Taking the mystery community by storm, this Elvis Cole novel was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Shamus, and Macavity awards and won both the Anthony and Macavity for Best Novel of the YearWhen Ellen Lang's husband disappears with their son, she hires Elvis Cole to track him down A quiet and seemingly submissive wife, Ellen can't even write a check without him All she wants is to get him and her son back—no questions asked The search for Ellen's errant husband leads Elvis into the seamier side of Hollywood He soon learns that Mort Lang is a downonhisluck talent agent who associates with a schlocky movie producer, and the last place he was spotted was at a party thrown by a famous and very wellconnected exMatador But no one has seen him since—including his Bmovie girlfriendAt the same time the police find Mort in his parked car with four gunshots in his chest —and no kid in sight—Ellen disappears Now nothing is what it seems, and the heat is on It's up to Elvis Cole and his partner Joe Pike to find the connection between sleazy Hollywood players and an exMatador


10 thoughts on “The Monkey's Raincoat

  1. Kemper Kemper says:

    I hated the ‘80s. Hated them while I was living through them and twenty years later I still get slightly queasy when I think about that time. So when I was reading this book written in 1987, and the hero is bragging about wearing white jeans with a white jacket to cover up his shoulder holster, I leaned over and vomited with visions of Sonny Crockett dancing in my head. Fortunately, it got much better.

    Robert Crais is one of those mystery writers I’ve been meaning to read for a while now. When I came across his first novel in a used bookstore, it seemed like a good time to give him a try. But even aside from the ‘80s setting, we got off to a rocky start.

    I just got done with a marathon reading session of the early Spenser books after Robert B. Parker‘s recent death, and all I could think for the first quarter of this book was that Parker should have sued Crais when he had the chance. The main character Elvis Cole seemed like a younger west coast version of Spenser, and his bad-ass friend seemed like a watered down version of Hawk. The wise-ass dialogue, the lavish descriptions of what Elvis was eating, and the tough guy macho schtick caused me to roll my eyes several times because it almost seemed like a parody of Parker. Add in the dated ‘80s element and this thing was headed for 1 star.

    Plus, it seemed like Crais was going out of his way to make Elvis a little too quirky. A detective who is a Vietnam vet was a cliché, but ALL the heroes in stories during the ‘80s were Vietnam vets so I can roll with that. But a private detective named Elvis who does yoga and marital arts, decorates his office with Disney mementos, and he has a mean cat that drinks beer?? That’s a writer just reaching to try and make an offbeat and eccentric character. I was not impressed as we were introduced.

    Something happened about halfway through the book, though. Crais seemed to find his own rhythm, and Elvis started seeming less like a collection of character traits and morphed into a protagonist I was actually interested in. The story and the action ramped up nicely to a slam-bang ending. If he got that much better over the course of one book, I’m really interested in seeing how much more Crais improved over the years and considering the lists of awards he’s won, it looks like he has been living up to the promise he showed here.


  2. carol. carol. says:

    If you've followed my reading recently, it's no secret I've been enjoying Robert Crais' Elvis Cole books. Somehow, I started with book three, Lullaby Town, perhaps because it was the first book in the series with an above four-star average. Thank goodness I did, because what a difference five years makes in personal changes and skill. Crais' first book, The Monkey's Raincoat, is full of one P.I. trope after another, with a 1980s plot ripped off from Miami Vice, and characters created with the depth of pop psychology from Donahue.

    We begin in Elvis' office, where he's busy staring at his Pinocchio clock. Ellen Lang arrives, best friend dragging her through the door. Ellen's husband, Mort, is missing, and even more importantly, her son. It becomes rapidly apparent that Ellen is essentially an abused wife, psychologically if nothing else. Her friend, Janet, is technically there to support her, but badgers, eye-rolls, and criticizes as she tries to get her to answer questions. Elvis wisecracks from the start, much to the confusion of Ellen and the annoyance of Joe, as well as Reader Carol. Elvis somewhat unwillingly takes the case, later asking around and discovering Mort has a girlfriend on the side. Not long after, Ellen and Mort's home is tossed, requiring Elvis to come to the rescue and wisecrack with the cops. When Mort is found dead, the case suddenly becomes even more serious--but not so serious that Elvis can't take time out from protecting to have sex with the best friend.

    I hate to expound too much further at the risk of spoilers, but these details barely made it to short-term storage. As Elvis investigates, he learns about a shadey co-worker at the studios and a recent party they all attended, thrown by a famous personality and former top matador. In true villain fashion, he and Elvis have a dramatic moment where they size up each other's... egos. Ellen disappears and Elvis keeps trying to call up Joan to offer support, but she's totally frosty to him. This will make it okay for when Elvis goes on to sleep with other women. There's a little detecting, a little lying to the cops, stakeouts, a shoot-out or two, and a miraculous makeover courtesy of a supportive dude. Hurrah!

