Anonymous Rex (Vincent Rubio Series #1)

( 9 )

Overview

A People Beach Book of the Week

?Very funny.? ?Dave Barry

?Startling and clever?hilarious and chilling.? ?T.C. Boyle

?All the elements of a cult classic.? ?Entertainment Weekly

?Great.? ?Orlando Sentinel

?Fast, funny, and smoothly written.? ?Seattle Times

?A detective thriller featuring a velociraptor PI and a secret society of dinosaurs ...

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Anonymous Rex: A Detective Story

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Overview

A People Beach Book of the Week

“Very funny.” –Dave Barry

“Startling and clever…hilarious and chilling.” –T.C. Boyle

“All the elements of a cult classic.” –Entertainment Weekly

“Great.” –Orlando Sentinel

“Fast, funny, and smoothly written.” –Seattle Times

“A detective thriller featuring a velociraptor PI and a secret society of dinosaurs disguised as humans?…Awesomely funny….Vincent Rubio has a washed-up Los Angeles detective agency, lousy credit, and a dead partner—on top of an addiction to basil and a hard time keeping his tail tucked away in his latex human suit. A routine arson investigation promises to get him back on his (clawed) feet, until the case sends him to New York, the scene of his partner’s suspicious death by runaway taxi. Witty, fast-paced detective work makes for a good mystery, but the story’s sly, seamlessly conceived dinosaur underworld contains all the elements of a cult classic. Grade: A.” –Entertainment Weekly

“Debut novelist Eric Garcia pulls off this parallel dino world to a T (rex). [His] descriptions are delicious…inventive and imaginative. He cleverly avoids what could have been a one-joke book with charm, sly humor and a terrific narrative pace.” –USA Today

“What would the world be like if the dinosaurs hadn’t gone extinct? As this very funny book shows, for one thing, L.A. would be even weirder than it is now.” –Dave Barry

“First-time novelist Eric Garcia pulls it off, keeping the laughs frequent and the plot intriguing. After a few chapters, it seems downright logical to believe we’re surrounded by a cast out of Jurassic Park. Apart from showing off a splendidly warped imagination, Garcia provides a solid mystery.” –People

“Garcia has come up with an imaginative twist to the detective fiction genre.” –Daily Variety

“Audacious and imaginative. You might not believe any of this 30 seconds after you close the covers, but while it’s going on you’re going to be dazzled by Garcia’s energy and chutzpah.” –Publishers Weekly

“Garcia plays it almost completely straight, respecting all noir traditions, and comes up with lovely touches.” –Chicago Tribune

“A ‘noir-asaurus’ of a novel, bellowing for attention, the first and only of its breed in the dinosaur detective genre. Garcia has written something so strange, so bizarre, that he’s to be admired just for the attempt. And he not only pulls it off, he also actually makes you wonder why someone hasn’t thought of it before. Garcia’s tough guy deadpan is perfect for navigating his outrageous lost world, and the easy, familiar tone is probably what makes the premise so simple to swallow. Garcia talks the talk, and more importantly, he smirks in all the right places.” –The Miami Herald

“Vincent Rubio, the protagonist of this first-person—er, first-dino narrative is so likeable, the story handled with such deftness, that it actually, incredibly works. Spider Robinson meets Sam Spade. The writing is sardonic and strong in the hard-boiled tradition, and laced with jokes about the history humans think they know: Oliver Cromwell was a Brontosaur, and ‘Capone and Eliot Ness were just two Diplodoci with a grudge to settle.’” –The Richmond Times Dispatch

Anonymous Rex leaps out of its gumshoe formula fast enough to break the genre barrier. Imagine a hard-boiled detective novel crossed with magical realism. Think film noir with great special effects. Think fabulous read. Well p...

