Manhattan's Native American past and seedy present merge in an inventive police procedural by graphic novelist and screenwriter Ellis (Crooked Little Vein, 2007, etc.).
John Tallow is a demoralized NYPD cop who, in this book's opening sequence, has good reason to check out entirely: His partner is shot dead when they respond to a call to investigate a naked gunman in a run-down tenement. Worse, Tallow discovers a massive cache of guns in the apartment that turn out to be connected to dozens of homicides, some dating back decades. With a massive stack of newly reopened cold cases now attached to his name, Tallow is persona non grata at the precinct. But his newfound survival instinct pushes him to uncover the perpetrator and recover his good name. This book is thick with some familiar types: the brilliant but socially inept officers who help Tallow conduct his investigation, the corrupt top brass, the cocksure CEO standing between Tallow and the truth, the trophy wife hiding an important secret. But Ellis is entertainingly fixated on showing how one of the centers of civilization can't tame its wildness. The "hunter" responsible for the murders is a sociopath consumed by double visions of the city, past and present; his cache of guns was arranged in a wampum pattern, and much of the climactic action focuses on Werpoes, a former Native American settlement in what’s now lower Manhattan. As serial-killer rationalizations and behaviors go, the hunter’s is complicated, but Ellis' prose couldn't be more clean: His hero is a deep well of noirish bons mots, and sequences featuring police radio reports of humanity's daily degradations give the novel a grim but surprisingly poetic lift.
The high concept doesn't entirely cohere, but more crime fiction could stand to overreach like this.