I've been trying to expand my range of reading for a while now, crime fiction especially. I hadn't realised that the talented Warren Ellis had written a crime novel.
For those who haven't heard of Ellis he's a renown British writer best known for his comic book writing. He's won seven Eagle awards and has had his work adapted into films on a number of occasions - perhaps his most famous being the film Red featuring Bruce Willis, Karl Urban, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirran.
Anyhow, Gun Machine is one of only two novelsÂ written by Ellis (so far). It describes a successful serial killer at large in New York who only becomes known to the authorities by sheer luck. A disenchanted Detective stumbles across an apartment full of guns shortly after witnessing his partners brains get blown out. These guns are arranged in odd patterns on the floor and walls and it would appear at least some have been used recently. His Lieutenant decides thatÂ investigating possible murder connections to these weapons would be just the thing to keep said detective busy.
What follows is an interesting take on a crime novel. There are elements of a thriller and those of a police procedural and the pace sits somewhere between both. I enjoyed the style of writing, backstory and world-building are kept in check with the emphasis placed firmly on moving the story forward. We are also treated to chapters from the perspective of the killer and the author manages to create a fairly realistic persona which while doesn't make you feel sorry for them, does at least allow you some understanding of why he does what he does (although of course it doesn't go so far as condoning such actions). Some of the characters (including the antagonist) are not named but reffered to as "The Hunter" and "The Lieutenant" which gives them a different edge, objectifying and reducing them in some ways but singling them out in others.
The quality of the writing is excellent, sharp and uncomplicated, assisting an already impressive pace. As a result it feels if anything a little short and I'd have liked to have seen a bit more from some of the characters - especially the forensic scientists Scarly and Bat, the interplay between them and Scarly's wife being a real highlight.
These small moments help to prevent the novel becoming too dark, just as well as the author paints a fairly bleak picture of New York. The story itself is engaging, although some of the more important break-throughs seem to occur less as a result of good detective work and more just random luck. The ending, while rewarding, is quite abrupt.
Gun Machine is different enough to stand out and good enough to be remembered. Perfect for any Crime fan looking for something more than the usual fare.
Written on Monday 26th June 2017 by Antony Jones.
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