Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole/Joe Pike #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Elvis, Joe, and the rest of the cast; story keeps pages turning
Cons: Language and violence stronger than I like (but in keeping with PI novels), formulaic plot
The Bottom Line:
Meeting Cole and Pike
This is not strongest debut
But still entertains

If Only It Were as Simple as a Missing Son

Years ago (twelve to be exact), I read the first two books of the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series by Robert Crais.  I kept meaning to continue the series, and I never did, and at this point, I decided it was time to go back and reread the first two.  Which is a much longer explanation for why I read The Monkey's Raincoat than you probably cared to hear, but you got it anyway.

The woman sitting across the desk from PI Elvis Cole that Monday wasn’t sure she wanted to be there.  Ellen Lang was concerned about her son, Perry.  Her husband had picked him up from school on Friday and then both had disappeared.  Ellen wanted her son back, but she didn’t want to get her husband into trouble.  Ellen’s friend Janet Simon talked Ellen into going to Cole, and together they convenience Ellen she needs the PI’s help.

However, Elvis quickly realizes he is in over his head.  Ellen’s house is searched and then a body turns up.  Calling in his partner, Joe Pike, Elvis begins to follow a trail that leads him all over the Los Angeles area.  What had Ellen’s husband gotten himself into?  Where is Perry?

Before we get any further, I have to point out the copyright date.  This book originally came out in 1987.  The biggest area where this comes up is in the use of pay phones and answering machines.  I had to remind myself that cell phones and the internet weren’t around yet.  It was actually kind of fun once I started remember that.

This is definitely not my normal cozy reading choice.  The language was much worse than I normally tolerate, and the level of violence was also up a few notches, making me cringe several times.  I knew that would be the case going in, but it still bothered me quite a bit.  Be aware of that when you go to read the book.

That is softened by the characters.  Elvis is your typical wise cracking PI, but his sarcasm and observations were exactly my sense of humor, so I enjoyed it.  Plus how can you not love a guy who has Jiminy Cricket figurines on his desk and a Pinocchio clock?  This DisNerd can’t complain.   Joe Pike is another intriguing character if much more silent, and there are obviously lots of layers to both of these men we don’t get to see here.  The rest of the cast is interesting and developed enough to fulfill their part in the story, and some develop quite nicely as the story progresses.

Where I’m really torn is the plot.  On the one hand, it is interesting with enough twists and suspense to keep you turning pages.  On the other hand, things feel fairly predictable.  It’s like the author had a check list of things he needed to check off for a PI novel and made sure he hit each of them.  Yes, I know this is coming from the guy who often preaches that predictability is okay as long as you are having fun.  And no, the feeling of predictability wasn’t because I had read the book before.  To be honest, except for a couple of scenes, I didn’t really remember anything from this book from twelve years ago.  Overall, the fun of the characters and the story did outweigh the overly familiar feel of the story.

So am I sorry I reread The Monkey's Raincoat?  No.  And I do plan to reread the next soon and then continue on with the series.  I do hope that the formula becomes a little less obvious as the series progresses.

You'll want to continue on with the rest of the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series in order.

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