Casual Rex (Vincent Rubio Series #2)

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Praised by Dave Barry and T.C. Boyle, Anonymous Rex was called an “awesomely funny” debut with “all the elements of a cult classic.” (Entertainment Weekly) Now Eric Garcia roars again…

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Casual Rex (Vincent Rubio Series #2)

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Praised by Dave Barry and T.C. Boyle, Anonymous Rex was called an “awesomely funny” debut with “all the elements of a cult classic.” (Entertainment Weekly) Now Eric Garcia roars again…

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Private investigator Vincent Rubio is a busy guy. He spends his days shopping for his designer wardrobe, hanging out in the latest herb bar, and chasing cases with his inveterate sidekick, Ernie. He's dedicated, he's debonair -- and he's a dinosaur.

In Anonymous Rex Garcia created an innovative and almost believable world where dinosaurs still live among us, cleverly disguised in human costumes. Casual Rex continues the escapades of Rubio, a Velociraptor with a penchant for basil and beautiful women, in an adventure that will take him from the decadence of Hollywood to the primordial landscape of Hawaii.

It all starts out as a simple missing-persons case. Ernie, a Carnotaur whose human guise is that of a hopelessly unfashionable middle-aged man, is contacted by his ex-wife, who is concerned for the welfare of her brother, Rupert. He's involved in a cult called the Progressives, whose goal is to enlighten the dinos of the world by putting them in touch with their ancestral selves. Posing as potential members, Vincent and Ernie infiltrate a posh Progressive party in the Hollywood Hills in an attempt to locate Rupert and hopefully deprogram him. Unfortunately, their mission fails, and Vincent and Ernie find themselves pitted against an ancient force that is beyond anything they've ever encountered before.

Caught in a web of intrigue, Vincent falls under the spell of the nubile leader of the Progressives, a fellow Velociraptor named Circe. Urging him to shed his human guise, she warns him of the dangers of becoming too human and regales him with tales of the magnificence of their ancestors. One thing leads to another, and Vincent and Ernie find themselves signed up for a "Back to Nature" convention on a private Hawaiian island.

Once in Hawaii, Vincent and Ernie spend their days dining on food that appeals to true dinosaurs -- namely live chickens and raw pork -- and learning to run properly au naturale. Their nights, however, are spent investigating the inner sanctum of the Progressives. As they begin to uncover one secret after another, the duo discovers that the cult has a lot more in mind than returning modern-day dinos to their natural state.

In a truly hilarious climax that involves fire, fake fossils, and a cadre of perfectly coiffed cross-dressing dinosaurs, Vincent and Ernie battle the nefarious leaders of the Progressives and -- with a little help -- save the day. Eric Garcia has once again crafted an awesomely funny dinosaur yarn that will have readers eagerly awaiting further adventures of Vincent Rubio, private investigator and dinosaur extraordinaire. (Karen Lovell)

From the Publisher
“May be the most entertaining book out this year.”—Columbus Dispatch

“Every bit as delightfully strange, richly imagined and just plain funny [as his debut].”—The Seattle Times

“A prequel that’s as daringly, darkly loopy as Anonymous Rex in which dinosaurs are buckled and strapped into latex ‘guises’ and roam the mean streets pretending to be the human kings and queens of the food chain. Velociraptor Vincent Rubio, an L.A. private eye, and his older but hardly wiser partner Ernie Watson, are looking for Ernie’s ex-wife’s son Rupert, a T-Rex, in order to rescue him from the Progressives, a cult devoted to the ‘ancestors’ and the premise that all dinosaurs should be ‘au natural.’ The dino p.i.’s kidnap Rupert and have him deprogrammed by Dr. Beaumont Beauregard, but a few days later Rupert commits suicide. Or does he? In between satirizing mind-control, herd behavior, mass stupidity, dumb fashions, bloodlust, sex, and noir conventions, Garcia will have you panting over the veggie and spice displays for intoxicating, mood-altering whiffs of basil, cilantro, and even fenugreek.” —Kirkus Reviews

