Robert Crais’ detective protagonist, Elvis Cole, continues his career as a private investigator in The Monkey’s Raincoat, published by Bantam Books, copyright 1987.
The setting in this Robert Crais novel is Hollywood in the late 1980s, when Kareem was still playing for the Lakers and Vietnam Veterans were everywhere. Elvis Cole is a vet and when he came back stateside he started a business with another survivor of the war named Joe Pike. Together they felt confident they could handle any challenge that came their way, which they were successful at, mostly.
Elvis Cole is sitting in his office, which is adorned with Disney memorabilia that causes some clients not to take him too seriously, when two women enter. Ellen Lang is very worried that her husband, Mort Lang, and their son Perry have not been in contact with her for four days. Janet Simon, her longtime friend, insists that Mort has run off with another woman and taken the boy to show he is a domineering husband, wanting Ellen to bow down to his every wish. Janet also wants to know how he came to be named Elvis, which was not his birth name. His mother renamed him after seeing Elvis Presley live in concert and had him rechristened.
Elvis begins to investigate Mort Lang’s finances that Ellen claims to know nothing about. There were some checks made out to a Garret Rice who, like Mort, was a movie producer, but of the seedier variety. A few checks were also made out to a beautiful blonde actress by the name of Kimberly Marsh.
Elvis interviews them and is told by each of them about a huge party where they had last seen Mort. The mansion where this party was held is owned by Domingo Garcia Duran. one of Hollywood’s largest financiers in the movie industry and there were always cocaine and beautiful women at these parties. These events were attended by some of the most sought after movie people, all looking to know Domingo, Doran or Dom for short.
Elvis gets a call from his longtime friend and police detective Lou Poitras, who informs him they have found Mort Lang dead, but his son Perry was not with him. Ellen is upset and frantically frightened for her son. Janet Simon comforts her friend and shows a lot of anger towards Elvis, until they find out that Mort was dead before they came to his office seeking help, which calms Janet slightly. Elvis calls Patricia Kyle, an old friend who works for General Entertainment Inc., who tells him Garret Rice was also Mort’s business partner, has a reputation for acquiring large amounts of cocaine and was present at the party.
Ellen comes home to find her house torn apart and calls Elvis, who concludes this wasn’t just intimidation, but that someone was searching for something. Elvis sends his partner Joe Pike to the mansion to inquire if anything is missing, but he is sent away by two men who were obviously hired muscle. Soon after he is approached by the largest man he has ever seen who tells him to return Dom Duran’s cocaine and he will return the boy in exchange. So Elvis figures the coke was the reason for the trashing and search of Ellen’s apartment, and quite possibly the murder of her husband. He begins to search for what happened to the drugs and where they might be keeping the boy. Joe Pike is trained in many things like observation, hand to hand combat and weaponry. All of these skills will come into play in the last chapters of this intense, thrilling and very well written mystery.
I salute Robert Crais and praise his ability to create humor and suspense in a Hollywood atmosphere. I also love the way Crais humorously describes a Los Angeles winter as brutal—in the low seventies, scattered clouds, clearing…brutal. The man is quite humorous in his writing, yet creates a seriously suspenseful and sometimes frightening plot line. Superb!
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