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“Elvis Cole provides more fun for the reader than any L.A. private eye to come along in years.”—Joseph Wambaugh
WINNER OF THE ANTHONY AND MACAVITY AWARDS FOR BEST NOVEL • NOMINATED FOR THE EDGAR AND SHAMUS AWARDS FOR BEST NOVEL
Meet Elvis Cole, L.A. Private Eye. . . . He quotes Jiminy Cricket and carries a .38. He’s a literate, wisecracking Vietnam vet who is determined to never grow up.
When quiet Ellen Lang enters Elvis Cole’s Disney-Deco office, she’s lost something very valuable—her husband and her young son. The case seems simple enough, but Elvis isn’t thrilled. Neither is his enigmatic partner and firepower, Joe Pike. Their search down the seamy side of Hollywood’s studio lots and sculptured lawns soon leads them deep into a nasty netherworld of drugs, sex—and murder. Now the case is getting interesting, but it’s also turned ugly. Because everybody, from cops to starlets to crooks, has declared war on Ellen and Elvis. For Ellen, it isn’t Funtown anymore. For Elvis, it’s just a living . . . He hopes.
Praise for The Monkey's Raincoat
“Outstanding characters, tight plot, and scintillating prose style. . . . This fast-paced story speeds Elvis Cole to a chilling, heart-stopping ending.”—Mystery Scene
“Is Bob Crais good? Put it this way: if they're taking you out to put you against the firing squad wall, and you want to enjoy your last moments on earth, pass on the last cigarette and ask for an Elvis Cole novel.”—Harlan Ellison
“Far and away the most satisfying private eye novel in years. Grab this one—it's a winner!”—Lawrence Block
“The best private eye novel of the year . . . lots of action; bright, crisp dialogue; and sharply drawn characters.”—The Denver Post
“Robert B. Parker has some competition on his hands. . . . Elvis Cole is an appealing character and Crais's style is fresh and funny.”—Sue Grafton
“In Crais, a new star has appeared on the private eye scene—a dazzling first novel.”—Tony Hillerman
Under the Cover
An excerpt from The Monkey's Raincoat
“I’m sorry, Mr. Cole, this has nothing to do with you. Please excuse me.” Ellen Lang stood up out of the director’s chair across from my desk. I’d had it and its mate fitted in a nice pastel burgundy a year ago. The leather was broken in and soft and did not crack when she stood. “We shouldn’t have come here, Janet,” she said. “I feel awkward.”
Janet Simon said, “For Christ’s sake, Ellen, sit down.”
Janet Simon said, “Talk to him, Ellen. Eric says he’s very good at this sort of thing. He can help.”
Speak, Ellen. Alf. I rearranged two of the Jiminy Cricket figurines on my desk and wondered who the hell Eric was.
Ellen Lang adjusted her glasses, clutched her hands, and faded back into the director’s chair. She looked small, even though she wasn’t. Some people are like that. Janet Simon looked like a dancer who’d spent a lot of time at it. Lean and strong. Good bones. She wore tight beige cotton pants and a loose cotton shirt striped with shades of blue and pink and red. No panty line. I hoped she didn’t think I was déclassé in my white Levi’s and Hawaiian shirt. Maybe the shoulder holster made up for it.
Ellen Lang smiled at me, trying to feign comfort in an uncomfortable situation. She said, “Well, perhaps if you told me about yourself.”
Janet Simon sighed, giving it the weight of the world. “Mr. Cole is a private detective. He detects for money. You give him some money and he’ll find Mort. Then you can get Perry back and kiss off Mort and get your life together.” She said it like she was talking to someone with brain damage. Great legs, though.
“Thanks, Mom,” I said.
Janet Simon gave me a look, then turned away and stared at the Pinocchio clock. It’s on the wall beside the door that leads to my partner’s office, just above the little sign that says The Elvis Cole Detective Agency. As the second hand sweeps around, Pinocchio’s eyes move from side to side. Janet Simon had been glancing at it since they walked in. Probably thought it was peculiar.
Ellen fidgeted. “I was just curious, that’s all. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry, Mrs. Lang,” I said. “I’m thirty-five years old and I’ve been licensed as a private investigator for seven years. The state of California requires three thousand hours of experience before they’ll give you the license. I spent that time with a man named George Feider. Mr. Feider was an investigator here in Los Angeles for almost forty years. Before that I was a security guard, and before that I spent some time in the Army. I’m five feet eleven and one-half inches tall, I weigh one hundred seventy-six pounds, and I’m licensed to carry a firearm. How’s that?”
“Yeah, it impresses me, too,” I said. “I don’t take custody work. I might find your husband and your son but after that it’s up to you. I don’t steal children unless there’s reason to believe the child is in danger.”
Ellen Lang looked as if I’d kicked her. “Oh, no. No, no. Mort’s a good man, Mr. Cole, please don’t think he isn’t.” Janet Simon said something like shumphf. “You have to understand. He’s been under enormous strain. He left ICM last year to start his own talent agency and things just haven’t gone the way they should. He’s had to worry about the house payments and the cars and schools. It’s been terrible for him.”