“You could call Casual Rex dinomite.” —Gotham Magazine

“A funny book. I can’t remember an author pulling off a more difficult premise, unless it’s T. Jefferson Parker.” —Los Angeles Times

“[Eric Garcia’s] X-Files take on the classic detective tale will appeal to both mystery and SF readers. Here’s a series with dino-sized legs.” —Publishers Weekly

“Garcia, whose rollicking debut, Anonymous Rex, jazzed up the detective genre, returns to the land the dinosaurs share with contemporary bipeds.…Seamless, wonderfully clever world-building, a little dino-depravity, and an abundance of tongue-in-cheek humor to keep things rolling along.” —Booklist

“Great fun.” —Library Journal

“It’s so hard to resist stomping around in dinosaur metaphors in reviewing Casual Rex. But the book…is too good, too funny and too inventive to get bogged down in Jurassic jargon….dripping with tongue-in-jaw wit, snappy action, funny lines and plot twists. A genre-bending, species bending, gender-bending romp of a mystery…What’s really intriguing is Garcia’s commentary about society and historical events as seen through dinosaur eyes…It’s obvious Garcia had fun with Casual Rex. Readers will too.” —The Columbus Dispatch

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.
USA Today
Eric Garcia pulls off this parallel dino world to a T (rex...delicious...sly humor.
Dinomite detective yarn...splendidly warped.
Entertainment Weekly
Awesomely funny.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Vincent Rubio is your typical PI: He's single, drives a Lincoln, has trouble saying no to a good-looking woman and occasionally takes photos of unfaithful husbands with their mistresses for extra cash. The only things separating him from other hard-boiled private eyes are his tail, claws and reptilian hide. In this prequel to the popular Anonymous Rex, Garcia spins another comical scenario involving Vincent and a host of other dinosaurs who never became extinct and have integrated themselves into modern society by covering up with human-looking latex costumes. Once readers get over the initial oddness of the idea, a somewhat normal detective story materializes: Vincent and his partner, Ernie, are hired by Ernie's ex-wife (herself a T. Rex) to rescue her brother Rupert from a cult group he's become involved in. As they immerse themselves in Rupert's recovery, Vincent and Ernie learn more about the cult, a sort of heritage club for dinosaurs who call themselves the Progressives. Further investigation uncovers some shady doings, and the two detectives throw themselves headlong into an inquiry involving the Progressives and other young dinos who've been lured in like Rupert. Meanwhile, in a nutty side story, the dino-shamuses agree to help their landlord get back a certain human body part of his that his girlfriend stole. Garcia keeps the jokes coming, bordering on overwriting but coming out on top to present a tale that's slightly cornball, at times hilarious and unquestionably original--though not as original as the first novel and exuding a faint air of shtick. Agent, Barbara Zitwer. (Mar. ) Forecast: Fans of Garcia's first novel will enthusiastically gravitate to this follow-up, and the author's X-Files take on the classic detective tale will appeal to both mystery and SF readers. Here's a series with dino-sized legs. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Vincent Rubio, the seedy Los Angeles private eye who happens to be a dinosaur, returns in this prequel to Anonymous Rex (Villard, 1999/VOYA April 2000), which set up the premise that dinosaurs never actually become extinct but instead went underground. Vincent, a Velociraptor, is the private detective whose agency crumbled under the weight of his guilt when his partner, Carnotaur Ernie Watson, mysteriously was killed. In this book their partnership flourishes, although Vincent has doubts about accepting a case brought to the agency by Ernie's still-beloved ex-wife, Louise. Her brother, Rupert, has joined the Progressives, a shady dinosaur cult that warns of the tainting of dinosaurs by human qualities. Vincent supports Ernie's promise to locate Rupert and remove him from the cult, by force if necessary. When Vincent, confident that he has seen and done it all, meets the leader of the Progressives, he realizes that he has never encountered anyone like Circe. Ernie, unaffected by her charm, snatches Rupert to deprogram him. Rupert is found dead a few days later, an apparent suicide, and Circe shows up at the funeral, arousing Ernie's suspicions. Although Garcia's first Rex book succeeded in being an excellent noir PI novel blended with science fiction humor, this one's aim is not as true. Here the laugh-out-loud sarcastic humor feels somewhat awkward and heavy-handed. Plot twists are predictable, but the relationship between Ernie and Vincent is convincing. Fans will want to read this book even if it is not up to the standard Garcia set in his first dinosaur detective novel. Libraries that purchased Anonymous Rex will want this one, but the book does not stand alone. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4PS A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2001, Villard, 337p, $23.95. Ages 16 to Adult. Reviewer: Joanna Morrison SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
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
When fiction is hard pressed to keep pace with reality, there's always Garcia, who, in Anonymous Rex, peopled the hardboiled underworld of L.A. with dinosaurs dressed in vinyl guises that allowed them to blend into the human world--a sort of X-Files meets Sam Spade. If you are amused by the premise, Garcia here delivers more of the same with a hip, knowing, and often very funny look at cults in La-La Land. One such cult, begun by a nutcase vacuum cleaner salesman, gathers its filthy and amazingly prodigious lucre by hooking up prospective, often wealthy clients to a device that registers their dino-quotients on a machine straight from Flash Gordon. When several members of the cult end up dead, Vincent Rubio and partner Ernie Watson follow the trail through Hollywood and finally to Hawaii to get lei'd. Along the way, they "out" several famous figures as raptors in disguise, among them Samuel Winchester, Charlton Heston, and, of course, Mick Jagger. Not for hardcore sf fans or hardboiled purists, this book is recommended as great fun for all larger public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/00.]--Bob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO Copyright 2001 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: 9780425183397
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/5/2002
  • Series: Vincent Rubio Series, #2
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.94 (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