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Editorial Reviews

Jill M. Smith
Hot new author Eric Garcia has developed a human/dino world that is both absolutely fascinating and extremely original. If you are looking for something suspenseful, exciting and completely different, look no further.
Romantic Times
Keith Phipps
Content aside, there's a superficial resemblance between mystery novels and pornography. Walk into a store specializing in either and you'll find numerous examples of what the television industry calls narrowcasting, with subgenres designed to appeal to almost any interest. Just as, say, Finnish spanking videos have to be out there somewhere, there's a mystery novel designed to appeal to almost any imaginable taste, whether it turns to horse racing, 18th-century dandies, or mystery-solving ferrets. First-time novelist Eric Garcia, however, has nonetheless managed to find a new, unanticipatable niche, creating a mystery novel starring dinosaurs. In the world of Anonymous Rex, the great secret society hidden from the common view through history is not the Masons or the Illuminati, but dinosaurs. Contrary to popular belief, the great lizards did not become extinct, but instead evolved to a more manageable size and disguised themselves as humans, finding employment in every corner of human society, including the field of private investigation. Vincent Rubio, a down-on-his luck velociraptor private eye with a dangerous basil habit, serves as Anonymous Rex's protagonist. After he's tossed a rare bone in the form of an arson investigation, Rubio heads from L.A. to New York and soon finds himself involved in a convoluted case involving adultery, genetic experimentation, and cross-species romance. Though not without humor, the greatest strength of Garcia's novel may be that it's not played for laughs: Anonymous Rex works as a mystery, albeit a fairly conventional one, that just happens to involve dinosaurs masquerading as humans. Garcia treats this conceit in a matter-of-fact manner, and his assured prose--in the form of semi-hardboiled narration by Rubio--never lets the inherent ridiculousness poke through. And ridiculous it is, though still a pleasurable read. Anyone waiting for dino-noir to finally hit bookshelves need wait no longer.
The Onion.com
USA Today
Eric Garcia pulls off this parallel dino world to a T (rex...delicious...sly humor.
People
Dinomite detective yarn...splendidly warped.
Entertainment Weekly
Awesomely funny.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Jonathan Lethem's 1995 PI spoof, Gun, with Occasional Music, featured a genetically altered, talking kangaroo hit man, but Vincent Rubio, the Los Angeles detective hero of Garcia's audacious and imaginative debut, would have him for lunch. Rubio is a dinosaur--specifically, a Velociraptor, one of those deadly creatures who did so much damage in Jurassic Park. Garcia's outrageous conceit, beautifully supported by research and wit, is that dinosaurs never did become extinct. They secretly evolved and learned to coexist with an unsuspecting human population through an elaborate system of disguises and deceptions. (Those fossils that decorate most museums? Fakes left to fool gullible humans.) With the dinosaur community now about 5% of the human population, including doctors, cops and NFL players (most of them Brontosaurs), there should be plenty of work for a smart PI like Rubio. But ever since his beloved partner's death in a suspicious accident, the Raptor has been on a downslide. He hits the herbs too hard (his drug of choice is basil), and behaves so badly that even the nasty T-Rex who manages a large detective agency ("He had a sheep for breakfast," notes Rubio. "I can make out the fur on his molars") won't give him work. But in the true spirit of the genre, every dino dick gets a chance at redemption. Rubio's comes when he stumbles onto some top secret stuff about highly illegal mating between dinosaurs and humans. You might not believe any of this 30 seconds after you close the covers, and at odd moments the narrative veers into shtick, but while it's going on you're mostly going to be dazzled by Garcia's energy and chutzpah. Agent, Barbara Zitwer Alicea. Author tour. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
To quote KLIATT's Jan. 01 review of the Publishing Mills audiobook edition: Dinosaurs never really became extinct—they just evolved and adapted. Three million years ago they developed a method of camouflaging their species in human forms and they surreptitiously walk among us today. Some of them even solve crimes when they aren't munching basil or cilantro (to get high). Enter Vincent Rubio. He's a velociraptor who happens to be a private eye with a nose for pheromones. The secret of the dinosaurs is about to be exposed and Rubio is on the case... The language is adult at times and the action is what one might expect of this genre... a cool comedy with plot—what fun! KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Berkley, 322p, 21cm, 00-048644, $12.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Bette D. Ammon; Director, Missoula P.L., Missoula, MT, May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
Library Journal
Meet Vincent Rubio, the latest thing in hard-boiled private detectives. He's a dinosaur--it seems they're still among us, disguising themselves as humans. As a private eye, Rubio finds plenty of problems to solve, among them an arson case, the death of his partner, and the need to keep his true identity concealed. This book is as slug-nutty as they come--dinosaurs are known by the scents they exude and have trouble keeping their tails tucked in--but it does follow the time-honored formula for crime-and-detection fiction: intricacy of plot, mystification, unexpectedness, and progress toward a solution. Readers who are willing to meet young newcomer Garcia on his own absurdist terms, who have an appreciation for nonsense, and who do not object to anthropomorphic romps should find this a provocative tease, but it will probably jar the sensibilities of hard-core detective fiction buffs who take their mysteries seriously. Try it if your readers like laughs with their crime. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/99.]--A.J. Anderson, GSLIS, Simmons Coll., Boston Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Brad Meltzer
"Think you've seen it all? You're wrong. You've never read anything like Anonymous Rex. An incredible idea--brilliantly executed. Anonymous Rex is a true original, crackling with imagination, and more fun than growing your own goatee. And did I mention the interspecies sex?"
T. C. Boyle
"If a novel, by definition, is new, rare, and strange, then Eric Garcia's Anonymous Rex is the most novel novel I've ever read. The central conceit is so startling and clever and the prose so fluid and assured, the reader doesn't even have time to blink. By turns hilarious and chilling, this is a terrific, joyful read."
Kirkus Reviews
Not many people know this, but dinosaurs only faked their extinction millions of years ago. Disguised in latex costumes, they've been working secretly among us ever since, at a ratio of 10–12% of the apparently human population. Some of them, like Vincent Rubio, hold down jobs as private eyes. And even though Vincent, while not extinct, has fallen on hard times—his partner Ernie Watson's been run down by a cab, his Lincoln's been repossessed, he's been drummed out of the Los Angeles Dinosaur Council—the canny Velociraptor still has what it takes to trace the links between an arson at the Raptor-owned Evolution Club, the murder last year of Carnotaurus industrialist Raymond McBride, and Ernie's own death. Working with evidence supplied by Brontosaurus LAPD Sgt. Dan Patterson and tidbits dangled by McBride's scheming Carnotaurus widow Judith and McBride's mistress, nightclub songbird Sarah Archer, Vincent follows the trail of Jaycee Holden, vanished Coleophysis ex-fiancée of comatose Evolution owner Donovan Burke, to Triceratops geneticist Dr. Emil Vallardo's nefarious plan to adulterate the dino gene pool. Along the way, Vincent not only provides detailed accounts of how to pass as a human, but unmasks such luminaries as Napoleon, Paul Simon, and Newt Gingrich as dinosaurs, which explains a lot about so-called human history. A whimsical, surprisingly logical farce aimed equally at fans of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? and devotees of interspecies sex. A sequel is in the works.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425178218
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/1/2001
  • Series: Vincent Rubio Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 959,232
  • Product dimensions: 5.29 (w) x 8.03 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Garcia is the author of Anonymous Rex and Casual Rex. Originally from Miami, he attended Cornell University and the University of Southern California, where he majored in creative writing and film. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Sabrina, and their new baby. His next book is titled Hot and Sweaty Rex.

