ANONYMOUS REX
Eric Garcia

 


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Villard, 2000
Ace Re-Release, Dec 2004
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood
 
Mystery
 
The secret is revealed. Dinosaurs never died out at all, they simply disguised themselves to look like humans. Now, in the year 2000, five percent of the US population are dinos in near-perfect guises, combining normal dinosaur concerns with those of living in modern human civilization.
 
Vincent Rubio is one of those disguised dinos, except he isnít handling modern civilization too well these days. Once a respected P.I. with a share in a busy detective firm, the Velociraptor representative on the Los Angeles dino council, Vincent is now a basil-drenched outcast, taking lowest-of-the-low jobs when he can get them. Thatís right, dinos drown their sorrows in basil. Vincentís sorrows began when his partner in the detective firm, Ernie, was killed by a taxi in New York City, and no one would believe Vincentís violently expressed suspicions.
 
Vincent is just recovering from his latest ill-fated binge when he gets a break: Teitelbaum, a tyrannosaurus rex who runs a prestigious detective firm, wants Vincent to look into a questionable fire. Is it arson, or not? The night club manager was fatally burned because he refused to leave one of his storage rooms. Very strange. Even stranger, the call to 9-1-1 came before the fire had grown big enough to be noticeable.  Then -- balm to Vincentís soul Ė a clue leads to New York. Vincent has a realistic, legitimate, all-expenses-paid reason to go back to New York and investigate his partnerís death again. As long as the boss doesnít notice what he is doing.
 
Vincent finds himself questioning the same people Ernie was when he died. Judith McBride, widow of the man whose death Ernie was investigating, appears to have been the mistress of Donovan Burke, the night club owner who behaved so strangely in the fire. Burke was once engaged to Jaycee Holden, of the New York dino council, now mysteriously disappeared. Also stepping outside of matrimonial bounds was Judithís deceased husband Raymond, who had been having an affair with a gorgeous human named Sarah. Within this tangled web of illicit relationships Vincent expects to find a murder conspiracy. Instead, he finds the irresistible Sarah, and his world turns upside down.
 
So why couldnít author Eric Garcia do all this without making his characters dinosaurs? Because the emotions and motivations, once they take over, are all perfectly dinosaurian. (Paleontologists who use the term ďsaurianĒ have been hopelessly misled by dino scientists, who have fooled the world with so many kinds of protective fakery.) At first, ANONYMOUS REX is a take-off on Philip Marlowe. Marlowe fans will get laughs aplenty as Vincent gumshoes around in a drunken haze, dodges bill collectors and repo men, and ignores the smell of his office trash. To me (not a Marlowe fan), all the people in the first part of the story seem stock characters, written by Raymond Chandler, wrapped in dinosaur skins and wrapped again in human disguises. Where it becomes not only funny but involving to me is when Vincent begins meeting the New York characters. They do such human things in such dinosaurian ways. At a dino council meeting, for example, it is perfectly to be expected that blood will flow by the quart. When Vincent is attacked in an alleyway, the fight that follows could almost be called blissful, in a ferocious way. When dinos switch love and sex partners they do it with the same longings and heartburning most humans would, but with special criteria of their own. They touched my inner atavism.
 
ANONYMOUS REX isnít just a wacky what-if, or an off-the-wall satire. Twists and turns, expert red herrings, logical motivations: as long as you accept Garciaís initial premise, it makes complete sense. ANONYMOUS REX is a mystery that will fool you even though it plays fair, because the odds that your imagination is the equal of Garciaís are thousands to one. Note: This is not for kids, because of the sexy scenes, bloodletting, and adult situations.
 
January 2005 Review

 

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