Improvisation is the modus operandi when you work with Ernie Watson.   "You doin' okay, kid?" he asks me, and all I can do is mumble back a reply — shag piling pressing up and into my mouth, my nostrils—as I'm momentarily assaulted by the stench of six thousand pairs of shoes and one incontinent household pet. "Stay down — I almost got the damn thing."

As an insistent burglar alarm whines away in the background, Ernie fumbles with the system's plastic keypad, doing his best to shut the contraption up, or at least send it to a better place. Ten seconds have passed, and in twenty more we're as good as bait for the neighborhood security patrol. Fortunately, they don't carry weapons. At least I think they don't carry weapons.

"The code," I say. "Put it in already."

"I did — "

"You didn't. It's still beeping."

"I did. And it's wrong. The code's wrong."

A leap to my feet — Bruno Maglis today, clearly the inappropriate attire when one is breaking and entering, but at eight a.m. this morning I expected a non-felonious workday — and I'm beside my partner in a beat, punching in the code over his protestations. Ernie's a crack PI, but it doesn't change the fact that his eyesight's slowly dropping off the low end of the scale — last time, he insisted to the ophthalmologist that the reading chart was mocking him, by God — and most likely he's simply hitting the wrong numbers.

There: 6-2-7-1-4-9-2. Just like it said in the Rolodex on the new hubby's desk. We found the code scrawled down as a phone number listed for a Mr. Alvin Alarming, and you can bet the farm it took the stellar mind of a T-Rex to come up with that brain-twister. I take my time and carefully depress the numbers on the keypad in their proper sequence.

The beeping continues. Twenty seconds down. This ain't good.

"Hey," I say, "the code's wrong."

Ernie fixes me with a cold, familiar stare. I grin. "Damn," Ernie mutters, "he musta changed it."

"Maybe she changed it — "

"No." Simple, monosyllabic. I don't argue.

Fifteen seconds. My gaze slides toward the doorway we came through, then out to the driveway and the suburban streets beyond. No security patrol so far, but that doesn't preclude an imminent arrival. The time has come to beat a hasty retreat, exit stage left, mission aborted. I was getting hungry, anyhow.

But before I can grab Ernie by the lapel of his blue bowling shirt and haul him out of the building and down to Pink's for a chili dog with extra onions, he's somehow managed to tear off the face of the keypad, exposing the simplistic guts of this seemingly complex security system. Wires spill out like loose spaghetti, electricity snapping through the open gaps, and Ernie shoots a queasy glance in my direction. "Get down, kid," he says. "And stay there."

