwise presentable nose, a gap between two front teeth, faint worry lines around her eyes and mouth. Her eyes were seaweed green and deep-set and solemn and blinked about as often as those of the Sphinx. Her lips were straight out of a Scott Fitzgerald novel, oval and moist and slightly parted in permanent perplexity. Everything, as Mr. Yul Brynner used to tell us six nights a week and Saturday matinees, is a puzzlement. Her hair was short and straight and dark and tucked back behind her ears. She wasn’t wearing makeup, at least none that I could spot. There wasn’t a ring on a finger, a bracelet on a wrist, a necklace on the neck she had swiped from a swan. Take me as I am, she seemed to be saying. Minimum packaging, just enough so she wouldn’t be arrested for indecent exposure, though on second glance she was even pushing the legal limits on that. She was wearing a wispy knee-length skirt with a pleasant flowery print, and a butter-colored sleeveless blouse that left a sliver of midriff exposed. Both the skirt and blouse seemed to respond to a current of air, a whisper of wind I couldn’t feel on my skin. This private breeze of hers plastered the skirt against a long supple thigh, and the blouse against the torso enough to make out several very spare ribs and the outline of a single nipple.

My luck, it was pointing straight at me.

In my bankrupt state—I’m talking emotions, not savings and loan; my relationship with the lady accountant from Las Cruces was going nowhere fast—she seemed like the proverbial breath of fresh air, stirring a memory of passions past. I’d had two or three unpleasant episodes with women in the fourteen months since my discharge. Once I hadn’t been able to finish what I’d started, which was a new and frightening experience for me. Now, for the first time in a long time, I relished the pleasure of imagining the body under the cloth draped over it. For the first time in a long time I felt I’d have no trouble rising to the occasion.

She suffered my once-over in silence, then shook her head impatiently. “So do you or don’t you?” she asked. “Answer to the name of Lemuel Gunn?”

I heard myself reach for the glib response and hated myself for it. “Sorry, sweetheart, but I gave at the office.”

“No offense intended but you don’t look like someone who’s ever seen the inside of an office.”

The conversation had gotten off on the wrong foot and she knew it. Trying to set it right, she summoned from the depths of a clearly distressed soul what could have passed for a grin if it hadn’t been me the grinee. Lemuel Gunn, the seeing-eye sleuth, nothing escapes his penetrating gaze. Who else, confronting a glorious barefoot contessa he’d never seen before, would notice that she didn’t paint her toenails? Didn’t bite them either.

“What’s your line, Friday?”

“In a month of Sundays you’d never guess.”

Without batting an eye she watched me inspect her chest. I wasn’t looking for campaign ribbons. “You’re not thin enough to be one of those high-fashion models, you’re not thick enough to be a lady wrestler. I give up.”

“I’m a bail bondsman. My name’s Neppi. Ornella Neppi.”

I flashed one of my aw-shucks smirks, which have a good track record in situations like this. “If the job description ends in ‘man,’ you’re lying through a set of very pearly teeth.”

“No. Hey. Really. Actually, I’m only a sometime bail bondsman. I’m sitting in for my uncle in Las Cruces who’s convalescing from an ulcer operation. He didn’t want the competition to get a foot in the courthouse door, so he got me to hold the fort.”

The sun was wiltingly hot. I nodded toward the screen door of the mobile home. She looked at it, then back at me, trying to figure out if my intentions were honorable. (Didn’t know how she could figure this out if I couldn’t.) She must have reached a conclusion because she tossed a shoulder in one of those “What do I have to lose?” gestures that women own the patent to. I climbed the steps ahead of her and held the door open. Turning sideways, she passed so close to me going in I had to suck in my chest to avoid contact with her chest. (Maybe that’s what “honorable” meant.) As the screen door flapped closed behind us, I scooped up a pair of khaki trousers and a T-shirt and several magazines and an empty container that had once played host to a six-pack and tossed them out of sight behind two potted plants, one of which was dead, one of which was dying. Friday deposited her silver astronaut-fabric knapsack on the deck and settled onto the curved yellow couch, then crossed her long shapely legs, tucking the unbitten toes of her left foot behind her right ankle, spread-eagling her arms along the back of the couch in a way that pushed her breasts into the fabric of her blouse. I turned up the air-conditioning a notch and ducked into the galley to fetch two bottles of cold Mexican Modelo. I padded back carrying a tray and set it down on the deck.

