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A Nasty Piece of Work

3.29  ·  Rating Details ·  448 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
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, w
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published November 19th 2013 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published April 25th 2013)
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Nov 20, 2013 Sojourner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
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 on
Christopher Culp
Mar 11, 2014 Christopher Culp rated it it was ok
I suspect this noir detective novel will be more enjoyable to those who are not fans of Robert Littell's work. Littell's oeuvre consists of spy novels. Although uneven with a few not-so-good works, his good works are GREAT works (e.g., The Company, The Sisters, The Defection of A.J. Lewinter, The Once and Future Spy). I have two Problems with this departure of Littell from his normal genre. First, it is way too similar to his earlier book Walking Back the Cat. Second, Walking Back the Cat wasn't ...more
Nov 21, 2013 Cal rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gloria Feit
Jun 14, 2014 Gloria Feit rated it really liked it

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 aft
Aug 11, 2016 Gerald rated it liked it
Robert Littell has written sophisticated spy novels, including The Amateur. It would be glib to say A Nasty Piece of Work lives up to its title. It is a workmanlike, formula, gumshoe-detective novel. The protagonist is a worn-out, burned-out, world-weary intelligence operative. He's retired to the desert. He gets dragged into a case, and a buddied-up search, by a beautiful, young dame. The bad guys are unscrupulous and vicious, with Mob ties, embedded in the gambling racket. The ending dishes ou ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Larry rated it really liked it
Lemuel Gunn, former soldier, homicide cop and CIA asset, works as a private eye in the southwest. He is approached by a bail bondsman (woman,actually) who is soon due to be out 175,000K unless the bail-jumper (who ratted himself out to the cops) is found. Gunn goes after the jumper. He gets involved with the client (almost inevitably). And then everyone's real motives get unearthed. There's a couple of good surprises toward the end, the local color is good, and the main characters are interestin ...more
Joe Bolin
A Nasty Piece of Work might best be described as uneven: the good bits (the first 20 chapters) are very, very good and very true to their noir roots. From there until the final chapters, though, the book becomes a flight of fantasy. In particular, Littell's depiction of casinos and California/Nevada geography is unrealistic, at best. Overall, I would recommend this book as a quick read.
Feb 02, 2015 Mkb rated it it was ok
I see the comparisons to Elmore Leonard (whom I love) but this just did not live up to my expectations. I think one of the things I love about Leonard's characters is that they are really flawed. They make dumb choices and over-reach their abilities, but one never gets the feeling that Leonard is mean-spirited.

But to get back to A Nasty Piece of Work, the author seems to be in love with his character, Lemuel Gunn. Sometimes that doesn't bother me, and I can get on side (as I have with Lee Child
John McKenna
Apr 01, 2014 John McKenna rated it really liked it
Mysterious Book Report No. 144
by John Dwaine McKenna
When one of the best and most well-known living writers of espionage spy thrillers turns his hand to crime fiction, you bet we’re going to pay attention here at the Mysterious Book Report. Robert Littell, author of blockbuster novels like The Company, Legends and The Stalin Epigram, has turned his hand to writing crime fiction and mysteries. And he’s come up with a Chandler-esque Private Investigator named Lemuel Gunn to tell the tales.
In A Nas
Jul 29, 2014 ALEXA rated it really liked it
A sad sack of a man, a woman with sad eyes and a sad excuse for a human being make up the main characters in Robert Littell's "A Nasty Piece of Work."

Lemuel Gunn, ex-CIA agent and former soldier, now uses his special skills as a private investigator in New Mexico. That's some change of pace from Afghanistan. The scars on his skin are not nearly as deep as the unseen wounds he bears. Yet, somehow, this tough sucker manages to laugh and joke while digging through the muck of humankind to satisfy h
Nov 18, 2013 Wendy rated it really liked it
Recommended to Wendy by: Goodreads Giveaways
"A Nasty Piece of Work" which I won from Goodreads Giveaways is Robert Littell's initial foray into the world of crime and mixed with a heavy dose of suspense and action. The story unfolds when a former CIA agent haunted by the unjustified murder of civilians in Afghanistan is hired by a part-time bail bondswoman to hunt down a felon who skipped bail. When Lemuel Gunn begins his investigation he finds that any pictures or evidence against Emilio Gava has disappeared, and that his only clues to t ...more
Kevin Coombs
Nov 24, 2013 Kevin Coombs rated it really liked it
The latest book from Littell is not his typical fare (which is espionage, most particularly circa The Cold War). Instead, this is more of a noir detective story. As with all of Littell's books, the story is seasoned with interesting (if not quirky) characters, unlikely alliances, and protagonists at least as flawed as the antagonists. The storyline almost doesn't matter, but it involves a hunt for a bail-jumper who may or may not be on the run for the crimes he is accused of; may or may not be w ...more
Amy Lignor
Sep 16, 2013 Amy Lignor rated it it was amazing
In this new novel by the master of espionage, Robert Littell, we are introduced to a slightly new genre. Crime is the focus of his new tale, but the always reliable author made sure that action and adventure was doled out in spades.

