Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais: A review

The Monkey's Raincoat (Elvis Cole, #1)The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me on Goodreads - one of those "since you read that, we think you might like this" deals. I don't always take notice of such recommendations, but Robert Crais' name rang a bell, so I decided to give it a try.

This was the first book, published in 1987, in what is now a lengthy and continuing series featuring California private eye Elvis Cole and his partner Joe Pike. It is the very definition of noir, a "genre of fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity." The writing and the two main characters recall Robert B. Parker and his characters Spenser and Hawk. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then somewhere Parker's shade must be smiling at the work of Crais and his success.

And the series has been a big success right from the start. This book won several awards and later books in the series have been highly acclaimed and award winners as well. I'm not sure I would have given this first one an award. It was a bit shaky to start with, but, on the whole, it kept my interest and I definitely plan to read more in the series.

Crais did a good job, I thought, of introducing his main character. It turns out that Elvis Cole did not start out with that name. He was originally named Phillip, but at some point his mother saw the King in performance and she legally changed her son's name to Elvis in tribute.

We learn that Elvis is a Vietnam veteran. It seems that all of the bad-ass detectives created in the 1980s (I'm looking at you Harry Bosch!) are veterans of that war. It's become pretty much of a cliché. Moreover, this vet does yoga and martial arts and decorates his house in Disney mementos. And, if that isn't quirky enough for you, he has a tomcat who drinks beer with him.

Then there is his partner and best friend, Joe Pike, who never smiles and is a soldier of fortune. Elvis and Joe engage in a lot of stone-faced tough-guy banter and they always have each other's backs.

The story here is that Cole is hired by a woman named Ellen Lang whose husband and nine-year-old son have disappeared. The husband was an agent in the film industry and had connections to some pretty shady characters. It seems that one of those shady characters believes that the man may have stolen two kilos of cocaine from him.

Soon, the husband's body is discovered, quite dead, but the son is still missing. Elvis and Joe must find him and find a way to get him back, with more interference than assistance from the police.

Once we got familiar with the characters and the action really got under way, the book seemed to take on a rhythm of its own. I felt that the latter part of the book was an improvement over its beginning, and Crais finished it off with an action-packed ending. On the whole, it was a promising start to the series.

I did have one relatively minor irritation with the book. I read it on my Kindle and that edition seemed to not know the usage of apostrophes. Thus, throughout the book we have contractions that were not contracted; he's became hes, they're became theyre, etc. Quite annoying but not as bad as some examples of non-editing that I've encountered.


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4 comments:

  1. Yet another series for your collection. I've seen this author in stores. Now I know what he writes about.
    When I was younger I read mysteries starring Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, another example of noir.

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    1. I, too, read a lot of noir, including Raymond Chandler, in my youth, and I have a fondness for the genre. Crais seems a worthy successor to that tradition.

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  2. My husband has read and enjoyed some books by Robert Crais. As I am his book procurer, I will have to get him some others. Tomorrow is library day!

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