Wednesday, 13 February 2013

ROBERT CRAIS - THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT


Blurb....

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.

I read this first Crais book probably a year or two after it was first published in 1987. Robert Crais was one of a new breed of writer I wanted to get into when I made the reading jump from the horror genre into crime fiction. Crais along with Robert Parker, Elmore Leonard and James Lee Burke opened my eyes to a different kind of fiction and a far different kind of life on the streets of America than I was used to living in sleepy Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.

Whilst my reading has mainly remained in the crime zone, for the past 20 years, with the odd foray elsewhere, I kind of neglected Crais and his creation Elvis Cole. I still acquired new Crais books along the way, but can’t say that I ever made the actual jump into opening the damn things and getting stuck into them. Cole with his sometime sidekick Joe Pike appeared in a series of 12 or so books, before Pike was given his own showcase by the author. Vaguely recalling the enigmatic Pike, and wanting to read more about his exploits, the OCD within me dictated that I re-visit the first Elvis Cole and start again back in late 80’s LA.

Cole is an interesting enough protagonist in this book; a private investigator for hire, a military background having served in Vietnam, an exponent of some form of martial arts, a practising yoga fiend, wise-cracking mouth, a bit of a loner with only a couple of friends; Pike and Portias – a detective with the LAPD. Crais at time steers Cole close to the stereotypical PI of the genre, but manages to infuse enough depth to the man to allay any concerns that he’s a cardboard cut-out. Cole’s drink of choice seems to be beer rather than the obligatory bottle of bourbon stored in the lower desk drawer.

Crais entertains with his first book, whilst Cole predictably gets to the bottom of the mystery and achieves a resolution of sorts for Ellen; the book was good enough to withstand a second reading 20 plus years after I first cracked its spine. Good enough for me to follow straight on with the second book in the series – Stalking The Angel.

4 from 5

I bought my copy new 20 plus years ago, pre-internet days from some long lost High Street outlet.

 

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