Killing Is My Business by Adam Christopher is the second book in the Ray Electromatic Mysteries series.
Adam Christopher is a joy to read. It would be agreeably prodigious if those seven words are all you will need to buy his latest novel, but in case further urging is needed (and to justify my humble fee to my editor), here’s what Killing Is My Business is all about with two selections that exemplify his sharp entertaining prose.
Raymond Electromatic is a “steel-titanium skin” robot created by the late Professor Thornton, initially programmed as a private detective but currently working as an assassin out of the City of Angels. He receives his missions from another machine, Ada. While on the job, he likes to have a cup of black coffee at hand and read pulp fiction paperbacks in between cruising in a Buick for his intended target. One serious drawback, it would seem, is that he’s missing his long-term memory.
Timetables, it had to be said, were not my strong point, given that I had no recollection of events prior to six in the morning, each and every day. That was because I was a robot with a state-of-the-art miniaturized data tape sitting behind my chest plate, a ribbon of condensed magnetic storage slowing winding from one reel to the other, the events of the day recording themselves through the medium of me.
Day being the operative word. My memory tape was a technological wonder, but it had a limit. Specifically, a twenty-four-hour limit. Subtract a couple more to allow my batteries to recharge back at the office, and I was down to twenty-two hours of working time.
But Ray doesn’t see it as a handicap, mentioning that the advantage of his memory being wiped daily is that if he’s ever captured, there’s nothing in his cranium to implicate him. He has more than one case overlapping each other, including locating real estate magnate Emerson Ellis and knocking off gangster Zeus Falzarano. Actually, he is to save Falzarano’s life, make himself indispensable, gather information on the hood’s operations, and then kill him.
As the bullets came in through the gaping void where the fancy front windows had been, I stepped into the firing line and pushed the table and the dead guy slumped over it out of the way. Then I grabbed Falzarano and shoved him in front of me. I wrapped two arms around him and squeezed his bulk in. He seemed to get the picture and he kept his head low.
My chassis was between him and the shooters and the shooters didn’t stop—in fact, they even shot a little harder, aiming squarely at me instead of panning back and forth like an office fan on a hot afternoon. Among the smoke now flew big orange sparks, around me and the man I was protecting. They lit up the smoke like flares and they fizzed and glowed like someone had set off a whole bunch of fireworks inside the wreckage of what had once been the best Italian restaurant in town.
Christopher builds nicely on robot detectives that have come before—like Isaac Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw in The Caves of Steel and A. Lee Martinez’s Mack Megaton from The Automatic Detective—but also there’s an obvious familiarity to Raymond Chandler’s depraved L.A. and Lawrence Block’s Keller (that hitman’s witty repartee with Dot has welcoming echoes in Ray and Ada). But at no time does this luminous, exhilarating read feel like a retread. Killing Is My Business is a charming, undeniable masterstroke of fun that I finished in one 90-minute read. Like I said, Adam Christopher is a joy to read.
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David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.