No argument here. Over a decade of snoop work with the guy, I've learned that when Ernie gets that pained, cramped look — that I've-just-licked-a-human grimace — it's time to listen up and listen hard. I drop to the floor.

An array of stunted claws flash out from Ernie's suddenly exposed paw, latex human fingers flapping loosely off the wrist. A flick of the forearm, a sweep through the air, and those four sharp razors slice their way up and through the assortment of high-tech wizardry bolted to the wall. Sparks fly, showering Ernie in a wash of miniature fireworks, but he stands his ground and holds tough despite the burn marks spreading across the surface of his polysuit.

The alarm, if anything, grows louder.

Moving with some real urgency now, Ernie grasps a severed wire in each hand and twists the two exposed ends around each other into a single sparkling braid.

Light. Hissing. A small explosion, perhaps.

And silence. The distinct smell of sulfur hangs in the air. Wires and buttons and lights and computer chips lie in a small mountain of rubble on the foyer carpeting, and I have to stamp out the smoldering mess with the bottoms of my designer shoes in order to prevent a small fire. The things I do for this job . . .

But Ernie is triumphant, arms aloft, the latex fingers on his left hand clutching the exposed claws of his right, jumping up and down like the winning pugilist after an early-round knockout. There's glee in that little dance, in that smile spreading across his face. I know that smile. There's no getting past that smile. That's pure Ernie.

"Nice job," I say. "You gonna fix that before we go?"

Ernie shrugs. "Don't know how."

"So there goes the covert entry."

"Yep. There it goes."

"You got a kick outta that, didn't you?" I ask.

A short laugh, almost a choke, as Ernie turns his head, avoids making eye contact. "I sure as hell ain't sad, kid."

We move farther into the house.

Tight hallways and small, sectioned rooms are the norm in this wood-paneled home, a restored throwback to the cobblestone-wall and modular-furniture days of the late seventies. The rooms practically pulse with disco backbeat. A vaulted ceiling rises above the main living area, in which a Steinway grand piano lies dormant, a thin layer of dust having settled across the keys.

"She still play?" I ask.

"How the hell should I know?"

"I thought maybe you — "


Rows of framed photographs hang side by side in the main hallway, some of them old, most of them recent, all of them dinos in disguise. In the back of one group shot — a family reunion, I gather, from the striking clan resemblance — I believe I can make out a familiar guised face, a familiar squat body. No time to check, as Ernie's already through the hall and into a bedroom.

"What are we looking for?" I ask. Ernie's on his knees by the side of a California King Craftmatic adjustable bed, hurriedly rummaging through a battered oak nightstand. Books and old receipts fly onto the floor as my partner digs through the drawer with an intensity bordering on frenzy. This is not a careful archaeological expedition, to say the least.

No answer. I tap Ernie on the shoulder, and he barely flinches. "What are we — "

"I'll know it when I see it," he says.

I sit on the edge of the bed, and it nearly sinks to the floor under my meager weight. I don't even hear the creak of springs, as they must have given up the long, hard battle some time ago. This must be the side that the new husband sleeps on; T-Rexes, frame notwithstanding, are not known to be light snoozers.

Ernie has successfully transferred the entire contents of the nightstand's upper drawer to the floor, and as he starts in on the lower one with the same troubled deliberation, I realize I'm going to be in for a long evening. Once my partner gets his mind set on something, there's little short of a cannonball or a side of mutton that can stop him.

"I'll go stand guard," I offer.

"For what?"

"In case they come back."

"They're at the opera."

"Maybe they'll leave after the third quarter," I say, and Ernie waves a hand in my general direction. I take this as my cue to leave, destination already in mind. A squadron of little demons resting inside my belly are clamoring for their evening feast, scratching at the lining of my stomach with their pitchforks, and I can't deny the monsters for much longer. The kitchen, therefore, is the first stop.

