Warren Ellis, Gun Machine
A gripping, fast-paced, determinedly hardboiled detective yarn
There’s no easing into Gun Machine — Warren Ellis’s ferocious and deliciously twisted crime novel aims for the solar plexus from the start. The moment weather-beaten New York City detective John Tallow peeks his head through the busted tenement wall, it’s clear that playtime is over. What’s in there? Guns. Lots of them — Berettas, revolvers, rifles, even a freaking flintlock — arranged in strange configurations all over the place. Curiouser: The forensics lab insists every single one of the firearms was used in an unsolved murder over the past two decades. And, oh yeah, one the guns belonged to the Son of Sam, stolen from an evidence locker for one last kill, apparently.
So who’s the killer? Some shadowy wraith called the Hunter, a guy meticulous enough to pull off hundreds of murders without dropping a clue but primal enough to treat Central Park like his personal Habitrail, and batshit crazy enough to imagine himself a reborn Lenape warrior looking to reclaim Manhattan for his supposed people.
Now it’s finders-weepers for Tallow — a loner made doubly lonesome by the death of his partner and his outcast status in the force — who’s tasked with cracking the behemoth case and bringing in the psycho perp. Dude never should’ve stuck his head into that apartment.
In Ellis’s gripping, fast-paced, determinedly hardboiled detective yarn, Manhattan is wonderfully grimy and gas-slicked again, the kind of place where one sad-sack good guy can make a difference or honorably die trying. The old-school noir charm is only heightened by narrator Reginald E. Cathey — veteran of another chunk of modern urban crime mythology, The Wire — whose Orson Welles-via-Jurassic Five baritone strikes just the right (bass) tones.