This scabrous detective yarn is the straight-fiction debut of Warren Ellis, better known as the creator of the Transmetroplitan graphic novels. The whacked-out sensibility that characterized Transmetroplitan survives the transition to prose, but without the supercharged imagery, the narrative comes across as slapdash and juvenile. Crooked Little Vein relates the cross-country adventures of down-and-out private eye Mike McGill and his feisty sidekick Trix, with the plot functioning almost exclusively as a device for introducing a staggering procession of perverts and fetishists. Ellis may be after dark, shocking affects, but the action is so peppy that any sting is neutered. Crooked has some fun with the conventions of the gumshoe novel, and floats a half-baked sub-theory about the cultural mainstreaming of the deviant, but on the whole remains single-mindedly shallow. After a while, you get tired of waiting for the next gross-out, although the relationship between Mike and Trix eventually betrays a hint of sweetness and mutual need. It’s an amusing ride, but hardly a major accomplishment.