Updated: Sep 23, 2020
With most police thrillers and murder mysteries, the “hook” that snags the reader has to come early and has to be truly enthralling. It’s that certain plot point that elevates the novel from a simple sordid crime story to an intriguing cat-and-mouse game between cop and killer.
In the opening pages of Warren Ellis’s novel, Gun Machine, NYPD Detective John Tallow shoots an unclothed guy wielding a shotgun only moments after the man had killed his partner. During the follow-up, the police have to check up on all the surrounding apartments in the building where the firefight took place and make sure that nobody got hurt by a stray round. No one answers the door at one apartment and, after the cops break in, they find that the place is empty except for guns. Hundreds of guns all set in an elaborate pattern upon the walls and the floor. And every single one of these guns was used to commit a murder.
Although this is only Ellis’s second novel, he has been one the world’s most popular comic book authors since the nineties. That experience in writing for unusual situations (Demons, superheroes and dystopian futures) clearly shows as he juggles and interweaves such diverse plot elements as Native American History, modern New York and the point of view from the schizophrenic killer.
Oddly enough, some of the most compelling parts of the book come from the chapters told from the killer’s perspective. Because of his mental illness, what he sees is constantly shifting from the real New York City of modern times to an imaginary New York of hundreds of years ago. The killer murders without a scrap of remorse several times in the book, but it’s difficult to feel hatred or disgust for him.
Published in 2013, Gun Machine was on theNew York Times Bestseller List and is currently in development as a television series. It’s available for checkout at the Little Elm Public Library.