MADE TO KILL is a noir crime novel with all the required elements. Ray is a wisecracking, slightly bitter and twisted investigator, who takes the punches and wears out the shoe leather. Ada, his female sidekick, is the brains behind the operation, with a full-time job keeping Ray on track and out of trouble. And of course there's a glamorous client who walks into their Los Angeles office one morning, large bag of gold in hand, promptly turning everything upside down.
Author Adam Christopher's open about the idea behind this tale - "What if Raymond Chandler wrote sci-fi?". Probably not a question that would wander into many people's heads, but Christopher takes it and comes up with his version of a private eye, and then twists that even further.
The difference being Ray is a robot and Ada is a computer. Luckily the client is still a gorgeous girl with something to hide, but what's she's hiding has a very nice twist on the expected as you'd hope from something as gloriously odd as MADE TO KILL. Classic noir with a mash-up that's slightly science fiction and slightly comedic relief creating something surprisingly believable. After a while Ray's being a robot is only foremost in your mind because he does keep reminding you.
There is a lot more to Ray and Ada than meets the eye however. Aside from Ray being the last robot on earth with the controlling supercomputer is in his ear all the time, there's the question of daily wipes of his memory tapes and the lucrative sideline of eliminations rather than investigations. Needless to say Ray's a bit hazy on what's really going on, as Ada ensures he's under control and focused in the directions she wants.
Not being a particular fan of this type of genre blurring I fully admit to being a bit leery of MADE TO KILL. Fortunately right from the opening pages it grabbed attention, made me laugh a lot and kept me turning pages right until the end. The balance between the whole "last robot" thing and the actual investigating is nicely done, the humour well pitched, frequently self-deprecating and never distracting from the more hard-boiled, noir elements. Somehow Christopher has even managed to inject a little pathos, and some vulnerability into a character who is, after all, a hulking heap of metal in a hat.
MADE TO KILL comes straight from the "well I wasn't expecting that pile", and even better, it looks like the opening salvo in a trilogy that will be well worth following.