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Monk Fun Page Review:
Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop
by KC

Dirty Cop

My relationship with the Monk novels did not start immediately. By the time I found them, the first three were already in print. When I started reading them (slightly out of order), I found that they were fun weekend books full of entertainment. But after book 4 (Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants), I kind lost track of the newer additions. Only recently—as I was kindly permitted to review for the Fun Page—did I start reading the books again.

Once I read all seven of the available Monk books, I was sure of my original favorite: Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu. It was well-rounded and hilarious. Though I have enjoyed all of the books, I felt like Blue Flu would always be my favorite. But then something unexpected happened: I found a new favorite.

Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop starts off with a rather timely topic, especially in the great state of California: budget cuts. Monk, and consequently Natalie, are the subject of such fiscal woes as the San Francisco Police Department terminates Monk’s assistance, but as Monk loses one job he instantly gains another at a high-paying private detective agency. So things aren’t so bad, Monk continues to solve murders—with better pay—and Natalie gets a company car, credit card, medical, a pay increase, and—best of all—she gets her own Natalie. Yes, Natalie gets an assistant.
But even as Natalie gains all the perks of Monk’s newest endeavor, she spends much of the book questioning her place in the world. Through this process of self-discovery, Natalie is given time to shine in new ways as she takes more chances and is more of a partner to Monk than an assistant. During one point, when Natalie is finding her place, she says, “I felt a sensation that was both mental and physical, of things seeming to snap into place. It was a feeling I’m sure Monk would have understood.”
Natalie and Disher
Natalie and Disher
In fact, all of the main characters take a path of growth in this book. Part of this may be that this book, when compared to the other books, seems to jump ahead in time a bit. Julie is about 17 years old—her clear voice reflects her age—and this is the first book to feature Dr. Bell.
Though the well-paced unraveling of the plot and the steady tone make the entire layout pleasing to read, it is the way the main characters and, maybe more importantly, the secondary characters jump off the page that make this Monk book most enjoyable.
Stottlemeyer is particularly complex, the entire story is anchored around him, and never does his believability suffer because of it. Disher takes an unusually large role. So large, in fact, that the standard Natalie first person narrative changes at times for the telling of Disher’s part of the story.

In Dirty Cop, Monk is the best he has ever been. His obsessions are ridiculous yet maintain great continuity, a formula that nearly convinces the reader that the obsessions are not so illogical after all. Monk is also outright hilarious—more so than ever. His often painfully humorous and equally serious relationship with Stottlemeyer is golden; Monk admires him greatly but still manages to be completely clueless to Stottlemeyer’s feelings, yet Stottlemeyer never loses faith in Monk. It is a pleasure to read.
Stottlemeyer and Monk
Stottlemeyer and Monk

Just when the story should be winding down, Goldberg picks up the pace and leads to an ending that is neither rushed nor lethargic. He uses Natalie and her increased detecting skills to give the reader a chance to figure out the case before it is ultimately revealed. This gives a unique perspective and puts the reader in a position to do some thinking before the final “here’s what happened” takes place.

This book is packed with distinct characters—like a retired bartender—and surging plots, but it never feels crowded or strained. Lee Goldberg does a lot of storytelling without sacrificing the details. By not being over the top, Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop finds a successful way of being a refreshing addition to the series.
This is hands down the best book yet. I am happy to have found a new favorite in Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop.


Monk Fun Page Review:
Mr. Monk is Miserable
by KC


"There's no better way to discover Paris, its culture, and its people than through a murder investigation. You'll see the city and its people laid bare. You'll go where the tourists never go. You'll see what life here is really like."

"It's a shame everyone can't enjoy a good murder when they come to Paris."

"We're the lucky ones," Monk said.

After their trip to Germany, Monk and Natalie head to Paris for a vacation. A vacation is something Natalie longs for. Her journey to Hawaii was filled with murder, and then the trip to Germany was ruined by the same kinds of lethal activities. But, as they say, the third time’s the charm.

Lee Goldberg’s Mr. Monk is Miserable starts off where Mr. Monk Goes to Germany ends. Of course, Monk is not exactly eager to visit Paris, but Natalie does some manipulating and soon they find their way to the iconic European city.