Retired CIA Agent, Lemuel Gunn, was once in the business of defusing bombs in Afghanistan. Leaving that horrifically dangerous world behind, Gunn decides to head from one desert to another - the desert of New Mexico. No longer a bomb expert, he chooses to take on the
May 31, 2015 Ben rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-novels
A Nasty Piece of Work
Robert Littell (Author)
'A Nasty Piece of Work' is one of those books that packs a lot into a few pages. It is full of twists and turns, characters that come and go, a protaganist who is both a criminal, and also a highly admirable character, depending on where you stand on the moral spectrum. It starts quickly, and from there it picks up pace, and the back-story is unloaded at the same time. We have lead character Lemuel Gunn, a former homicide detective and CIA agent, and s
Dec 20, 2013 Carl rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Feb 27, 2016 Ellen rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, mystery, new-mexico
Lemuel Gunn, former police officer and former CIA operative, is living in an old house trailer in Hatch, NM, working as a private investigator. He is hired by the beautiful Ornella Neppi, a bail bondsman, to help her track down Emilio Gava who seems to be skipping bail leaving Ornella $125,000 poorer. Taking the job, and taking Ornella as well, Gunn is unable to find any concrete evidence that Gava even exists. He was reportedly arrested in a drug deal but there is no record of the arrest or mug ...more
Nov 21, 2013 Mr rated it it was ok
Robert Littell branches out from his espionage thrillers to try his hand at the hard-boiled detective novel. A NASTY PIECE OF WORK introduces ex-cop and disgraced CIA operative Lemuel Gunn. This quirky P.I.’s name is probably a mash-up of “Lemuel Gulliver” and “Peter Gunn,” since we’re frequently told that he has “been born into the wrong century” (p12). That doesn’t really work for me. Sure, he drives a weirdly classic 1950 Studebaker Starlight coupe and lives in a 1930s custom mobile home once ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Garrett rated it did not like it
Let me begin by stating I didn't make it past page 164.

I've read reviews by others and apparently this author normally wrote spy novels...I hadn't read him yet.

I couldn't have been less interested in main character Lemuell Gunn, I don't know how this story made it to the shelves. My breaking point was when it becomes known he doesn't know how to use a cell phone. Seriously. Gunn is a P.I. Maybe you'd say yea but he's broke and works out of a trailer park, okay, but in that case, give me somethin
Mar 22, 2014 William rated it liked it
Quite a surprise, in that this is very different from what I have previously read by Littell.

It's actually sort of fun, but I began to lose patience towards the end. Initially, it read like a very clever satire of the standard hard-boiled private investigator genre. That dissipated, though, and some violence which struck me as a bit over the top eventually put me off.

