You're exposed to the vices of the new millennium, the decadence and filth that could only come about in an age where worldwide communication and communication is instantly gratified, where the entirety of the World Wide Web can be downloaded to your cell phone.
Warren Ellis, the author of Crooked Little Vein, is a dirty, dirty man, taking the conventions of a hard-boiled detective story and gleefully shoving it up the ass of normality. After making a giant name for himself in the comic book field as the creator of the subversive Metropolitan and Fell among others, his decision to try his hand at straight prose succeeds almost in spite of itself. Being simultaneously a outsider's commentary on life in post 9/11 America, a look at what "mainstream" and "underground" mean in a world where everything is readily available via the Internet, and a firmly entrenched detective story isn't easy to balance for 300 pages, but Ellis manages to keep things from tottering by injecting a large shot of humor with each horrifying escapade witnessed by detective Mike McGill and his lover/assistant Trix as they go in search of an "alternate" version of the U.S. Constitution, one supposedly wrapped in the skin of an alien and with the ability to literally re-shape the minds of America.
Like thousands of good detective stories, the object of Mike and Trix's search is just the MacGuffin to lead them through the seedy underbelly of the great U.S.A, where people routinely inject their private parts with saline, get off watching Godzilla movies, and perform the most hideous version of "Russian Roulette" I've ever come across. McGill, a great detective with the worst luck in the world works great as the novel's narrator, and his best moments come from his analysis of love and relationships via his blossoming relationship with Trix. Ellis uses each character to represent a different side of the coin - one embracing the world as it is and one refusing to see. How they come to balance serves as an answer for what Crooked Little Vein explores during its journey.
Despite some too-obvious emphasis on the theme, and some definite cringing during some of the more graphic scenarios (part of Ellis' point is to shock you with what readily goes on in what you suppose is your "normal" world) Crooked Little Vein provides a nice mix of character and action. It's a quick read, too, so if you're into a little wackiness and don't mind some cheerful depravity you'll probably enjoy this book.
I did, and shame on me.