    Joe Pitt is introduced, but in his case, he hasn't become the completely taciturn individual in later books. It's kind of a nice change for his character. The cat is also introduced and is appropriately cranky. There's a nice surprise twist at the end, but now that I think about it, it doesn't square in the least with the earlier characterization(s).

    Overall, it was diverting, if a bit eyerolling. Unless you have time in your life to be a series completionist, I'd generally advise skipping this and starting at Lullaby Town instead. It isn't until that book five, Voodoo River, that an overarching emotional plot begins. I plan to have my mom start at that one, but I'll go on to the next in true completionist fashion.

    It's a solid four on the oink scale, two-and-a-half on the personal enjoyment one. Skip unless you feel forgiving, because Crais will go on to do much better than this.


    For those of you who aren't old Americans, I have links to my cultural references on my blog.


  3. Em Lost In Books Em Lost In Books says:

    I have been meaning to start this series since last year and had high hopes as many of my friends are Elvis Cole fan. But this didn't work for me.

    Case was decent enough but there was just too many twists for a simple case. Cole didn't make a good first impression.

    Hope second book will be better than this


  4. Dan Schwent Dan Schwent says:

    Mort Lang runs off with his son, leaving his wife and daughters in the lurch. Elvis Cole is tapped to find him and promptly ends up in the middle of a plot involving two kilos of cocaine. Can Elvis find the drugs and find Mort and his son?

    I have to admit that I wasn't sold on Elvis Cole at the beginning. He felt like a Spenser ripoff with some quirks thrown in for no reason. A wiseass detective that does yoga and is into Disney junk? Then Crais grabbed me and dragged me to the end of the winding tale, showing he knows how to craft a good detective yarn. It wasn't the most original story but it kept me entertained. Cole has some Travis McGee in his parentage as well as Spenser. By the end, I was ready for more Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.

    So why only a 3? Some of it was a little dated and Ellen Lang was so helpless for most of the book that it was hard for me to get invested in her part of the story.

    To sum it up, I'm looking forward to reading more about Cole and Pike.


  5. ij ij says:

    Great read!!!

    I already have the 2nd book in the series.


  6. Bill Kerwin Bill Kerwin says:


    Browbeaten into seeing a detective by her best friend Jane, Elvis Cole’s client Ellen Lang is still reluctant. She doesn’t wish to cause any trouble for her husband Mort—even though he’s cheating on her, even though he has threatened to leave. But now Mort has disappeared, and their son Perry has disappeared with him.

    Elvis signs on to find them both, and soon discovers that talent agent Mort, desperate to keep his failing business afloat, has become involved with sketchy people with even sketchier connections. Before long Ellen’s apartment is ransacked, a death and another disappearance follow, and Elvis realizes he has a dangerous case on his hands.

    I’m almost two-thirds done with my re-reading of Robert Parker’s Spenser series, and I’ve been looking around for another series to read once I’m done. After this first Elvis Cole mystery, I think I’ve found what I need. Crais clearly loves his Spenser, and has adopted many of Parker’s tricks and tropes: wisecracks, sharp scenic descriptions with random bystanders, great tough guy dialog, detailed (too detailed!) descriptions of meals, and even a cute animal (not a dog like Pearl this time, but instead a feral cat that drinks beer.)

    Cole is much like Spenser too: a smart-ass with a smart-mouth who is still essentially a boy scout, a man with few illusions who yet strives to be a boy’s version of a knightly hero. The Disney décor of Elvis’ office makes his boyishness clear right away: his desk is covered with Jiminy Cricket figurines, and one of his walls sports a Pinnochio clock, whose eyes move disconcertingly from side to side. And Cole is aware of this boyishness: “I have quite a charming smile,” Elvis says, “Like Peter Pan. Innocent, but with the touch of the rake.” And when Elvis the boyish hard-ass needs an even harder-ass than himself, he calls on his own personal “Hawk” Joe Pike, tight-lipped gun store proprietor and mercenary-for-hire.

    I found these similarities to Parker attractive, but if you find them both imitative and irritating, hang on at least until you reach the last half of the book. The plot gets darker, the writing less derivative, and the book concludes with a dramatic attack by the good guys on the bad guys—one of the best sustained action sequences I’ve read in a long time.


  7. Rob Rob says:


    Book 1 in the Elvis Cole series first published 1987.

    This had all the makings of a good read but suffered from an over abundance of unhumorous one-liners. To be fair they weren’t all bad one-liners but they were so constant it completely ruined the mood and tension that should have been there when a father had been killed and his son was abducted.
    It’s necessary to inject some humour to add some light to what was a dark tale but this was just over the top, as far as I was concerned.

    Ellen Lang’s husband and son have gone missing and she wants Elvis Cole to find them. The husband, Mart Lang, is in the movie business but his life and money has been going down the s-bend for quite some time. To make ends meet Marty has been seen in the company of some very unsavoury characters. The kind of people who think killing is nothing more than just doing business.
    To find the missing husband and son Elvis and his partner, Joe Pike, will have to dispense a fair bit of pain and suffering out to some very deserving lowlifes.