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Read an Excerpt

1
No doubt about it, I've been hitting the basil hard tonight. Half a sprig at the Tar Pit Club, quarter in the bathroom stall, half heading down the 101 on the drive over, two more waiting here in the car, and only now is the buzz crawling on, a muddled high that's got me jumping at my own tail. Scored it fresh tonight, a whole half-pound from Trader Joe's up on La Brea. Gene, the stock clerk, keeps a hidden stash for his special customers, and though it takes the occasional fin or two to stay firmly entrenched on Gene's good side, you haven't truly done basil until you've done Gene's Special Stash basil. Throws out the kind of buzz where you're wishing the high would come on and you're wishing the high would come on and you're wishing the high would come on and then you're there, and you're wondering how the hell it was possible that you ever weren't there.

This camera's hanging heavy about my neck, lens cap off, tugging
on me, begging for action. It's a Minolta piece of crap I bought for forty bucks, substandard in all specifications, but I can't do snoop work without a camera, and I didn't pull down enough gigs last month to get my good one out of hock. That's why I need this job. That and the mortgage payment. And the car. And the credit cards.

A pair of headlights breaks the darkness, creeping slowly down the street. Flashers, strictly orange. Rent-a-cops. I slouch in my seat. I'm short. I'm not noticed. The car drives past, taillights drowning the peaceful suburbs in a wash of pale crimson.
Inside that house across the way—that one, there, with the manicured lawn, the faux gas-lamp security lights, the pressed concrete driveway—is this month'spotential windfall. In the old days, that'd mean a case capable of bringing in anywhere from twenty to fifty thousand dollars by the time Ernie and I threw in fees, expenses, and whatever the hell else crossed our minds as we wrote up the bill. Nowadays it means I'll be lucky to clear nine hundred. My head hurts. I fix up another pinch of basil and chew, chew, chew.
Third day of a three-day tail-and-stakeout operation. Sleeping in the car, eating in rat-infested diners, eyes sore from the strain of picking out details at a distance. For an hour and a half, I've been sitting in my car, waiting for the bedroom lights to click on. It's useless taking pictures of a darkened window, and firsthand personal skinny doesn't make the grade—distraught wives don't give a damn about what a PI sees or what a PI hears. We are persona non grata, big time. They want pictures, and lots of 'em. Some want video. Some want audio. All want proof. So even though I personally witnessed Mr. Ohmsmeyer giggling, cuddling, and generally making cutesy-face with a female who was neither his wife nor a member of his immediate family, and even though my gut tells me that he and the unnamed floozy have been tearing a sexual cyclone through that house for the last ninety minutes, it means crap to Mrs. Ohmsmeyer, my client, until I'm able to grab the shindig on a negative. It'd be my pleasure if they'd just turn on the damn lights.
A halogen pops to life in the living room, silhouettes shimmying into place behind gauzy curtains—now we're cooking. A grope to find the door handle, a simple tug, and suddenly I'm out of the car and stumbling toward the house, my costumed human legs betraying me with every step. Funny how the ground's twisting into knots like that. I stop, catch my balance, lose it again. A nearby tree arrests my fall.

I'm not worried about being seen or heard, but passing out on
the front yard in a basil-induced stupor could look bad come morning. Steeling myself, muscles flexed, legs bent ever so slightly, I flounder across the lawn, hurdle a small hedge, and hit the dirt. Mud splatters my pants; it will have to remain there. I have no money for dry cleaning.

Window's a low one, bottom of the frame just above my line of sight. Thin curtains, probably a cotton blend, lousy for photographs. The silhouettes are dancing now, shadowy figures moving back-two-three, left-two-three, and from the muffled sounds of grunts and growls, I'd say they're out of guise and ready for a full night of action.
Lens cap off, pulling focus, setting the frame to get a nice, clean shot. But not too clean—no divorce court's gonna grant a big settlement on the basis of an adultery pic with Ansel Adams composition. The illicit has to look illicit. Maybe a smudge on the print, a casual blur, and always, always in black and white.

