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I've only recently come across the books of Robert Crais and I'm currently working my way through his back catalogue. I picked this book up at the library, mainly on a whim because I liked the idea of a character named Elvis. This is the first book in a series of crime thrillers starring the very appealing Elvis Cole.
Ellen Lang wants private investigator, Elvis Cole, to find her husband, Mort, who has disappeared along with her son, Perry. As Elvis and his sidekick, Joe, investigate further, they discover this is more than just an absconding husband. This also involves drug dealing and a nasty piece of work called Domingo Duran. Then Mort is found shot to death with no sign of Perry anywhere. And then Ellen goes missing too!
About the author:
Robert Crais is an American crime writer who began his career as a screen writer in Los Angeles on such TV greats as Hill Street Blues and Cagney & Lacey. He claims Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and John Steinbeck as his literary influences.
This book was first published in 1987 and is now out of print but there are plenty of second hand copies to be had on Amazon from 1p plus the usual £2.75 postage.
The fact that Robert Crais is an admirer of the work of Raymond Chandler definitely shows through in this novel. Elvis Cole is certainly cut from the same cloth as Philip Marlowe, having the same quirky irreverence and charm.
Early in the book, he shows his true colours when dealing with Ellen Lang and her friend Janet Simon, who seems to be doing all the talking on behalf of Ellen. Elvis says "Ms Simon, much as I'd like to lick chocolate syrup off your body, I want you to shut up". What woman could be offended by a line like that!
Elvis is an immensely likeable character, full of wisecracks a la Philip Marlowe and with a great appreciation for the ironies of life. He can't hide his underlying decency though because basically he's a good man earning a living on the seamy side of life.
Joe Pike, his enigmatic friend and sidekick, is also an attractive character although somewhat strange. 'Pike thinks Clint Eastwood talks too much'. Joe is a Vietnam veteran with all the hang-ups that accompanied those young men on their return to civilian life. The guerrilla warfare skills he learned in the jungles of Vietnam, however, prove very useful in investigating this case.
Ellen Lang is a really well drawn character. When we first meet her, she is a desperate woman, shrunk into herself with fear and loss of self-esteem but as the book progresses, she gradually comes into her own and her sense of self-worth is restored. All this is achieved without any contrivance but is a natural progression.
As to the other characters in the book, they are all equally well drawn. The baddie, Domingo, in particular is a really nasty type and Robert Crais gets this across in just a few short lines when describing Domingo's obsession with bullfighting.
Robert Crais's writing style is spare. He doesn't waste words on great long descriptions but keeps the action moving and the tension high by using short, sharp sentences. The plot is fast moving and the book as a whole reads very much like a film script. I don't know if this has ever been adapted for film or TV but, in my opinion, it would make a good one.
The Monkey's Raincoat is a really good read, with a very satisfying ending which leaves the reader wanting to read more about Elvis and Joe. It's a good introduction to the series which now numbers thirteen books. I'm currently only on book number three so quite a way to go yet but I'm looking forward to the journey.
The Monkeys Raincoat is the first in a series of novels about Private Eye Elvis Cole and his silent partner, Joe Pike, who doubles as a mercenary for hire. Author Robert Crais is perhaps most recently known for writing the novel Hostage on which the Bruce Willis film of the same name was based but the Elvis Cole novels are where he established his well earnt reputation for classy, modern Detective thrillers that read like a modern day Chandler and are as action-packed as any Hollywood movie!
In his first literary outing, Cole is approached by a distraught young woman, Ellen Lang, and her uptight friend,Janet, because her husband has disappeared with their son. Warned that Cole doesn't do custody work and that he won't snatch back the kid, Ellen nonetheless agrees to hire Elvis to locate wherever the husband might be hiding out. But it doesn't take long to discover that Mort Lang is far from the perfect husband and might well have gotten his hands into something deeper than he can deal with. Then Mort turns up dead with several large bullet holes in him and things really begin to turn nasty. Enter Joe Pike, Cole's partner, who always has his best friend's back well and truly covered. Before the novel reaches it's very bloody climax, all manner of hell will be unleashed and Cole and Pike find themselves taking on some very serious bad guys with the baddest of intentions....
As Private Eye thrillers go, this is amongst the best I have read in a long time. The story is fairly short, not over-complicated and enthralling from the get go. Cole too is a very likeable character, obsessed with Disney figurines and determined not to grow up and yet able to be serious and focused when the situation demands it. Even when things begin to get too hot to handle and the odds stack up against him, Elvis is a man who absolutely will not stop until the job is done and that makes for a very thrilling and gripping read that keeeps the reader on the edge of their seats for the duration.
When quiet Ellen Lang enters Elvis Cole's Disney-deco office, she's lost something very valuable - her husband and young son. The case seems simple enough, but Elvis isn't thrilled. Neither is his enigmatic partner and firepower Joe Pike. Their search down the seamy side of Hollywood's studio lots and sculptured lawns soon leads them deep into a nasty netherworld of drugs and sex - and murder. Now the case is getting interesting, but it's also turned ugly. Because everybody, from cops to starlets to crooks, has declared war on Ellen and Elvis.