Lemuel Gunn, the P.I., is hard to distinguish from others of his type. He is a standard war veteran-type, though the Afghan confli
Oct 01, 2013 Debi rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
First I must say this is the first book by Robert Littell I have read. I read this advance copy in only two days. I couldn't put it down. I don't want to give away the story but this crime story also has suspense which I really enjoy. Gunn living in his little trailer is a private investigator who takes a job working for the sexy Ornella. She brings him a case to solve of the missing Emillo Gava a man arrested for drug charges who has skipped out on his bail. You don't know if he is even a real ...more
Jul 08, 2014 Nigel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Robert Littell, the great US spy novelist, channels Marlowe and Crumley and possibly a few others for this exercise in wry PI desert noir. Our tarnished hero who drives down these mean highways and traverses these mean dunes and mean motels and mean casinos and mean romance, is Lemuel Gunn, ex homicide detective, ex-CIA adoptive father to an Afghan orphan and struggling with rage issues. Hired to track down a bail jumper whose photographs and files mysteriously vanish and who seems to have given ...more
Feb 25, 2014 Neil rated it really liked it
I somehow managed to miss all this author's previous books. He made his reputation with literary esponiage novels, all of which escaped my notice. This is his first venture into crime/mystery fiction with a private detective named Lemual Gunn based in New Mexico who lives and works in a mobile home once used by movie stars which is appropriately and absurdly equipped for same. Littel retains a loose connection with the spy genre as Lemuel ($95 day + expenses) is a defrocked CIA agent. Classicaly ...more
Jan 14, 2014 Michele rated it did not like it
The plot manages to be both obvious and contrived and the big surprise at the end wasn’t much of a surprise at all. Lemuel’s character is supposed to be a man in his late forties, but old fashioned. Lemuel is too old fashioned. I have a hard time believing that a man who was in Afghanistan a mere click ago doesn’t know how to use a cell phone. I also disliked how Littell pulls from one narrative into another as in when Gunn tells us about why he was kicked out of the CIA. Sure, interesting back ...more
Kim Moyer
I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

I enjoyed the storyline and the book was a pretty quick read. The details of how the mystery would ultimately come together were placed throughout the book so that a discerning reader could figure out the big reveal but were subtle enough that the ending wasn't obvious.

One thing that sort of annoyed my throughout the book was the notion that Gunn was technology/computer illiterate. Someone who is of the generation to be the right age
Jan 21, 2014 Debbie rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 26, 2014 Randi rated it liked it
This is the first book by Littell that I've read, so I was not burdened with expectations. I wanted a quick & fun summer read and this book delivered on both of those fronts. Upon reflection, I find myself thinking back to Tony Hillerman novels where I'm drawn more to the character than the actual story. It took me until the end of the book to feel a real connection for Lemuel Gunn however. There is an interesting mix of serious philosophical reflection and playful noir style detective expos ...more
Jan 04, 2014 Guy rated it really liked it
I needed something to read and my hold list was full so I was browsing the newish books section at the library and this seemed like my best bet. I've read the author in the past. I used to live in that part of New Mexico. It was a good story, moved along at a nice pace. Maybe a little too pat at times. Suspension of credulity needed. But all in all I got what I was looking for. No complaints but I'm not going to say: "You've got to read this book! (I have moved from a big city library system tha ...more
Feb 21, 2014 Gordon rated it liked it
The book is hard-boiled noir. The central character Lemuel Gunn is going through the world in a way to leave as small a footprint as possible after his tracks took him with the CIA to Afghanistan. He runs into a blond bombshell, one damaged and with a critical need, and the plot is on. It's a good book, a solid read with some memorable prose. Don't read it if you're looking for more, a la Lippman, but do read it if you want to follow a good mystery with solid plotting and some good clues. This b ...more
Stacy Bearse
Jan 06, 2014 Stacy Bearse rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Not quite sure how I feel about this short novel. It is well-plotted with enough tension and action to captivate reader interest. And, the backdrop of the southwest U.S. gives the detective story a distinctive aura. But the protagonist is an enigma. The key character is Lemuel Gunn, an ex-cop, ex-CIA-officer who now operates a gritty little private investigation service in New Mexico. Gunn redefines the concepts of laid-back and glib. In a way, he reminds me of pulp-fiction detectives from novel ...more
Dec 26, 2015 Andrew rated it it was amazing
The first book I have read from Robert Littell and I loved it. Lemuel Gunn is ex CIA and now a PI and lives in a trailer who gets unwittingly in the middle of a casino turf war. The story twists and turns fuelled by Littells wonderful descriptive short chapters. The highlight is Gunn's relationship with Ornella Neppi which smoulders and explodes in a ending with a twist. I thing I have found a new favourite character. If you love Lee Child's Jack Reacher I think you will really enjoy this. Can't ...more
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An American author residing in France. He specializes in spy novels that often concern the CIA and the Soviet Union. He became a journalist and worked many years for Newsweek during the Cold War. He's also an amateur mountain climber and is the father of award-winning novelist Jonathan Littell.
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