“You forgot the church key,” she said.

“Don’t need a church key,” I said. I pried the two metal caps off with my fingertips—it was a trick I’d picked up in the badlands of Pakistan from local tribesmen who scraped their fingertips on coarse rocks until they were calloused and then opened beer bottles with their thumbs and forefingers to impress the NGO nurses. I filled two mugs with cracked ice, iced the inside of the glasses before spilling out the ice, then fussily filled the mugs with beer, careful to pour without forming a head. I handed one of the mugs to Ornella Neppi,

“I used to drink Guinness stout imported from Ireland,” I remarked, settling onto the wooden trunk across from her, “but I can’t seem to find it anymore. Can’t find a lot of things anymore. Sometimes I think it’s me, sometimes I think it’s a national affliction. We seem to be settling for less these days—less beef in hamburgers, less service in restaurants, less plot in motion pictures, less grammar in sentences, less love in marriages.” I hiked my glass. “To bail and to bonding, Friday. Cheers.”

She looked away quickly and gnawed on her lower lip. Whatever ache she was repressing made her look like one of those brittle, cracked Wedgwood teacups my mother brought off the shelf for important guests. It struck me that my visitor was hanging on by her fingertips, though I couldn’t figure out to what. It struck me that without the ache, she would have been too beautiful to be accessible.

“So I’ll drink to bail,” she finally agreed. What she said next seemed to float on a sigh. “To tell the truth, I’m less enthusiastic about the bonding part. Cheers.”

Out in the park a long mobile home pulled by a truck with a throaty diesel engine chugged past in the direction of the interstate. “Okay, I’ll bite—what do you do when you’re not bail bonding, Friday?” I started kneading one of the metal beer caps between my fingers, turning the rim in toward the middle.

“Does Suzari Marionettes ring a bell? I can see it doesn’t. No reason it should. That’s me, Suzari Marionettes. That’s my puppet company. I studied puppeteering in Italy and Japan when I was younger and organized this road company—we do schools, we do summer camps, we do private birthday parties, we do kids’ TV when we luck in. I dress in black and work the puppets from behind with sticks. The repertoire includes Pinocchio and Rumpelstilzchen. So I don’t suppose you’re familiar with Rumpelstilzchen. He’s the dwarf who spins flax into gold in exchange for the maiden’s first-born child.”

“Sounds like a depressing story.”

She watched me working the beer cap between my fingers. “Unlike real life, it has a happy ending, Mr. Gunn.”

“You manage to live off this puppeteering?”

“Almost but not quite. To make ends meet, I also do miming gigs at birthday parties.” She kicked at the astronaut-fabric knapsack. “It’s filled with wigs and funny eyeglasses and false noses for my various mime acts.” She nodded toward the beer cap, which had been crushed into something resembling a ball. “Your fingers must be incredibly strong to do that.”

I handed her the beer cap. “It isn’t strength. It’s anger.”

She hefted it in the palm of her hand. “What are you angry about—something you’ve done?”

I shook my head once. “Something I didn’t stop others from doing.”

“You care to be more specific?”

“No.”

“Mind if I keep this? It’ll remind me of the power of anger.”

“Be my guest.”

She dropped the beer cap into the silver knapsack, tucked her toes back behind her ankle and, screwing up her face, chewed on the inside of her cheek, uncertain how to proceed. Meeting new people, deciding who you want to be with them, is never easy. The gentleman in me decided to help her over the stumbling block. “Knock off the Mr. Gunn. Call me Lemuel.”

She tried it on for size. “Lemuel.”

