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The Monkey's Raincoat  - Robert Crais Unless something surprising shapes up as I write this, I don't think I have anything new to add to the general consensus that other reviewers have established for this novel, the first mystery in a series that features private eyes Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. If you've read Robert B. Parker's novels, and I haven't, this may strike you as a rip-off, or so I've heard. However, it seems to be a good rip-off, the kind with promise, because the book starts well and gets better and better, apparently, whether or not Parker's oeuvre is weighing on you.

I enjoyed Elvis Cole's tough guy, first person narration/banter from the get-go. It was ridiculous at times, but in a good way because it was interesting, inappropriate, or odd, like when he tells the client's friend in chapter 1 that he'd "like to lick chocolate syrup off your body." Don't be offended or turned off, the context actually makes it palatable, and Elvis Cole turns out to be a really nice guy, despite a few issues left over from the Vietnam War and despite an interest in Disney merchandise. Details like that don't make him a fully rounded character right away, but I warmed to him as he went about trying to help a woman named Ellen Lang locate her husband Mort and son Perry. His partner Joe Pike does not make an appearance for a long time and we only hear about him from secondary sources, which was an amusing way to build him up because he is one of those over the top mercenary characters, whose presence Crais makes more than acceptable. I suspended disbelief and skeptical humphing completely and let Pike be Pike and I am a better person and reader for it. I don' think the novel twists and turns through virgin territory, but Crais showed in this book, his first I believe, that he could make the most of plot just as well as character: some spice gives each scene a robust health. Pike proves human for example. Ellen Lang matures. Cole mutes his banter when necessary.

Despite the fact that it takes place in the horrid 80s, you could do much, much worse and probably not much better, though I haven't read mysteries widely enough to bet on it.