No, I haven't got it backwards...the title of Warren Ellis's latest novel is Gun Machine.
And it was a great book to start off the New Year with a bang. The opening line hooked me...
..."On playing back the 911 recording, it'd seem that Mrs. Stegman was more concerned that the man outside her apartment door was naked than that he had a big shotgun."
Detective John Tallow is sent to investigate and what he finds is more that anyone could have imagined. One of the apartments in the building is full of guns. Not piles of guns, but meticulously displayed and mounted guns, all in a unfathomable pattern. And when the techs start testing the guns they find something even more unthinkable. Each of the guns has been used in an unsolved murder, starting over twenty years ago.
Tallow is one of those burned out but brilliant characters I love to discover. "You're at the age where the rush of the job has passed and the grind of the job is taken in stride, and this is the time when you're wondering if it wouldn't be so bad if you just stopped giving much of a shit and rolled along doing as little as possible."
Just as intriguing were the pair of supporting characters in the cast - Bat and Scarly - brilliant Crime Scene Unit Investigators, but misfits themselves. Yes, they were a bit over the top, but I really enjoyed them.
But, it seems that the higher up really don't want the case solved - roadblocks appear in Tallow's path and the owner of the guns has Tallow in his sights....
Ellis has penned a unique entry in the crime scene genre - the characters really grabbed me and I hope he plans to employ them again. The killer was truly psychotic - his view of the world past and present was a technique I quite liked. The killer's views of old Manhattan sent me off to Google to see if it was all true or not. (It was) The plotting is imaginative, conspiratorial and multi-layered - more involved than I initially thought it would be. Ellis has a dark sense of humour that he allows to peek out through some of the dialogue. Be warned - there are some dark spots - the police chatter on the scanner is disturbing. My only complaint would be that the ending happened too quickly for me.
Ellis is the author of a number of graphic novels and I could see this book being easily written in that format as well. It had a bit of a noir, off-beat feel to it.
Again, I hope Ellis reprises this cast in a future book - I'd love to read another John Tallow story.
Read an excerpt of Gun Machine. You can find Warren Ellis on Twitter.