Mystery Books - Warren Ellis - Gun Machine
Author: Warren Ellis
Publisher: Mullholland Books
Warren Ellis has a knack for creating video from words. It is a curious talent which isn’t immediately apparent as the story of Gun Machine unfolds. The first impression is that of a stock set of characters. The broken, old hand police detective who is eccentric and trying to quit smoking is on a potentially career ending case and taking a damn the torpedoes approach. The hard-nosed, politically savvy police Captain who will back her detective as long as it doesn’t get in the way of promotion is also in the story. Ellis dekes out even the most seasoned reader with a case and a killer which are wholly original.
Even if you’ve never been to NYC the feeling and pulse of the city present in Gun Machine will be more than enough to give any reader the feel for the Gotham chaos in which detective John Tallow applies his craft in the city’s first precinct. The first precinct is an area of NYC bounded by Houston on the North, Broadway down the middle to Chambers then around City Hall and cut over towards the Brooklyn Bridge along Dover. It is the NYC we have grown up with in movies – TriBeCa, Wall Street, 1 Police Plaza, World Trade Center, Battery Park the whole melting pot of America with all the accompanying terror.
(Spoiler alter – case set up) Terrific beauty is at the heart of Gun Machine. When John Tallow and his partner James Rosato respond to a call of a naked, shotgun wielding man is wandering the hallways of an apartment building on Pearl Street neither could know that it would change their lives irrevocably. Rosato ends up dead and Tallow ends up stumbling in to the largest gun hoard he, or anyone else in the NYPD, has ever seen.
The Gun Machine hoard is a hoard with a secret, a secret which is revealed by the intrepid CSU techs Scarly and Bat. We don’t meet Scarly and Bat until chapter eleven but they are well worth the wait. With the combination of Tallow, Scarly and Bat on the case This is a solid story with fantastic overtones of a villain who, from the time we meet him, is clearly stark, raving mad but very good at what he does. What emerges from the pitting of a madman against a lone detective backed by two CSU officers is not so much of a cat and mouse game as it is a game of hunter versus hunter. It is well crafted and so well drawn that the whole story plays out like a video in the readers mind.
It can be said of any book that there are a few week points and Ellis’ Gun Machine is no exception. Some of the meetings between Tallow and other major characters are just too convenient but not so much as to suspend disbelief. The ending of the story may strike some as less than fulfilling but if approached from a realist standpoint and not from the standpoint of someone who has experienced a psychotic break the ending makes perfect sense. All in all Gun Machine is a solid effort and well worth the read.
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