Another light, this one in the hallway. Now I'm noticing features, and it's quite clear that the two lovebirds have shed their skins. Unfurled tails snake through the air; exposed claws draw furrows along the wallpaper. Passion is driving the couple to carelessness—I can even make out the female's mammalian guise tossed across the back of the sofa, knitted blond hair flung across the throw pillows, limp human arms dangling like ticker tape over the side. And moving through the hallway now, toward the bedroom, a pair of lumbering shapes both too concerned with libido to hide their natural postures. Gotta get to that bedroom window.

I'm able to make it to my feet before falling back down again, at which point I decide that crawling around to the side of the house might be the best option. There's dirt and mud and grime down here, but it beats elevating my head above my knees. Along the way, I pass a beautifully landscaped garden, and promptly throw up on the begonias. I'm beginning to feel much better.

Bedroom window, a large bay jobbie that is fortunately hidden behind the overgrown branches of a nearby oak. The curtains, though closed, have parted slightly, and it is through this crack that I may just get my best shots. A quick peek—
Mr. Ohmsmeyer, certified public accountant and father to three beautiful Iguanodon children, is fully out of his human guise, tail extended into proper mating position, claws retracted for safety's sake, a full set of razor-sharp chompers tasting the pheromone-stained air. He stands over his lover, an Ornithomimus of average proportions: nice egg sac, thin forelegs, rounded beak, adequate tail. I don't see anything outstanding there, can't comprehend whatever urges are driving Mr. Ohmsmeyer to break his sacred vows of marriage, but maybe it's hard for a lifelong bachelor to understand the passions that overcome married men. Then again, I don't have to understand it; I simply have to photograph it.

The shutter's not as whisper-quiet as I'd like, but with all the noises they're about to start making, it won't make a difference. I click away, eager to grab as many photos as possible—Mrs. Ohmsmeyer agreed to pay for whatever film and developing costs might be incurred during the process of my investigation, and if I'm lucky, she won't realize that she's also picking up the tab for some prints of last year's fishing trip up at Beaver Creek.
A steady rhythm is set—one, two, thrust, pause pause pause, four, five, retract, pause, pause, repeat. Mr. O.'s got a rough, hit-a-home-run-with-every-swing style to his lovemaking that I'm used to seeing with adulterers. There's an urgency to the process, and maybe even a little anger in that hip action. His scaled brown hide scratches roughly against the green Ornithomimus, and the fragile four-poster bed rocks and creaks with every insistent thrust.

They continue. I continue. Click click click.
This set of pictures will represent what I hope is the end of a two-week investigation that was neither particularly easy nor interesting. When Mrs. Ohmsmeyer came to me two weeks ago and laid out the situation, I figured it'd be your basic cheat job, boring as all hell but in and out in three days and maybe I could hold off the creditors for a week. And since she was the first lady to walk in my door since the Council rectification came through, I took the gig on the spot. What she didn't tell me, and what I soon found out, was that Mr. Ohmsmeyer presented a new wrinkle to get around in that he had somehow obtained access to a multitude of human guises, and had no shame in changing them as often as possible. Spare guises are permitted in certain situations, of course, but only when ordered from the proper source and with the proper personal ID number. Identity fraud is easy enough in this day and age without dinosaurs changing their appearances willy-nilly. Definite Council violation right there, no question, but I'm the last person who's gonna bring Ohmsmeyer up on charges in front of that goddamned organization.

So, sure—I could just stake out the house, place my rump in the car, and watch like a hawk, but who knew where the randy bugger would be throwing it down next? Tracked a guy once who liked to have sex on the girders underneath bridges, of all places, and another who only did it in the bathrooms of the International House of Pancakes. So though a stakeout was an option—and the family home was indeed where I finally ended up—there remained the problem of keeping a bead on Mr. O. But once I decided to trust my nose, my most base of instincts, it all fell into place.

He's got an antiseptic scent, almost grainy, with a touch of lavender riding the edges. Very accountant. Strong, too—I picked up a whiff at two hundred yards. So the next time he tried to pull the switcheroo, it went like this: Into a restaurant dressed as Mr. Ohmsmeyer, out of the restaurant two hours later guised up as an old Asian lady with a walker, but no matter—he left great clouds of pheromones lingering behind like a trail of bread crumbs, and I followed that olfactory path as he led his floozy back to this street, this house, and this bedroom window. Gutsy move on his part, trysting on the home front, but Mrs. Ohmsmeyer and the kids are at her sister's place in Bakersfield for the weekend, so he's safe from direct marital discovery.

