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A Nasty Piece of Work: A Novel Hardcover – November 19, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 Booklist

Littell, whose mastery of the espionage novel (Young Philby, 2012) brings comparisons with le Carré, steps into a new genre with private eye Lemuel Gunn. A CIA agent in Afghanistan until he was fired for reporting a war crime, Gunn has settled in a small New Mexico town, living in a mobile home once used by movie star Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. The action begins when the very comely Ornella Neppi, who is trying to manage her uncle’s bail-bonding agency, hires Gunn to track down Emilio Gava, who has jumped the bail Ornella posted for him. Gunn quickly learns that Gava seems not to exist; even his mug shot has disappeared from the police department. But Gunn is clever and resourceful, and romance blossoms during the hunt. If Littell’s superb espionage novels are a figurative blazing fastball, Gunn’s debut is a tantalizing changeup. He’s a twentieth-century man who listens to Nat Cole LPs, drives a 1950 Studebaker Starlight Coupe, and shuns cell phones. Littell’s espionage fans might be disappointed, but fans of quirky gumshoes will love Lemuel. --Thomas Gaughan
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (November 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250021456
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250021458
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #710,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bestselling author Robert Littell has been ranked amongst John Le Carre and Graham Greene for his masterful spy fiction. A Newsweek journalist in a previous incarnation, Littell has been writing about the Soviet Union and Russians since his first novel, the espionage classic The Defection of A.J.Lewinter. Among his numerous critically acclaimed novels are The October Circle, Mother Russia, The Debriefing, The Sisters, The Revolutionist, The Once and Future Spy, An Agent in Place, The Visiting Professor, the New York Times bestselling The Company (adapted for a TNT mini-series), and Legends (winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Best Thriller of 2005) and For the Future of Israel, a book of conversations with Shimon Peres. Littell is an American who makes his home in France.

Customer Reviews

It is superbly paced and wonderfully written.
the GreatReads!
It seems like it was written by a different Robert Littell.
Skeptical by nature
The writing style and expressions used seem so dated.
Mike Wildermuth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By the GreatReads! TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Nominated for L'Express Magazine's Readers' Grand Prix, and the Grand Prix of Detective Fiction, A Nasty Piece of Work by Robert Littell is a pleasure to read as Littell switch from his usual spy themed story into the realm of crime fiction. What is most exciting about Littell is his mastery of the subtle art of storytelling

In this page-turning, delightful and suspenseful new detective novel by the master of espionage, we are introduced to a retired CIA Agent, Lemuel Gunn, a tough guy who was once tasked with defusing bombs in Afghanistan and lived to tell his tale. Putting his past life behind him, Lemuel lives and works out of his mobile home, moving from one desert to another, working as a wise-cracking private detective. And then he meets this strikingly beautiful woman who comes bare-footed.

Ornella Neppi is no ordinary woman. Her reckless and irresponsible decisions are tearing apart the bail bonds business owned by her uncle. When Emilio Gava was sent to jail for buying drugs in large quantities, Ornella provides surety and Gava was released on bail. But when Gava jumped bail, it is up to Ornella to either track him down or pay the bail off. But she is incapable of either one on her own. She approaches Lemuel who takes the job, and begins the search for the absconding criminal.

The task is easier said than done. Gava seems to have vanished into thin air. Faceless, there is no photograph. Unknown, no one seems to know him. It's a strange case, no leads and no nothing. Lemuel finds himself in a hole where he's never been before. Is strikingly beautiful but manipulative Ornella telling him everything he needs to know about Emilio Gava? Or is Gava a much bigger fish than he has been made out to be?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Curmudgeonly Doc on December 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A definite disappointment. A highly acclaimed author of spy thrillers, with a special affinity for the workings of the CIA, comes up with a formulaic, first-person, P.I. crime novel (with a loose, even forced CIA connection). At times I wondered if this was supposed to be a parody, but I couldn’t find any wit or humor to convince me. So, we have a typical, tough-but-tender, middle-aged bachelor (but not a drunk), who went from New Jersey Homicide detective to overseas CIA operative (an everyday career path, eh?), but was drummed out due to his high moral standards involving the cover-up of atrocities by an all-evil US Army squadron in Afghanistan, who is now a lowly P.I. living in a mobile home in the outskirts of Las Cruces, NM (but who can still get the younger women), and (SPOILER ALERT).....

takes on both sides of a Mafia dispute and comes out on top.

Added bonuses: just in case you weren’t sure he was a good guy, he has an adopted Afghan daughter whom he rescued from the evil American forces. And there are enough metaphors to fill several books, often applied judgmentally to everyone he comes across. And the good cops c. 2010 don’t use (or understand, or apparently need?) computers, cell phones, etc. And did our narrator remind you more than once that he’s really a man for the past century? Gag me with another cliche....

Actually, the plot could have been right at home in an Elmore Leonard novel, but the writing would have been way different.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David on February 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Littell's The Company is one the very best spy books ever written. Many of his other espionage books are exciting and witty.

None of these qualities apply here. The Amazon plot summary suffices. I thought this book might be a parody--the writing is a clumsy compendium of cliches from hardboiled detective books.

Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos and Michael Connolly write such books much, much better. Save your time and money.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tom Swinson on December 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
In my opinion this is a much-appreciated shift from some of the intelligence-related novels that were beginning to become somewhat tedious. Lemuel Gunn is a welcome addition to the P.I. genre. Personally, I would have given the effort the full five stars except for Littell's not believable efforts to dumb-down Gunn. Tell me, what ex-big city cop, ex-CIA officer who is currently a big time P.I. hasn't familiarized himself with a cell phone and has never heard of Google? I would hope Littell continues in this genre, but without the overdone efforts to curmudgonize Gunn.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Smith on February 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This book must have been written forty years ago, and then poorly updated. There are constant references to "color" televisions, as if they're something unusual. The protagonist uses phone booths, apparently doesn't have a cell phone; police pull land line phone records, not cell phone records. Multiple referrals to Yul Brenner and dated movies, even a Will Rogers reference. I think the author did update the manuscript to change the protagonist's war experience from Vietnam to Afghanistan. The protagonist drives a Studebaker, which seems an implausible choice of classic car, and there is no reference to the protagonist's interest in classic cars. At any rate, I found the dated references distracting and unlikely in a protagonist who seems to be in his 40's, and couldn't continue past page 60.
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