Gun Machine – Warren Ellis

Set in contemporary New York City, this ballsy, bloody, barnstorming book bursts onto the scene with two cops answering a call about a naked man with a shotgun. The police stumble on an apartment filled with guns. Each carefully set in its place. Each, it transpires, the weapon used in an unsolved killing. The hunt is on!

Detective Tallow, aided by his weird and wonderful Scarly and Bat CSU colleagues, sets out to find the guns’ owner and the truth. His journey is not smooth – he shouldn’t be doing this case, he has insufficient resources, and ponders if he is being set up to fail. But, thanks to a couple of coincidences (the weakest part of the book) he makes progress. You can almost hear the rush of the grand finale.

So, on the plus side it is fast, fun, and involving. Detetctive Tallow rings true as a character. The CSU sidekicks are a bit cartoonish – and given the author’s solid comics background, that is understandable – but there are not too many negatives on the characterization side. The plot wobbles a bit, but eventually gets there. The unraveling, as hinted at above, is a wee bit dependent on good fortune, but it just about works.

The writing is kind of supercharged Lehane or Leonard. It’s not quite that sharp, but pretty damn close. There’s a fine eye for black humor and social commentary. For example, Tallow’s journeys are frequently accompanied by dips into the police radio broadcasts. These are full of death, destruction, and some gruesome tragi-comic elements.

Also running through the book is a native Indian theme. This gives a fresh perspective on the city streets and locations that the author uses well to create not only a new view, but some interesting possibilities, most of which he follows up. For example, the nature of the killer Tallow is seeking can only be understood in the context of that theme. (I know that sounds awfully pretentious, but read the book and it will fall into place quickly.)

I enjoyed this immensely. Worthy of your time.