When detective John Tallow loses his partner in a gun fight with a naked maniac his life, as he knows it takes a turn. Not only because his only friend gets his brain splattered all over the stairwell, but it opens up a world that he has previously shut out.
While going door to door in the building after the shoot out the police on the scene uncover an apartment filled with guns. Guns stuck up on the wall in a strange pattern and as if this wasn’t enough each gun seems to have been involved in two murders, one classic and one unsolved, as if the killer was matching guns to victims.
Being forced back from leave Tallow becomes assigned the task of solving the case, an impossible feat it would appear. Tallow proves that he is the man for the job and discovers an intricate web of murder and lies that go higher than your average deranged serial killer.
Ellis, who is of comic book fame (Black Summer/Transmetropolitan), tells this story with ease. In his book Crooked Little Vein he proved he was more than competent when it comes to write fiction and with Gun Machine he only cements this. He also proves that he has mastered the Thriller genre or Hard Boiled crime fiction if you will. The language his hard, the characters brutish and New York the bitch mother of a backdrop worthy of Mickey Spillane or Dashiell Hammet. The characters, and in particular the antagonist, navigate the city with ease and reflect on the history of it and how it has changed through the ages.
John Tallow as the antagonist comes as a bit of surprise since it from the beginning appears that his partner will take this role, until his brain gets blown out. Tallow is a reluctant hero, he is antisocial, brooding and surly, but he does possess the qualities a New York detective needs. To most of his superiors he is set up to fail, becoming the scape goat for the fiasco that the case must become. Like the reader these people are in for a surprise. Tallow’s partner has always been seen as the smart one, the good cop, but with him gone John shines.
Tallow doesn’t work alone, with him are two CSU agents; Scarly and Bat, two outcasts who do as they please and who both seem an ill fit in modern society.
In the end this is what this book in my opinion is about, people who refuse to fit in. The antagonists and the protagonists are all misfits in one way or another. How this is you will have to read for yourself. At the same time it is also a story of crime and what has become of us as a people, the police radio that Tallow listens to in the car regales him with tales from the street, all brutal in one way or another, and how the police reacts to it.
Gun Machine is an excellent read for anyone who likes gritty crime novels set in modern times and without the sexism and macho attitude that we are left with from Mike Hammer and Sam Spade.
Gun Machine is available now on Kindle/Print/Audiobook and has been picked up by 20th Century Fox to become a TV show