Third roll of film spent, and it's almost time to close up shop. Just in time, too, as Mr. Ohmsmeyer's nearing the end of his fun and games; I can feel it in the grunts emanating from the bedroom, growing deeper, harsher, louder. Bass echoes through the house, vibrating the window, the two intertwined dinos flexing before my eyes, and the beat intensifies as the female Ornithomimus begins to howl, lips stretching, reaching for the ceiling, legs locked tight around her lover's tail, that sandpaper hide blushing with blood, sliding from green to purple to a deep mahogany glazed over with excess sweat, Mr. O. panting hard, tongue licking the air, steam rising from his ridged back as he turns his head to the side, teeth parting wide, and begins the last rise, preparing to fully consummate his lust—
A clang, behind me. Metallic. Scraping.
I know that sound. I know that clang. I know that familiar ring of metal on metal and I don't like it one bit. Forgetting my earlier lack of coordination, I leap to my feet and crash through the nearest set of hedges—screw Ohmsmeyer, screw the job—branches breaking as I push through, a crazed adventurer scything his way through the underbrush. Wheeling around, almost losing my balance as I make the turn toward the front of the house, I come to a stop midway between a lawn gnome and the most terrifying sight these eyes have ever seen:
Someone is towing my car.
"Hey!" I call. "Hey, you! Yeah, you!"
The short, squat tow truck driver looks up rapidly, his head seemingly independent of his neck, and cocks a thick eyebrow. I can smell his scent from thirty feet away—rotting veggies and ethyl alcohol,
a potent mixture that almost makes my eyes water. Too small for
a Triceratops, so he must be a Compy, which should make this conversation frustrating, if nothing else. "Me? Me?" he squawks, the clipped screech tearing at my ears.
"Yeah, you. That's my car. This—this here—it's mine."
"This car?"
"Yes," I say, "this car. I'm not illegally parked. You can't tow it."
"Illegally parked? No, you ain't illegally parked."
I nod furiously, hoping nonverbal cues will help. "Yes, yes, right. There's no red curb, no signs—please, unhook my car—"
"This car here?"
"Yes, right. Yes. That car. The Lincoln. Unhook me and I'll be going."
"It ain't yours." He resumes clamping the winch onto the front axle.
Swinging around to the passenger-side window, I reach in the glove compartment—gum, maps, shaker of dried oregano—and pull out the wrinkled registration. "See? My name, right there." I place the document directly under his eyes, and he studies it for quite some time. Most Compys have literacy problems.
"It ain't yours," he repeats.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to engage this dimwitted dinosaur in a philosophical debate as to the nature of ownership, so it looks like a little intimidation might be in order. "You don't wanna do this," I tell him, leaning into a conspiratorial whisper. "I've got some pretty powerful friends." A bald bluff, but what does a Procompsognathus know, anyhow?
He laughs, the little apefucker, a chicken-cluck guffaw, and shakes his head back and forth. I consider a bit of controlled assault and battery, but I've had enough trouble with the law in recent months without having to add another run-in to the list.
"I know 'bout you," says the Compy. "Least, I know all I gotta know."
"What? You've been—look here—I need this car to work—"
Suddenly, the front door to the house across the street opens up, and Mr. Ohmsmeyer, who must have reguised himself in record time, strides purposefully down the front walk. An impressive display of speed, considering it takes most of us at least ten, fifteen minutes to apply even the most basic human makeup and polysuit. For what it's worth, the D-9 clamp riding beneath the guise across the left side of his chest is unbuckled—I can see it even through his guise—but it's nothing a mammal would ever notice. His eyes dart back and forth, nervous, paranoid, searching the darkened street for any sign of his loving spouse. Perhaps he heard my hasty exit from the bushes; perhaps I interrupted his climax.
"The hell's going on here?" he grumbles, and I'm about to answer when the Compy tow truck driver hands me a sheet of paper. It reads byron collections and repossessions in bold twenty-point type, and lists their phone number and some sample rates. I look up, a host of indignant responses foaming to my lips—
To find that the Compy's already in the truck, revving it up, winching my car into place. I leap for the open cab, claws almost springing forth on their own—and the door slams in my face. The sonofabitch is sneering at me through the glass, his angular features almost dar-ing me to leap in front of the truck, to give my life for the life of my automobile, which in Los Angeles is not unheard of. "You pay the bank," he crows through the closed window, "you get the car." And with a shove of the Compy's scrawny arms, the tow truck hops into first gear, dragging my beloved Lincoln Continental Mark V behind it.
I stare down the street for quite some time after the tow truck's taillights have disappeared into the night.
Ohmsmeyer breaks my reverie. He's staring at my legs, at the mud splattered across my pants. A slow wave of anger carves a wake across his forehead. I grin, attempting to head off any ill will. "I don't suppose I could use your phone


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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First Chapter

Chapter 1

No doubt about it, I've been hitting the basil hard tonight. Half a sprig at the Tar Pit Club, quarter in the bathroom stall, half heading down the 101 on the drive over, two more waiting here in the car, and only now is the buzz crawling on, a muddled high that's got me jumping at my own tail. Scored it fresh tonight, a whole half-pound from Trader Joe's up on La Brea. Gene, the stock clerk, keeps a hidden stash for his special customers, and though it takes the occasional fin or two to stay firmly entrenched on Gene's good side, you haven't truly done basil until you've done Gene's Special Stash basil. Throws out the kind of buzz where you're wishing the high would come on and you're wishing the high would come on and you're wishing the high would come on and then you're there, and you're wondering how the hell it was possible that you ever weren't there.

