(2013) Warren Ellis, Mulholland Books, £13.99, trdpbk, 308pp, ISBN 978-1-444-73064-7
New York detectives John Tallow and James Rosato are called to deal with a naked man brandishing a shotgun in the hallway of an apartment building that will be eventually demolished. Rosato is shot by the man, then Tallow shoots him. Investigating a shotgun blast that went through a wall, Tallow finds an apparent full of used guns on the walls and floor in patterns. These turn out to all have links to unsolved murders. Tallow is stuck with solving the case and starts working with two Crime Scene Unit members Bat and Scarly, to trace their origins. However, the person who owned the guns is not happy about his life’s work being taken away...
The narrative makes the most of this great premise. Ellis has clearly done the research for this book, but this does not lead to long passages of info dumping. Inside we get interesting asides relating to business and technology. The history of New York also plays a part in the plot in an unexpected way.
The novel creates a disturbing killer identified in the text as ‘the hunter’. His point of view as he tracks people over the city, killing in cold blood, his sense of reality and location shifting, is among the strongest parts of the book.
Gun Machine is a tightly paced urban thriller that manages to take a new angle on the crime story. It tackles themes that Ellis is good at exploring, the way that technology changes society, the layers of history in an area and a protagonist uncovering the dark secrets of a city.
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