Book Report: The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais (1987)

I got this book, and all of Robert Crais’ novels to date, for Christmas, so I started with this book as it’s the first Elvis Cole novel.

The book features a private investigator in California who follows well the footsteps of Philip Marlowe and Lew Archer, better than that Moses Wine guy. Elvis has to investigate the a husband who has disappeared with the couple’s son. The husband, a down on his luck agent, has been cheating on his wife with the sordid lot of starlets and seems to have gotten himself in over his head with drug dealers, organized crime, and femme fatales.

The writing is denser than Robert B. Parker’s work, from whose early this work seems slightly derivative. This book does draw its attention to a common modern writing foible, though; the shortcut use of the brand name as an adjective. You don’t find it in the older stuff that remains fresh to this day; Chandler didn’t tell you who made the high-quality merchandise, he described how the merchandise was high quality. A lot of authors these days just drop the brand name in and let us make the appropriate judgments on how well the character is dressed–or not. Unfortunately, I don’t know a lot of California brand names, so I can’t get the full flavor of the scene. So I’ve learned something to avoid in my writing. Sure, the brand names will draw contemporary readers in, but over time, their use will stale quickly.

Still, The Monkey’s Raincoat is a good read, even if I don’t understand the title or its allusion. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series anyway.