This camera's hanging heavy about my neck, lens cap off, tugging

on me, begging for action. It's a Minolta piece of crap I bought for forty bucks, substandard in all specifications, but I can't do snoop work without a camera, and I didn't pull down enough gigs last month to get my good one out of hock. That's why I need this job. That and the mortgage payment. And the car. And the credit cards.

A pair of headlights breaks the darkness, creeping slowly down the street. Flashers, strictly orange. Rent-a-cops. I slouch in my seat. I'm short. I'm not noticed. The car drives past, taillights drowning the peaceful suburbs in a wash of pale crimson.

Inside that house across the way--that one, there, with the manicured lawn, the faux gas-lamp security lights, the pressed concrete driveway--is this month's potential windfall. In the old days, that'd mean a case capable of bringing in anywhere from twenty to fifty thousand dollars by the time Ernie and I threw in fees, expenses, and whatever the hell else crossed our minds as we wrote up the bill. Nowadays it means I'll be lucky to clear nine hundred. My head hurts. I fix up another pinch of basil and chew, chew, chew.

Third day of a three-day tail-and-stakeout operation. Sleeping in the car, eating in rat-infested diners, eyes sore from the strain of picking out details at a distance. For an hour and a half, I've been sitting in my car, waiting for the bedroom lights to click on. It's useless taking pictures of a darkened window, and firsthand personal skinny doesn't make the grade--distraught wives don't give a damn about what a PI sees or what a PI hears. We are persona non grata, big time. They want pictures, and lots of 'em. Some want video. Some want audio. All want proof. So even though I personally witnessed Mr. Ohmsmeyer giggling, cuddling, and generally making cutesy-face with a female who was neither his wife nor a member of his immediate family, and even though my gut tells me that he and the unnamed floozy have been tearing a sexual cyclone through that house for the last ninety minutes, it means crap to Mrs. Ohmsmeyer, my client, until I'm able to grab the shindig on a negative. It'd be my pleasure if they'd just turn on the damn lights.

A halogen pops to life in the living room, silhouettes shimmying into place behind gauzy curtains--now we're cooking. A grope to find the door handle, a simple tug, and suddenly I'm out of the car and stumbling toward the house, my costumed human legs betraying me with every step. Funny how the ground's twisting into knots like that. I stop, catch my balance, lose it again. A nearby tree arrests my fall.

I'm not worried about being seen or heard, but passing out on

the front yard in a basil-induced stupor could look bad come morning. Steeling myself, muscles flexed, legs bent ever so slightly, I flounder across the lawn, hurdle a small hedge, and hit the dirt. Mud splatters my pants; it will have to remain there. I have no money for dry cleaning.

Window's a low one, bottom of the frame just above my line of sight. Thin curtains, probably a cotton blend, lousy for photographs. The silhouettes are dancing now, shadowy figures moving back-two-three, left-two-three, and from the muffled sounds of grunts and growls, I'd say they're out of guise and ready for a full night of action.

Lens cap off, pulling focus, setting the frame to get a nice, clean shot. But not too clean--no divorce court's gonna grant a big settlement on the basis of an adultery pic with Ansel Adams composition. The illicit has to look illicit. Maybe a smudge on the print, a casual blur, and always, always in black and white.

Another light, this one in the hallway. Now I'm noticing features, and it's quite clear that the two lovebirds have shed their skins. Unfurled tails snake through the air; exposed claws draw furrows along the wallpaper. Passion is driving the couple to carelessness--I can even make out the female's mammalian guise tossed across the back of the sofa, knitted blond hair flung across the throw pillows, limp human arms dangling like ticker tape over the side. And moving through the hallway now, toward the bedroom, a pair of lumbering shapes both too concerned with libido to hide their natural postures. Gotta get to that bedroom window.

I'm able to make it to my feet before falling back down again, at which point I decide that crawling around to the side of the house might be the best option. There's dirt and mud and grime down here, but it beats elevating my head above my knees. Along the way, I pass a beautifully landscaped garden, and promptly throw up on the begonias. I'm beginning to feel much better.

Bedroom window, a large bay jobbie that is fortunately hidden behind the overgrown branches of a nearby oak. The curtains, though closed, have parted slightly, and it is through this crack that I may just get my best shots. A quick peek--

Mr. Ohmsmeyer, certified public accountant and father to three beautiful Iguanodon children, is fully out of his human guise, tail extended into proper mating position, claws retracted for safety's sake, a full set of razor-sharp chompers tasting the pheromone-stained air. He stands over his lover, an Ornithomimus of average proportions: nice egg sac, thin forelegs, rounded beak, adequate tail. I don't see anything outstanding there, can't comprehend whatever urges are driving Mr. Ohmsmeyer to break his sacred vows of marriage, but maybe it's hard for a lifelong bachelor to understand the passions that overcome married men. Then again, I don't have to understand it; I simply have to photograph it.

