Eric Garcia’s Dinosaur Mafia is the first detective series I’ve really gotten into in a while. Garcia delivers competent world-building combined with an engaging narrator, and each book so far functions as an accessible stand alone. <3 That being said, I wasn’t impressed enough that I, personally, would buy a copy — I got these as gifts, read them while on Vicodin after some oral surgery, and plan on passing them along to a friend in the next few days. Anonymous Rex, Casual Rex, and Hot and Sweaty Rex were fun, but not keepers.
The basic premise is that dinosaurs never died out. Oh, they shrank a little, they got a little less fierce, but they’re definitely still around. In fact, they live among us, camouflaging themselves using complicated guises so that we humans have no idea they’re around. They faked the fossil record* so we don’t suspect we share the planet with another intelligent species. Regionally, they are governed by a fairly aggressive series of Councils that handles in-group conflict, and makes sure no dino spills the beans on their continued existence.
This series is narrated by Vincent Rubio, a PI with an herb problem (basil sends him over the wall and he has a hard time knowing his limits). Rubio’s got a lot of problems with the ladies, including a cult leader he falls in love with, a mafia maven he left at the bus station when she was a teen, and a human lady with whom he feels a forbidden attraction. He’s also got a problem with debt. Like some bloggers I know ::blushes:: Rubio’s got a love affair with Armani, Macy’s, and sales of all kinds. In fact, he’s been thinking of joining Debtors Anonymous after he’s done with Herboholics Anonymous. I think Rubio’s dandyness subverts some of the problematic gender tropes associated with this genre, particularly since he’s not the most macho of dinos. Plus, while this “feels” like noir because of its content — hardboiled detective, references to sexy dames, etc — Rubio’s voice is more BUH?? then anything else. The tone’s quirky, but not over the top, and the plot is together enough so that the plot holes don’t necessarily sink you.
That being said… I have some issues with the three I’ve read so far.
1. Dinosaurs can’t interbreed with other types of dinosaurs. Okay, fine… I totally tried to look that up, but apparently The History Channel hasn’t done a special on dino cross breeding. Still, though, I was left a bit WTF over this because of the following points.
Point A: If different species of cats can interbreed (like lions and tigers), then why can’t dinosaurs, if they’re part of the same genus? Even if they CAN’T in real life, I’m pretty sure they don’t secretly live amongst us… so why build the impossibility of miscegenation into the fabric of dino society? Why make inter-species love a social taboo?
Point B: Why is there an extended plot centering on miscegenation? Okay, MAYBE Garcia’s trying to parody that trend in noir, where it turns out that the dramatic secret is that such-and-so character has a black baby or some stupid ish, but seriously, this storyline features a horrific monster dinosaur hybrid, and extended reflections on the dangers of dino-human lust. What the fuck is THAT about? There was not enough Vicodin in the world to make that make sense.
2. The triteness of the female characters. So far, there’ve been at least one or two major female characters in all three books. Good, I guess? So far, one’s been a deluded cult leader/love interest, the tomboy friend with a secret, a baby-obsessed singing diva, a frigid socialite, a drugged up hooker, and a betrayed high school sweetheart. Oh, wait, I just listed them all and they all have suspect motives. Huh. Anyways, what I’m saying is that Vincent pretty much lives in a boys’ world, where women are forgettable secretaries or genre archetypes intent on fucking up the virtuous main character’s shit. Remember how I was annoyed that in the Master Li series, everything’s a parody except that women really AREN’T agents in their own right? That’s how this felt — like all the tropes of a good detective story were getting activated and critiqued… but seriously, women characters always have a secret and they ALWAYS can’t be trusted.
3. Trope alert! A national/international Council managing the affairs of the unknown creatures that live among us? NO WAY!! Fortunately, it’s subverted by the structure of the emergency Council sessions, which may involve naked dinos throwing down. Unfortunately, since Garcia’s admitted in another interview that he didn’t really think through the implications of the dinos forging the fossil record and the implications of that re: fossil fuels, I’m thinking that some details of the dino world (like the Council) haven’t been fleshed out. That’s a techne issue, I think, particularly since Garcia admits to having written the books pretty fast.