Review – Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher

Killing is My Business
By: Adam Christopher
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Tor
Series: Ray Electromatic Mysteries
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)

It may not be immediately obvious from the SFF theme of this blog, but I love a good mystery story. The Ray Electromatic Mysteries by Adam Christopher scratches both itches. Killing is my Business is the second book in this series. It is set in a 1960s noir Los Angeles, features a robot assassin nee private detective, and is more fun than it has any right to be.

What can I say? Robots are cool, damn it, and there should be more stories with them. Or maybe it’s my twelve year old self talking. Either way, I love this concept. I love this series. And more people should be talking about it.

If you haven’t caught up, you can check out the review of the first book here.

This is the second novel in the Ray Electromatic Mysteries series, though there are two novellas available as well. This takes places after the events of book one, with Ray getting several new jobs in rapid succession including one very curious one. Instead of the normal assassination job Ray is used to, he is hired to first protect an aging mafia boss from another hit only to kill him later after successfully infiltrating his group. It’s an unconventional request to be sure, but Ray is quite skilled at his job.

One of the reasons why I like this series so much is that we have a rather unconventional narrator. Ray is a robot. Not an android or some sort of cybernetic human, but a real, honest to god robot. Even then, Ray isn’t a very conventional robot. Visually, he is a very 1950s-esque take on what a robot would look like (or at least that’s the visual I get). As for function, Ray addresses a problem not often explored.

Memory space.

That’s right, Ray Electromatic shuts down every 24 hours because he’s run out of batteries and tape reel. Every morning he awakens with no memory of the previous day’s activities, instead relying on the supercomputer that assists in keeping him functional for briefings on yesterdays and todays jobs and activities. This is only becomes more and more relevant as the series goes on. While Ray is quite good at his job – both the assassinating and his old function of private detective (hey, assassination just makes more money) this is a huge potential exploitation. Small things that seem insignificant enough to not warrant a briefing aren’t always conveyed and links in cases can be accidentally overlooked. And that’s just scratching the surface with issues.

Now, this memory space element doesn’t bother me in the slightest. On the contrary, I love the concept. However, I can see some readers finding this aspect a bit frustrating. There are times when the reader can piece together events long before Ray does for no other reason than he’s incapable of remembering them. In that same vein, the beginning of the novel can feel just a hair slow. Unlike many mysteries and thrillers this book doesn’t hit the ground running with a thrill a minute. Sure, that aspect is there, but this speculative fiction and, maybe more importantly, this is very much so a noir styled book with dark alleys illuminated by lamplight, mobsters, and discussions in bars. So, if you don’t like books with just a bit of slower pacing, keep this in mind while reading.

The case itself was interesting. Ray is left quite in the dark on this one, maybe more so than in the previous novel. Orders filter in only gradually, forcing Ray to think on his feet and revert to his old detective abilities, something that seems hardwired into his core programming. Things become more muddied before becoming clearer.
Hints to bigger questions and larger overarching series-wide plots are hinted at in this book. We learn a lot, or at least more than we did in book one, about robots, their history, and Ray in particular. There are several times where, though Ray cannot remember something, he seems to have a sixth sense, some nagging and very human feeling. While this isn’t explored too much, it does pose some interesting questions as to Ray’s true nature, and something which, maybe, hopefully, we will see explored in the future. As for the rest of the interesting information, I’m not going to go into further detail. I don’t want to spoil the story any more than I may already have. Needless to say, I’m very intrigued by some of the occurrences towards the end of the novel and can’t wait to see where the series goes in the next book. (I’m unsure if another book has been announced, but I can’t see another book not being released.)

Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher was another fun installment in the Ray Electromatic Mysteries. This series as a whole is a ton of fun. Ray is a great narrator. They are shorter than most speculative fiction, easy to get into, and easy to read. If you like mystery books, robots, and noir this is a book (and series) you’ll want to check out. If you don’t like noir mysteries this one may be a book to skip.

About author

Kathleen Townsend

Kate writes things, reads things, and writes about things she reads. She’s had a few short stories published, and works as a freelance editor. Favorite genres include epic & high fantasy, science fiction, time travel stories, video game related tales, light novels, and manga.

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