cover image Anonymous Rex: A Detective Story

Anonymous Rex: A Detective Story

Eric Garcia. Villard Books, $23 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-375-50326-9

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.)