The shutter's not as whisper-quiet as I'd like, but with all the noises they're about to start making, it won't make a difference. I click away, eager to grab as many photos as possible--Mrs. Ohmsmeyer agreed to pay for whatever film and developing costs might be incurred during the process of my investigation, and if I'm lucky, she won't realize that she's also picking up the tab for some prints of last year's fishing trip up at Beaver Creek.

A steady rhythm is set--one, two, thrust, pause pause pause, four, five, retract, pause, pause, repeat. Mr. O.'s got a rough, hit-a-home-run-with-every-swing style to his lovemaking that I'm used to seeing with adulterers. There's an urgency to the process, and maybe even a little anger in that hip action. His scaled brown hide scratches roughly against the green Ornithomimus, and the fragile four-poster bed rocks and creaks with every insistent thrust.

They continue. I continue. Click click click.

This set of pictures will represent what I hope is the end of a two-week investigation that was neither particularly easy nor interesting. When Mrs. Ohmsmeyer came to me two weeks ago and laid out the situation, I figured it'd be your basic cheat job, boring as all hell but in and out in three days and maybe I could hold off the creditors for a week. And since she was the first lady to walk in my door since the Council rectification came through, I took the gig on the spot. What she didn't tell me, and what I soon found out, was that Mr. Ohmsmeyer presented a new wrinkle to get around in that he had somehow obtained access to a multitude of human guises, and had no shame in changing them as often as possible. Spare guises are permitted in certain situations, of course, but only when ordered from the proper source and with the proper personal ID number. Identity fraud is easy enough in this day and age without dinosaurs changing their appearances willy-nilly. Definite Council violation right there, no question, but I'm the last person who's gonna bring Ohmsmeyer up on charges in front of that goddamned organization.

So, sure--I could just stake out the house, place my rump in the car, and watch like a hawk, but who knew where the randy bugger would be throwing it down next? Tracked a guy once who liked to have sex on the girders underneath bridges, of all places, and another who only did it in the bathrooms of the International House of Pancakes. So though a stakeout was an option--and the family home was indeed where I finally ended up--there remained the problem of keeping a bead on Mr. O. But once I decided to trust my nose, my most base of instincts, it all fell into place.

He's got an antiseptic scent, almost grainy, with a touch of lavender riding the edges. Very accountant. Strong, too--I picked up a whiff at two hundred yards. So the next time he tried to pull the switcheroo, it went like this: Into a restaurant dressed as Mr. Ohmsmeyer, out of the restaurant two hours later guised up as an old Asian lady with a walker, but no matter--he left great clouds of pheromones lingering behind like a trail of bread crumbs, and I followed that olfactory path as he led his floozy back to this street, this house, and this bedroom window. Gutsy move on his part, trysting on the home front, but Mrs. Ohmsmeyer and the kids are at her sister's place in Bakersfield for the weekend, so he's safe from direct marital discovery.

Third roll of film spent, and it's almost time to close up shop. Just in time, too, as Mr. Ohmsmeyer's nearing the end of his fun and games; I can feel it in the grunts emanating from the bedroom, growing deeper, harsher, louder. Bass echoes through the house, vibrating the window, the two intertwined dinos flexing before my eyes, and the beat intensifies as the female Ornithomimus begins to howl, lips stretching, reaching for the ceiling, legs locked tight around her lover's tail, that sandpaper hide blushing with blood, sliding from green to purple to a deep mahogany glazed over with excess sweat, Mr. O. panting hard, tongue licking the air, steam rising from his ridged back as he turns his head to the side, teeth parting wide, and begins the last rise, preparing to fully consummate his lust--

A clang, behind me. Metallic. Scraping.

I know that sound. I know that clang. I know that familiar ring of metal on metal and I don't like it one bit. Forgetting my earlier lack of coordination, I leap to my feet and crash through the nearest set of hedges--screw Ohmsmeyer, screw the job--branches breaking as I push through, a crazed adventurer scything his way through the underbrush. Wheeling around, almost losing my balance as I make the turn toward the front of the house, I come to a stop midway between a lawn gnome and the most terrifying sight these eyes have ever seen:

Someone is towing my car.

"Hey!" I call. "Hey, you! Yeah, you!"

The short, squat tow truck driver looks up rapidly, his head seemingly independent of his neck, and cocks a thick eyebrow. I can smell his scent from thirty feet away--rotting veggies and ethyl alcohol,

a potent mixture that almost makes my eyes water. Too small for

a Triceratops, so he must be a Compy, which should make this conversation frustrating, if nothing else. "Me? Me?" he squawks, the clipped screech tearing at my ears.

"Yeah, you. That's my car. This--this here--it's mine."

"This car?"

"Yes," I say, "this car. I'm not illegally parked. You can't tow it."

"Illegally parked? No, you ain't illegally parked."

I nod furiously, hoping nonverbal cues will help. "Yes, yes, right. There's no red curb, no signs--please, unhook my car--"

"This car here?"

"Yes, right. Yes. That car. The Lincoln. Unhook me and I'll be going."