Natalie needs a vacation
Natalie Teeger

Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo
As the author explains in the acknowledgments and notes, he has personal ties to Paris and has spent time there in the past twenty years. In his vibrant descriptions, he takes time to illustrate some changes that have occurred in Paris over the years, and if that is not enough, there is a Victor Hugo quote about the sewers of Paris. With Paris as a back drop for a story that slightly breaks the Monk novel formula, readers will find great enjoyment in this book.
Adrian Monk, despite his best efforts, is becoming a well traveled man. And Natalie Teeger, despite her best efforts, can’t get a vacation. And together they solve some marvelous mysteries in places far beyond San Francisco. While in Paris, Natalie does everything she can to keep Monk away from corpses. Even when they stumble upon corpses, she tries her best to keep Monk away from the case. This becomes exhausting for both of them, and eventually they are in full crime solving mode.
Just because Monk and Natalie are far from the San Francisco Police Department, don’t think that this book is absent of Stottlemeyer and Disher. They play a big role in making the book down right hilarious. Goldberg has Stottlemeyer down perfectly—some of the best scenes are with the Captain front and center. Disher, though, has a star making performance—Paris may be his city. With Stottlemeyer, Disher, and a few dead bodies, Monk gradually warms to Paris and even has some good, clean fun.
Stottlemeyer, Monk and Disher
Stottlemeyer, Monk and Disher
In the midst of his fun, Monk takes great risks. He visits a sewer, the catacombs, and a completely dark restaurant. The pitch-black restaurant scene was a personal favorite. It made me want to find a restaurant where the dining room is intentionally pitch-black.
Paris at Night
Because of vividly written scenes like the dark dining room scene, this is perhaps the best written Monk novel. The author takes what feels like classic murder mystery ideas and turns them into something more complex and engaging with every page. Not only is the mystery portion well paced, but it is also a way to help the reader discover a Paris less romantic and more dynamic than the average tourist might experience.
Goldberg describes Paris with great care and treats the city as a central character. And Paris, as a character, can be charming, funny, eccentric, and a little menacing. Paris also teaches us quite a bit about Natalie. We learn more about Natalie’s relationship with her late husband, Mitch, and why, out of all of the great European cities they could have gone, she chose Paris. We also learn more about Monk and Natalie’s relationship.
They, rightfully so, do not have a perfect relationship. There are times when they don’t seem to want to be in the same room together (sometimes quite literally), and there are other times where they would be lost without the other. For the two of them, this is a story of compromise. When not detecting, they are constantly working to find a middle ground, a place where they can be themselves.
Monk and Natalie
Monk and Natalie
The more difficulties they encounter, the more they are required to overcome. This makes them both believable and vital. Even when frustrated with one another, they have moments where they quietly enjoy each other’s company.
Natalie, Julie and Mitch
Natalie, Julie and Mitch
Mr. Monk Goes to Germany deals greatly with Trudy’s murder; in contrast, Mr. Monk is Miserable touches on Mitch. In both books, the reminder of their respective spouses sends both Monk and Natalie running through foreign streets, literally. Monk takes off running in Germany, and Natalie does the same in Paris. Between the two of them, there is a lot of heartache, and without directly discussing much of it to each other, they always seem to be acutely aware of what they share.

The only big complaint about this addition to the Monk series is that Julie was once again absent from the book. With Natalie as the narrator, it would seem logical to have her only daughter as a more central character. Perhaps Natalie will get a true vacation if she takes Julie with her. Maybe.

Mr. Monk is Miserable is a finely tuned mystery that encompasses everything we have come to love about the TV series, and sometimes it manages to give us much more.

By Lee Goldberg
288 Pages
ISBN 0451225155
Price: $21.95
Release Date: December 2nd, 2008

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Monk Fun Page Review:
Mr. Monk in Outer Space
by KC

“'Who wants to watch a clean freak every week? It would be too damn irritating. So we worked on it over the lunch and came up with something a lot better—a detective who is a sex addict. Can you see it?'”

outer space

Who would want to watch a clean freak on television every week? Better yet, who would want to read a book, multiple books, about a clean freak who we already watch on television every week? Take your time answering that.

Television is still a powerful entertainment tool in our society. Perhaps, since you are reading this review, you know the kind of power it has. In Mr. Monk in Outer Space, Lee Goldberg takes a kind-hearted jab at fandom and its absurdity and magnitude.

Monk enters into a world where people are as obsessed with a TV show as he is by order and cleanliness. He does not understand why anyone would spend so much time caring about a fictional place with fictional people and events. But when Monk learns that his brother, Ambrose, is one of “them,” it throws Monk for a loop—as does a revolving door, a microscopic coffee stain, the way Natalie organizes her thoughts and more. But at the center of it all, there is, of course, a murder. Murder is the only thing that keeps Monk halfway sane while dealing with Ambrose’s obsession with the TV show, Beyond Earth, and the other “freaks” that love the show. And as Monk wearily admits, “'It would take dozens of murders a week for me to feel really good about life.'”

