The murder of a politician’s daughter is the inciting incident in Alex Davidson‘s BLACK RIFLE. Hard-nosed detective Miranda is on the case, but the deeper she digs, the more she finds a tangled web of lies and deceit. Things turn personal–and vengeful–when Miranda’s girlfriend is killed as a result of her investigation, tying corrupt elected officials to corrupt religious leaders and low level street thugs in an ever-widening mystery.
The theme of gun violence in America is examined from all angles in BLACK RIFLE. According to Davidson, America was built on the killing power of firearms, and the ghosts of the slaughtered still haunt the soul of our nation. Gun violence isn’t going away; it’s getting worse all the time. But Davidson presents a balanced picture here. He condemns guns in some passages and glorifies them in others. Firing a gun–and killing human targets–yields a euphoric, God-like feeling and it’s not only the bad guys in the story who feel this way. The heroes also acknowledge the addictive thrill of shooting and Davidson’s descriptions of different types of guns and their features sometimes border on the erotic.
While Miranda’s murder investigation drives the novel‘s narrative, the most compelling character is Cal, a special ops-type action hero with a suicidal bent. Cal is excellent at killing and tired of living. He searches for meaning and balance in a cruel, violent world and comes up short. The best he can do is give free meals to the homeless. Cal’s existential struggle elevates BLACK RIFLE above the pack of square-jawed action thrillers. The book offers plenty of whodunnit thrills, while posing some thoughtful philosophical musings. The black rifle featured in this novel will kill again and again. That’s what guns are made to do. Following the journey of the titular M-16–“America’s rifle”–through rural gun shows and back room firearm sales, Davidson paints a vivid portrait of the gun culture that permeates every nook of American society. BLACK RIFLE looks at both sides of the “right to bear arms” while telling a compelling suspense story with a satisfying conclusion.
BLACK RIFLE is an effective, fast-paced murder mystery that looks at gun culture in America from both sides of the political fence. A treat for Robert Ludlum and Joseph Wambaugh fans.
~Rob Errera for IndieReader