"It ain't yours." He resumes clamping the winch onto the front axle.

Swinging around to the passenger-side window, I reach in the glove compartment--gum, maps, shaker of dried oregano--and pull out the wrinkled registration. "See? My name, right there." I place the document directly under his eyes, and he studies it for quite some time. Most Compys have literacy problems.

"It ain't yours," he repeats.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to engage this dimwitted dinosaur in a philosophical debate as to the nature of ownership, so it looks like a little intimidation might be in order. "You don't wanna do this," I tell him, leaning into a conspiratorial whisper. "I've got some pretty powerful friends." A bald bluff, but what does a Procompsognathus know, anyhow?

He laughs, the little apefucker, a chicken-cluck guffaw, and shakes his head back and forth. I consider a bit of controlled assault and battery, but I've had enough trouble with the law in recent months without having to add another run-in to the list.

"I know 'bout you," says the Compy. "Least, I know all I gotta know."

"What? You've been--look here--I need this car to work--"

Suddenly, the front door to the house across the street opens up, and Mr. Ohmsmeyer, who must have reguised himself in record time, strides purposefully down the front walk. An impressive display of speed, considering it takes most of us at least ten, fifteen minutes to apply even the most basic human makeup and polysuit. For what it's worth, the D-9 clamp riding beneath the guise across the left side of his chest is unbuckled--I can see it even through his guise--but it's nothing a mammal would ever notice. His eyes dart back and forth, nervous, paranoid, searching the darkened street for any sign of his loving spouse. Perhaps he heard my hasty exit from the bushes; perhaps I interrupted his climax.

"The hell's going on here?" he grumbles, and I'm about to answer when the Compy tow truck driver hands me a sheet of paper. It reads byron collections and repossessions in bold twenty-point type, and lists their phone number and some sample rates. I look up, a host of indignant responses foaming to my lips--

To find that the Compy's already in the truck, revving it up, winching my car into place. I leap for the open cab, claws almost springing forth on their own--and the door slams in my face. The sonofabitch is sneering at me through the glass, his angular features almost dar-ing me to leap in front of the truck, to give my life for the life of my automobile, which in Los Angeles is not unheard of. "You pay the bank," he crows through the closed window, "you get the car." And with a shove of the Compy's scrawny arms, the tow truck hops into first gear, dragging my beloved Lincoln Continental Mark V behind it.

I stare down the street for quite some time after the tow truck's taillights have disappeared into the night.

Ohmsmeyer breaks my reverie. He's staring at my legs, at the mud splattered across my pants. A slow wave of anger carves a wake across his forehead. I grin, attempting to head off any ill will. "I don't suppose I could use your phone

Copyright© 1999 by Eric Garcia. Excerpted by permission of Villard, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 9, 2013

    I honestly thought it was just going to be some cheesy, childish

    I honestly thought it was just going to be some cheesy, childish story but i was pleasantly surprised by it. Being a dino fan since a child, I found it rather intriguing, and it also makes me wonder about what might life be like if dinosaurs still existed. There are parts that are really weird and make you say, "What?" but overall it was a creative and interesting read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2003

    "Rex"-ercise Your Brain

    What fun to combine sci-fi and mystery in one GREAT book! My jaw dropped as I started reading and stayed that way. Don't you just love a great new idea? Sometimes we get lucky. There are two books in this series so far, and I hope there are many more!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2001

    Fantastic

    A great story wrapped around a hilarious premise.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Weird, satirical, and amusing

    What happened to the dinosaurs is quite simply, nothing. They never became extinct. Instead, they blended in with the faster growing ¿hairless ape¿ population. Today, dinosaurs keep the species in the closet, but take professional jobs like humans do. <P> For instance, Vincent Rubio, a Velociraptor hides his tail with latex, works as a private eye. Currently, Vincent struggles to make a living since the suspicious death of his partner Ernie Watson. Vincent investigates a minor arson incident at the Evolution Club that left a straight human dead. If he can stay away from the addicting basil long enough to follow the clues, Vincent might solve the mystery behind Ernie¿s death that happens to be tied to his present case. <P> Weird, satirical, and amusing ¿ absolutely! However, what makes ANONYMOUS REX superb is not the insider puns or jokes, nor the comic book like heroics, or even the cleverly developed Vincent the Raptor. Those are prime elements in a well-written novel that will appeal to the mystery and science fiction crowds. However, the key to the tale is that author Eric Garcia does all this while paying homage to the private sleuth sub-genre. Readers get a different type of hero living in a different type of world inside a narrative loaded with amusement, winks, and irony all wrapped within a fabulous investigative tale or is that tail? <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 13, 2013

    I ENJOYED IT

    BUT I CAN'T TELL WHETHER OR NO THE RECIPIENT OF MY GIFT DID. I HAVEN'T YET SPOKEN WITH HIM ABOUT IT.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2013

    Great book!

    I absolutely love this book! It's so well done and entertaining!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2013

    Brooke

    Hey

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2001

    wondeful

    I think this is probally one of the best books I have read ing a long time. Its hysterical and interesting

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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