Janet Simon said, “Mori’s an asshole.” She was standing by the sliding glass doors that lead out to the little balcony. On a clear day I could go out there and see all the way down Santa Monica Boulevard to the water. The view had been the selling point. Janet Simon fit nicely with the view.
“I just want Perry home, that’s all.” Ellen Lang’s eyes went from Janet Simon to me, sort of like the Pinocchio clock. “Mort will settle for McDonald’s. He’ll let Perry stay up all hours—”
I cleared my throat. “Mrs. Lang, I don’t bill by the day. I charge a flat fee exclusive of expenses and I get it in advance. You’re looking at about two grand here. Why don’t you wait? Mort might call.” McDonald’s. Christ.
“Yes,” Ellen Lang said. She looked relieved. “I’m sure you’re right.”
“Bullshit,” Janet Simon said. She turned away from the balcony to sit in the other director’s chair. “That’s not right and she knows it. Mort’s been threatening to leave for almost a year. Mort treats her like a sop. He runs around.” Ellen Lang made a little gurgling noise. “He’s even hit her twice that I know of. Now he’s taken their son and disappeared. She wants her son back. That’s all she wants. It’s very important to her.”
Ellen Lang’s eyes widened but didn’t seem to be looking at anything. “Ms. Simon,” I said evenly, “as much as I’d like, to lick chocolate syrup off your body, I want you to shut up.”
Ellen Lang said, “Oh, my.” Janet Simon stood up and then Ellen Lang stood up. Janet Simon put a hand on Ellen Lang’s shoulder and shoved her back down. “Who do you think you’re talking to?” she said.
“A woman who’s very concerned with her friend’s problem. But a woman who, right now, is acting like a royal pain in the ass. If the sexual nature of my comment surprised you it’s only because I needed to be shocking to get your attention.”
She chewed at the inside of her cheek, trying to decide about me, then nodded and took her seat.
“Also,” I said, “I find you devastatingly attractive and it’s been on my mind.”
She leaned forward and said, “Eric told us you had a partner. Maybe we should speak with him.”
Eric again. The Mystery Man. “Fine by me.”
Janet Simon looked at the door beneath the Pinocchio clock. If she looked close enough she’d see the little ridge in the jamb from the time someone had forced the lock. Three coats of paint, and you could still see the crack. She didn’t notice. “Is that his office?” she said.
“Aren’t you going to introduce us?”
Janet Simon stood up, steamed over to the door, and went through. I smiled at Ellen Lang. Ellen Lang looked nervous but smiled back. After a while Janet Simon rejoined us.
“That’s no office,” she said. “There’s no desk, no furniture, nothing. What kind of office is that?”
She cocked her head a little to the side. “Eric said you’d be like this.”
Eric. “How do you know Eric?” I smiled. Mr. Sly. I have quite a charming smile. Like Peter Pan. Innocent, but with a touch of the rake.
“We worked together when I was in the legal department at Universal.”
That brought it back. Eric Filer. Three years ago.
“He said you found some film negatives for him. He said it wasn’t easy. He recommends you highly.”
“He also said you were like this.”
“Were you ever a dancer?” I said.
If she wanted to smile, she fought it. She took out a pack of Salem Lights, lit up in the office but stood in the balcony door, blowing smoke out over West Hollywood. I liked the way her neck looked when she lifted her chin to send out a plume of smoke. Some woman. I bet her mouth tasted like an ashtray.
“Listen, Mrs. Lang,” I said, turning back to Ellen, “I don’t know if Mort is going to call or not, or what you want, or what Mort wants. A couple hundred women have sat where you’re sitting, and usually their husbands call. But not always. You’re going to have to decide which way you want to jump.”
Ellen Lang nodded. Pinocchio’s eyes shifted back and forth a few times. Janet Simon smoked. After a while Ellen Lang took two photographs out of her purse and put them carefully on the desk. “On Friday Mort always picks up Perry from school. Perry goes to Oakhurst and the girls go to Westridge. That’s Cindy and Carrie. Fridays, Perry gets out two hours earlier. Only this past Friday they never came home. I tried all weekend to find Mort. I phoned Oakhurst Monday but Perry wasn’t there, and I phoned again this morning and he still wasn’t there. They’ve been gone for four days.”
I looked at the pictures. Mort was four or five years older than me, balding on top with a round face, thin lifeless hair, and skinny arms. He was wearing a tee shirt that said U.S.S. Bluegill, Maui, Hawaii. He had the sort of eyes that had just been looking somewhere else. On the back of the picture someone had written Morton Lang, age 39, 5′ 10″, 145 lbs, brown hair and brown eyes, no visible scars or tattoos, mole on right forearm. The writing was even and firm, all of the letters identical in size.
Robert Crais is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty novels, sixteen of them featuring private investigator Elvis Cole and his laconic ex-cop partner, Joe Pike. Before writing his first novel, Crais spent several years writing scripts for such major television series as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Miami Vice, Quincy, Baretta, and L.A. Law. He received an Emmy nomination for his work on Hill Street Blues, and one of his standalone novels, Hostage, was made into a movie starring Bruce Willis. His novels have been translated into forty-two languages and are bestsellers around the world. A native of Louisiana, he lives in Los Angeles.