GUN MACHINE by Warren Ellis (Twitter) is a startling, dark, wild take on the criminal procedural. Exactly what you’d expect from Ellis, in other words, but this isn’t to say that the plot is predictable. On the contrary, it begins with a naked man ranting and raving while wielding a shotgun, and by the time it’s over, you’ve met a reawakened New York City detective, two bizarre crime scene unit techs, some of the biggest and greediest power players in Manhattan, as well as a highly-motivated and highly-capable serial killer.
This is the story of Detective John Tallow, a cop who has been coasting through life for too long. When his partner is killed in front of him, something in him cracks. When he discovers an apartment that is filled with hundreds of guns artfully arranged and each linked to an unsolved murder, something in him shatters completely. He’s forced to remember just what it means to be a detective–just when everyone around him is hoping the loser cop will be buried by the unsolvable monster of a case.
This is a police procedural, but through Ellis’s eyes, you’ll be exposed to the barely contained insanity of the Crime Scene Unit employees, the horrific and senseless yet “everyday” violence of New York City, what happens when power and ambition are bent by greed and amorality, and the consequences of murder for hire. Ellis artfully twists the stereotypes of a police procedural, making each a little darker, a little more extreme. And his knack for creative, visceral metaphors and similes make for a gripping, cracking read.
The only weak point I found were two meetings between Tallow and another character that didn’t quite work for me (warning, the next few sentences are vague, but I’m trying to keep this review spoiler-free). The first doesn’t make much sense (I didn’t understand why the other character would interact with Tallow at all), and the second was too much of a coincidence (in the entire City, she just happens to enjoy the same lunch place?). Although these moments insert a couple of weak links into the plot chain, don’t let them prevent you from reading GUN MACHINE. Ellis has written a wonderfully fun novel that is perfect for reading on a cold, winter night.