Killing Is My Business

Killing Is My Business is the fourth installment of Adam Christopher's Ray Electromatic series, a sparkling mash-up of Los Angeles noir and '60s sci-fi (with sublime cover art by the great Will Staehle). In it, the eponymous Ray--a sly nod to Raymond Chandler--is a private investigator moonlighting as a hit man, albeit a remarkably ineffective one. He is also a hulking metal robot with an expressionless faceplate, prone to sitting in his car with a cup of coffee, a sandwich he can't eat and a paperback novel he can't remember.

Christopher brilliantly sends up Chandler by channeling Steve Martin: "Emerson Ellis, it turned out, was some kind of real estate magnate, and I already didn't like him. I didn't like him because I was suspicious of alliterative names."

Ray's employer is the sassy mainframe, Ada, to whom he must report each night to clear his limited memory tapes. Each morning Ray "wakes up" to another beautiful day in Hollywood, and Ada brings him up to speed on current assignments. Ada is pure femme fatale: "she sounded like she was pulling on a cigarette which... I knew to be merely an echo in my circuits." And she might not be giving him the full download.

The story shares wiring with Memento, and randomly accesses The Big Lebowski: it hits the marks of a hardboiled potboiler while genially leaving its riddles unsolved. Summarizing the plot is pointless. It's a shaggy dog story and an utter joy to read. --Zak Nelson, writer and bookseller

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