A rogue robot is terrorizing the dark underbelly of 1930s Manhattan. Can detective Elias Roche and his new Automatic partner track it down?
The year is 1933. Even in a world with free energy, robot labour, and megacorporations, nothing could stop the collapse of the American Dream. As the world-spanning Great Depression rages on, the remaining New York–based mafias clash with police for control of the broken city. Elias Roche, former police officer turned Mafia enforcer, works to maintain a tenuous peace between the two parties.
Accustomed to settling disputes with the business end of a gun, Roche must expand his repertoire after a violent murder is covered up by the FBI. With the Mafia insisting they’re innocent of the crime and the police powerless to help, Roche and his new Automatic partner, Allen, must root out those responsible before the situation sparks a war in the city streets.
Carlson debuts with a fun but formulaic thriller, the first in the Walking Shadows cyber noir series. In an alternate 1930s New York, the upper classes have migrated to a gleaming mini-city hovering above Manhattan, and robots called Automatics are treated as second class citizens. Elias Roche is a jaded ex-cop turned PI who handles sensitive cases too hot for law enforcement. When rogue robots kill three cops in a speakeasy shoot-out, the NYPD calls in Roche to investigate and assigns him Allen, a next-gen Automatic with superior deductive skills, as a partner. The mismatched duo soon discover that someone is controlling robots to take out hits on cops, and their suspicion turns toward a powerful Black Hat within the FBI. But to crack the case Roche and Allen must first learn to reconcile their differences. Carlson does a good job populating his gritty, split-level world with dodgy mobsters, deadly dames, and killer machines, but the plot follows clich d buddy cop story beats, and the underwhelming final showdown ties things up a bit too efficiently, leaving no lingering questions for future installments. This is solid but familiar.