Clean. Sparkling. And well appointed. I am a particular fan of the Sub-Zero fridge: easy to open, and, thanks to its excellent layout, easy to raid. Being careful not to disturb the other contents, I pluck a leftover leg of lamb from the bottom shelf, snag a bottle of hot mustard, and make my way to the kitchen table. The demons intensify their poking and prodding, and my stomach growls in protest.

A munch, maybe two, and then it's no more time for food as a pair of lights swing across the peach curtains that line the front windows of the house. Headlights, I'm sure of it, accompanied by the unmistakable purr of an import automobile.

"Ernie!" I call out, achieving new dino land speeds as I race down the hall. "We've got a problem — "

But he's engrossed in the same project as before, this time rummaging through an old bureau set against the far wall. In the few minutes since I'd left him, a miniature tornado must have localized itself in this bedroom: the floor is covered with knickknacks and loose sheets of paper, strewn about in every direction. "I think I'm onto it," Ernie says, oblivious of the F5-size mess he has created.

"Not anymore, you're not onto it," I tell him. "They're here."

"I know," he says wistfully. "I smelled her two minutes ago."

Even though the inhabitants of that car must have been ten blocks away two minutes ago, I have no cause to doubt Ernie's schnoz in cases such as this. Still, we have to vamoose. I grab Ernie by the shoulder, but he shrugs my hand away and continues digging.

I can hear two pairs of feet clomping up the front walkway, and now I, too, can smell them — one scent strong, musky, thick, and cloying, a bargain-basement cologne; the other is full of lilac and warm oatmeal.

And now the key is turning, opening the lock in the front door, and it won't be long before the rightful owners of this house walk into their foyer and step directly into a homeowner's nightmare represented by a pile of charred plastic and silicon that used to be their primary means of defense against intruders great and small.

"Ernie, we can't wait around — "

Front door creaking, opening, a matter of milliseconds —

" — for you to sniff this thing out, whatever it is — "

"Found it," says Ernie, his voice even, almost melancholy. I try to take a gander at the small, yellowed piece of paper in his hands, but he's already out the sliding glass door, leaving me to wade through the bedroom wreckage. I'm barely onto the patio when I hear the chorus of gasps and angry voices emanating from the foyer, but by then I'm at full tilt and rising fast. Past the pool, into the yard, over the fence in a single jump (with a little more effort than it used to take, I must admit), and hauling my carcass through the neighbor's backyard, Ernie a good ten yards ahead.

We're in my beloved Lincoln two minutes later, panting hard and catching our breath as we keep an eye out for anyone who may have seen or followed us. But the only movements in the shad- ows are your basic suburban staples — basketball nets swaying in the breeze, lawn flamingos falling off their rusted metallic legs, neighborhood cats prowling their turf, cruising for a good time — so it seems that for the moment, at least, we have escaped unnoticed.

The stomach succubi are displeased with my recent unexpected exercise, and are threatening to return the little lamb I was able to shove into my mouth to the land from whence it came. I swallow hard, trying to maintain some degree of professionalism. The last thing I need is to spend the rest of the evening cleaning up the Lincoln's front seat.

Ernie's engrossed in reading the sheet of paper he pilfered from the house, and after a time I ask him, "You wanna show me what you got?"

He folds the paper once, twice, then stuffs it into his front shirt pocket. "Let's get outta here."

"Best plan I heard all day." I turn the key and the good old American engine rumbles to life, breaking the stillness of the night. As I flick on the lights, Ernie reaches over and flicks them off again.

"I kinda need those."

"Go down her street," Ernie tells me.

I shake my head. "That ain't smart, Ern." I pointedly turn the lights back on again. "We got lucky once. We'd be asking for trouble — "

"Keep the lights off, no danger. C'mon, kid. For me."

I'd argue — really, I'd be more than happy to — but I can predict my own defeat ahead of time. So in order to save myself a few hours, I wall off the argumentative part of my brain behind some strong mental brickwork, flick off the lights, and drive down the street.

The front door is open, every light in the house in full-on blaze position. The exterior halogens have popped to life as well, and the home glows with nuclear intensity. I take my time coasting through the shadows, barely touching the accelerator.

