The Monkey's Raincoat


Robert Crais


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

October 3, 2006

his is the first book in an extensive series about private investigator Elvis Cole. It looks like there are at least 10 books in the Elvis series, so there is lots more to read, and based upon this book, I will read more of the series. The Monkey's Raincoat came out in 1985, but it sure doesn't feel dated, it could have been written yesterday. The blurbs on the book tell you it won the Anthony and Macavity Awards (of which I have never heard) and it was nominated for the Edgar Award. It was also voted one of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association which I find hard to believe. This a good book, but one of the 100 favorite mysteries of the century?? I don't even give it 5 stars! Click here to see the full list . No Fletch, by Gregory MacDonald on the list? No Martin Cruz Smith? No Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco?

Elvis Cole gets a case when Ellen Lang walks into his office, wanting him to find her missing husband and child. Ellen is a bit ditsy, unsure of what she really wants. It is her hard-edge friend who seems to calling the shots. Elvis gets the case, and starts investigating. Things start to get nasty quickly - the missing husband is found dead in his car, full of bullet holes, and the son is missing. Suddenly, the bad guys come calling, looking for some missing high-grade cocaine.

Maybe a wisecracking private investigator living in Los Angeles is a stereotype, but Crais pulls it off. Elvis is a fun character, with a tough guy / mean streak. In terms of detective skills, Elvis is mostly inclined to simply beat the information of his suspects. There is a good deal of violence in the book, especially at the end, which is an exciting conclusion, but not really believable. Elvis has a vicious killer as a buddy from his Vietnam days - Joe Pike, the uber-competent weapons specialist. It reminded me a lot of the Spenser / Hawk set up in the Robert B. Parker books. Elvis and Joe Pike end up wreaking an inordinate amount of damage on bad guys, there are dead bodies all over the place.

The book is pretty short, just a couple of hundred pages. Though some of Elvis' lines are amusing, but this isn't comedy on the scale of a Carl Hiaasen novel (Skin Tight is a wonderfully funny mystery story). You will breeze right through it.