    If only the humour had been trimmed back and less flippant this would have been a 4 star read but because of it 3.5 stars is the best I can do.


  8. Lawyer Lawyer says:

    The Monkey's Raincoat: The P.I. Who Didn't Want to Grow Up

    “ ‘Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday you will be a real boy.’ The Blue Fairy said that. In Pinocchio.”- Elvis Cole Licensed Investigator, State of California


    photo
    A dream is a wish your heart makes...


    Mr. Cole, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Yeah, with you and the big guy, Joe Pike. Don't tell him I said so. I don't want him to jump to the wrong conclusion. But, after all, he said you taught him good things. Says a lot about you. Seems Joe can take things pretty literal. Know what I mean?

    Don't get me wrong. I was a little skeptical about you to begin with. What kind of self respecting PI has a Mickey Mouse phone, a Pinnochio Clock, and Jiminy Cricket figurines spread around his office? Any client walking into the place might wonder if they stepped into the wrong office. Underestimate you. But that's part of that self effacing act of yours, isn't it?

    I get it. I used to wear a Mickey Mouse watch in the courtroom. Me? Oh, yeah. I'm Sullivan. ADA, retired. I tried guys that hurt kids. So, the Mickey Mouse watch. You and I would get along. Yeah, call me Mike. I'm retired now. Thank God.

    You know, I got what you meant about wanting to be Peter Pan, never wanting to grow up. I worked with a lot of guys that went to the Nam. Yeah, some of them came back different, real different. Effed up. So you saying you decided you didn't want to grow up when your were eighteen in a rice paddy In Country. I get that. You didn't say so, but I bet you saw a bunch of shit you wish you hadn't.

    Like I say, we'll get along fine. I had days I wished I hadn't grown up. People don't get me sometimes. I've seen as much as you have. It's the eyes of dead kids get me. Sometimes they look surprised. Others...they don't. Look surprised. It's like they knew it was coming. Some almost looked like they were glad it was over.

    That Mickey Mouse watch. It made the living kids smile. I liked that. It pissed off the lawyers who represented the beaters, the rapers, the killers. I liked that, too. It's good when you can get under the other guy's skin. Yeah, you know that, too.

    I started figuring you out when Ellen Lang and that barracuda friend of hers came into your office. Ellen's husband Mort is missing. And her nine year old boy, Perry. Ellen, that little hausfrau from Kansas, who didn't even know how to write a check. And that girl friend of hers, riding her to get on with it. Hire you. Get rid of the shit husband. You took that case for less than it was worth. I liked that about you.

    Then I got to thinking about that Haiku by Basho at the beginning of your story.

    Winter downpour--
    even the monkey
    needs a raincoat.


    photo
    Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694, Osaka Prefecture, Japan

    That's the way your mind clicks. You are the raincoat, Mr. Cole. Aren't you? And your client is the monkey. When times get bad you protect your client. Whatever it takes. Joe Pike is your extra muscle. He was in the Nam, too. A Marine. And a cop. Maybe a little zealous. Maybe that's why he's not on the force, but with you.

    You're a lot deeper than you let on, Mr. Cole. The records in your house, the music you listen to again and again. The shelf of books you read again and again. The books that fit your life, the way you live it, the way you work it. No wonder some folks don't see you coming, take you for granted. Like a man wearing a Mickey Mouse watch.

    Nothing's ever simple as it looks, is it? Yeah, we all knew Hubby Mort was a shit. Had girls on the side. The little hausfrau at home probably knew about them, but wouldn't say a word. When Mort turns up with a bullet in his brain pan, neither you nor I were surprised.

    But where's Perry? I wasn't surprised you tore up that fee check Ellen wrote you. All part of being that monkey's raincoat. Isn't it?

    There's a real cute phrase the cool people. Wait a minute. The people who think they're cool, say today: Not my circus, not my monkey. Ain't that a scream? No, I didn't think you would think so. But that's the way most folks are these days. You aren't. Yeah, I like that.

    Let me just say, I like your style. And, Joe Pike? I wouldn't want him mad at me. Well, I wouldn't want you mad at me either, Mr. Cole. But I'd be glad for y'all to have my back.

    Anybody reads this, I'll just tell them they will have to read this for themselves. I wouldn't want to spoil it for them. Let's just say the good guys win. That's not a bad thing.

    Mr. Cole, I'll be back. Say, looks like you could use a good Mickey Mouse watch for your collection. Here. No, I won't miss it. I'm retired. You aren't. Besides, I'll be back to see it from time to time. I'll drop by with a bottle of Glenlivet like you like. Or I may try to talk you into some Glenmorangie Single Malt 18 Years Old. It's good. Like this story.

    photo
    Sullivan's Watch








  9. Jonathan Peto Jonathan Peto says:

    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 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.


  10. Tim Tim says:

    This Cole novel is not up to par with other Cole stories with much better plots. There is nothing redeeming here. 1 of 10 stars