Snippets of sound from inside—"the jewelry . . . did they get the . . . where are your rings . . . check the safe . . ."—accompanied by a side order of rancorous scents. The block is slowly filling with the smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but for dinos that aroma means fear and anger as opposed to Jack Frost nipping at your nose.

The lady of the house, perhaps sensing our presence, perhaps simply in need of a break from the difficulty of accepting a home invasion, steps out of her doorway and onto the front porch, staring off into the night. Does she see us? Possibly. Does she recognize us? Unlikely.

It's been some time since she's had her guise professionally aged — I can tell even from this distance that the wrinkle set usually required for the early fifties hasn't yet been sewn into her face — and as a whole, she looks similar to the last time I saw her, more than three years ago. Short blond hair puffed into a tight little ball against her head, a collection of mid-range jewelry adorning her small, thin wrists. Eyes covered in blue shadow, lips more pink than red, and the traces of good nature turning up the corners of her mouth even amid all this danger and disappoint- ment.

"She's still got that smell about her, don't she?" Ernie says, and his wistful tone pulls me into a similar reverie. A soft pat on my partner's back, and this time he doesn't move my hand away. We issue a collective sigh.

"A real sweetheart," I say.

"You don't gotta rub it in."

"Rub what in?" I ask. "You said she had a great smell, I said she was a sweetheart. Am I wrong?"

Ernie scratches his chin, massaging the stubble he so carefully applies once a week. He'd thought about getting that facial hair kit from Nanjutsu, the one in which the hairs actually grow through the skin at a predetermined rate, but decided that the beard replacement packs (at least one every two weeks) weren't worth the cost. "No, you ain't wrong, kid," he says. "She's a sweetheart all right."

In a single move, Ernie reaches into his pocket, extracts the slip of paper he took from the house, and tosses it into my lap. I open it slowly, the old, worn pages crackling beneath my fin- gers, and hold it beneath the small light from the LED clock display.

A marriage license. Louise and Ernie's marriage license, to be specific, and I fold it up as reverently as possible and hand it back to my partner, who is still unable to take his eyes off his ex-wife standing in the doorway of what used to be their house.

There's a moment when I think she's looking right at us, a moment when I think her eyes and Ernie's eyes make some connection, when I think I can hear her saying It's okay, I understand, but then she turns, walks back inside, and closes the door. The front lights are extinguished moments later.

"Drive on home, kid," Ernie says to me. "Don't stop for gas."

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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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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2013

    Great book!

    Great prequel! :3

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    one of my favorites

    This book was given to me as a joke in college.. but the joke was on my friends.. I read this book in 2 days.. I couldn't put it down.. and I¿m not one for Fantasy.. but it has that teasing mystery about it, it was a complete page turner.. that had me laughing out loud!!.. it is by far one of the best books I ever read.. and I can not wait to read the first book of the series.. Anonymous Rex

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    insanely satirical and saurcy

    In Los Angeles, Ernie Watson¿s former wife Louise visits his detective agency to talk with his partner Vincent Rubio. She needs help because her brother Rupert, now using the name Granaagh, has joined the Progressive cult and she wants him returned home. Vincent explains that you cannot just kidnap an adult T-Rex because they have rights. Ernie arrives and immediately accepts the case gratis. <P>The Progressives want dinosaurs to come out of their latex costumes into the nakedness of their ancestors to confront the puny overpopulated humans. Meanwhile, the two sleuths follow leads that take them into one dino-disaster after another. At stake is control of the dinosaur population and perhaps a universe give or take a light year or two. <P> CASUAL REX, the prequel to the fascinating ANONYMOUS REX, is as insanely satirical and saurcy as its predecessor. Seems as if little escapes the humor and irony of Eric Garcia as it shreds the disguises of much of society. Ernie and Vincent are wonderful characters even if they trip over their tails a lot. Fans of private investigative novels with quite a humorous twist and science fiction readers will fully enjoy this wild ride, but stay away from the basil or is that baked banana peels? <P>Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2010

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    Posted May 22, 2011

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