So much of the entertainment in this addition to the Monk book series is the fact that it could make some Monk fans either cringe or put them in a state of denial. You, for instance, may cringe because you see some of yourself in the Beyond Earth fans, or you will deny, obsessively so, the fact that you are even remotely like the Beyond Earth fans Goldberg depicts.

Let’s take a test: be honest, be fair, and do not print out this test because it would be a horrible waste of paper. Just keep track of how many YES and NO answers you have.

Monk and Vacuum

Marci Maven
Marci Maven, Mr. Monk's biggest fan, except for those of you who ace this test

1. Have you seen every Monk episode?

2. Do you own all the available seasons on DVD?

3. Do you have all of the Monk books?

4. Have you read these Fun Page reviews more than once?

5. Is your house cleaner than it was before you started watching Monk?

6. Is brown a predominate color in your wardrobe?

7. Do you have an assistant and call him/her Natalie?

8. Do you own a Monk bobblehead doll?

9. Have you been to a Monk fan convention?

10. Are you happy this list ends with 10 questions?

Congratulations! You are done. If you answered 5 or more YES, than you will relate to the Beyond Earth fans in this book and will cringe at the appropriate parts. If you answered less than 5 YES, you are probably in denial that this book depicts the kind of fan you could be. If you answered all of them YES (and number 9 was definently among them) than you will not cringe because you find the obsessed characters in the book to be your kind of people, and you will take tips from Outer Space and implement them into your next Monk themed party.

Now that you have scientific data about how well this book will relate to you, the Mr. Monk in Outer Space review will try its best to continue.

Aside from the murders and the TV show fans, there is Ambrose. Monk has always been distant from his brother, but when Monk is forced to temporarily live with Ambrose, Monk has to try to become more accepting of his brother. Their relationship, for the duration of this book, goes through a small, nearly undetectable, evolution. There are moments when their relationship seems to begin exploration, but it quickly drops off in place of the mystery at the center of the plot. That is acceptable, though, because Ambrose is a driving force behind the mystery of the story, but there is something missing with the sub-plot of their relationship.
John Turturro (Ambrose)
Adrian and Ambrose
Though it is completely in character for the Monk brothers to be distant and have difficulty communicating with each other (as is shown when Natalie has to become their “surrogate hugger” because Monk and Ambrose cannot hug each other), this story seems to introduce their relationship only to neglect it. The story line of Ambrose starts off well and looks promising, but
never fully concludes—it just stops. The reader is only aware of it stopping because the pages have run out.

On the bright side, the mystery is fun and engaging. Also, Disher and Stottlemeyer play solid roles throughout. But it is Natalie who does the heavy lifting and really makes the nearly unbelievable and unsympathetic Monk the hero we root for. It is also Natalie who pulls the story of Monk and Ambrose through the book. Her observations are key.

Mr. Monk in Outer Space will leave you wondering about your own obsessions of a certain TV show, and it may, hopefully, leave you wondering how your brothers or sisters are doing.

So get away from the computer, turn off the TV, ignore text messages, and call your brothers or sisters—better yet, go visit them. More than likely, the longest relationships we will ever have are those with our siblings.

Mr. Snork Fans?


Monk Fun Page Review:
Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants

At first, I felt like an actress brought into replace a beloved character on a hit TV show, For months, it seemed as if I was constantly being compared by Monk, and everyone else in his life, to Sharona, and falling short. — Natalie Teeger in Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants

2 Assistants cover
Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants is the first Monk novel to debut (July 3rd 2007) in a hardback edition. That means you'll have to pay twice as much for this one as you did for the other three. Well, you're just going to have to suck it up, because it's worth every penny. Two assistants mean twice the fun and twice the mystery and twice the passion.

"Sharona and I had this erotic tension between us," Disher said standing in the doorway. "A hot 'will they/won't they' thing."

"More like a 'will never happen' thing," Stottlemeyer said.

"It was palpable," Disher said.

Sharona is back in all her brassy glory and Natalie is none too pleased when Monk welcomes his first assistant with a job offer. Natalie thinks the best way to ensure her own job security is to reunite Sharona with her soon to be ex again husband. The problem is he's been arrested for murder and even Sharona thinks he did it. And it gets a lot more complicated. There are enough twists and turns to keep Monk fans on the edge of their seats (as long as those seats are on even numbered rows.)