I reached over and offered a paw. She unhooked her ankle and leaned forward and took my hand in hers. Her palm was cool, her grip firm. For the space of a suddenly endless instant the thing she was hanging on to with her fingertips was me. I can’t honestly say I minded.

“You work real fast,” she murmured.

“Life is short,” I told her. “The challenge is to make it sweet.” I hung on to her hand long enough for the moment to turn awkward. The depths of her seaweed green eyes were alert, as if a warning buzzer had gone off in her head. She slipped her hand free of mine with the casual ease of someone who had perfected the fine art of keeping a space between herself and the male of the species, and doing it with minimum injury to his ego.

“Fact is, Lemuel, I’m in a jam.”

In a sense, she was ahead of the game but this was neither the time nor the place to educate her. We’re all in a jam, all the time, we’re just too dumb to know it. We need to take our cue from the drug dealers in Hoboken who, when they reach twenty, go to the local undertaker and prepay their funeral because they don’t expect to live to thirty. “Why me?” I asked.

“So here’s the deal: I can’t afford the services of one of those big-city detectives who charge by the hour and pad their expense accounts. I went to the police but they laughed me out of the station house. They have other things to do besides hunt down people who jump bail for relatively minor crimes, and the state is glad to add the bail money to its coffers. I heard on my grapevine that you sometimes take cases on spec…”

“What else did your grapevine tell you?”

“That you look young but talk old. That you’d been a brainy homicide detective in New Jersey before the CIA talked you into becoming some kind of spy. That you never run off at the mouth about it. That you were sent packing without a pension after an incident in Afghanistan that never made it into the newspapers. That you took the fall for following orders you couldn’t prove had been given. That you were a troublemaker in a war that had enough trouble without you. That you came out west and went into the business of detecting in order to live in the style to which you wanted to become accustomed. That you’re street-smart and tough and lucky and don’t discourage easily. That what you do, you do well, what you don’t do well, you don’t do. Which is another way of saying you don’t buy into the notion that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”

“That’s one hell of a list.”

“I have a last but not least: that you charge satisfied customers ninety-five dollars a day and unsatisfied customers zero. That nobody can recall an unsatisfied customer.”

“Can you attach a number to your problem?”

“I bet $125,000 of my uncle’s nest egg this guy wouldn’t jump bail. I worry that I’m losing the bet. I feel real awful about it.”

“Just out of curiosity, you want to identify your grapevine?”

She flashed another one of those apologetic half-smiles. “Hey, I’d better not. If I tell you, you might send me packing. That’s what my grapevine said. She said you were peeved at her for being too available. She said, psychologically speaking, you wore starched collars and liked ladies who liked men who opened doors for them. She said you’d been born into the wrong century.”

 

Copyright © 2013 by Robert Littell

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 14, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Lemuel Gunn, now a private detective in New Mexico, once was a


    Lemuel Gunn, now a private detective in New Mexico, once was a CIA agent in Afghanistan before being unceremoniously sent home and cashiered out of the service, and, before that, a policeman in New Jersey. While he holds a PI license, he basically whiles his time away in a gigantic trailer built for Douglas Fairbanks Jr. while he was making a movie.

    That is, until one day he is approached by Ornella Neppi, a beautiful but tarnished bail bondswoman who put up $150,000 to spring one Emilio Gava after he was arrested on a cocaine charge. Her problem (and she has lots of them) is that Gava has skipped town and she is in danger of losing the funds if he doesn’t show up in court. She asks Gunn to find Gava, and he undertakes the task. And what an adventure it becomes.

    The author, known for his spy thrillers, has proved he can write a detective novel with the best of them, with excellent characters, unexpected plot turns, and interesting human emotions. The plot keeps moving forward at a steady pace, and even the description of a My Lai-type massacre in the present-day Asian action is startling.

    Recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2013

    Not too bad a mystery story.

    Not too bad a mystery story.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2013

    First book by Littell I have read -- probably the last

    First book by Littell I have read -- probably the last

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)