I wasn't one of them, but many fans were a little put out by the way the character of Sharona was written out of the series, as necessitated by Bitty Shram's abrupt departure in the middle of the third season. Since the author doesn't have to deal with the actress, he's able to write her exit (in retrospect) and her return with all the careful elucidation and emotional authenticity all but the most die hard Sharona fan could have desired. Having written "Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico" (recently chosen as the fans' favorite episode) and "Mr. Monk and the Godfather" I think Mr. Goldberg really gets Sharona.
Since we're now on the fourth novel you might expect the plots and characters to begin to blur a little, but the opposite is true. Each book is delightfully unique. Maybe it's just me, but I see more depth and substance in this novel, than in the first three, which were all solidly entertaining in their own right. The exploration of the two relationships between Monk and his assistants is fascinating. The novel touches on the similarities, the differences, the humor and the evolution of both relationships. Great stuff. The obstacles are obvious and I'm not sure how it would ever come about, but it would be so cool, and ridiculously easy to promote, if Two Assistants was turned into a TV episode.
Monk 2
Monk Promo
There's also something warm and familiar about this one, besides Natalie's narrative voice. I've often taken that drive down the five she so piquantly describes. I've been on Baker Beach (and thought what a great place that would be for Monk to solve a murder). I've been to book signings eerily like the one described in the book. Oh, that’s right: it was a Lee Goldberg book signing.

An interesting sidenote: Ian Ludlow, a novelist, Monk's L.A. counterpart and Disher's idol (he refers to him as "the Tolstoy of the mean streets") was also Lee Goldberg's early pen name when he was writing classics like .357 Vigilante. I think knowing that gives the reader a greater insight... into what I'm not sure.

My favorite scene? Sharona and Natalie interrogating the woman with the, shall we say, unusual brooch. Hysterical.

It's a good thing it's in hardback. It will stand up better to all the re-reading.


Goldberg, Lee. Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants. New York: Penguin Group, July 2007. 288 pages. $19.95


Monk Fun Page Review:
Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu

“What about the criminals?" Monk asked. "Are they going to take a sick day too?”

blue flu

The Monk books just keep getting better. Better than the TV series? I won’t fully commit to that, but the novels have what the show sometimes isn't even aiming for: well executed fair play whodunit mystery plots. The complex story, abundance of colorful characters and high body count in Blue Flu may demand a little more concentration than the show or even the previous two books. It’s too delightfully long and complex for an episode, but trimmed down it would make a great entry in the series, just as the first novel (Mr. Monk and the Firehouse) did when it was adapted for the fifth season episode “Mr. Monk Can’t See a Thing.”

Just to get this out of the way, the more Monk-ish Monk fans can now rest easy. Monk’s milk phobia, established in the series, was overlooked (by the author, by the creator, by me, but not by legions of persnickety squared readers) in the first and second books. The “milk error” has been corrected in Blue Flu. Not only that, but we’re given a little more insight into Monk’s rationale for the phobia:
no mil.k

“He’s afraid of milk,” Porter said to Sparrow.

“You are?” she said, momentarily showing interest in something besides looking uninterested. “Why?”

“It’s a bodily fluid in a glass that some twisted person intends to drink.” Monk cringed just thinking about it. “It’s unnatural.”

Natalie is like an old friend now, telling me her experiences over a cup of coffee. I know the books (and the blogs, also initially ghost written by Lee Goldberg) have done more than a little to shape my favorable impression of her on the show. Having her as a guide in Monkland is just plain fun. She’s always a little mystified and frustrated, but loyal and true just like the literary figure to whom she draws her own comparison: “I went with him, even though I wasn’t a cop and hadn’t been invited. I’m pretty sure that Dr. Watson would have gone with Holmes in the same situation.”
Also notable is Natalie’s impromptu art lecture. It’s a must read and a high point in Monk noveldom. “A box of Brillo soap pads is just a disposable consumer product in colorful packaging. But when Andy Warhol made exact plywood replicas of the Brillo boxes and stacked them in a gallery they became art.” – Excerpt from Professor Natalie’s Lecture somewhere around page 128.


Monk himself is a little more chatty here and, I think, a little less self aware than the TV version. It may be mostly Natalie’s perspective that makes him seem a little more self-centered, demanding and stubborn. Those are all traits he has in the show, but they’re not softened as much without Tony Shalhoub’s performance and a third person perspective. On the other hand as Acting Captain we get to see a few new facets of the Monk character, some genuinely hilarious interactions with his new subordinates and a little more exploration of his friendship with Stottlemeyer.

Adrian Monk in the novels may be a slightly different character, but Lee Goldberg has got Leland Stottlemeyer completely nailed. I can almost hear Ted Levine say every line. His relationships with Monk, Natalie and Disher are perfectly in sync with the character as developed by Levine and the writing staff (including, of course, the three scripts Goldberg co-wrote in which the Stottlemeyer character got some first rate development.) I like that we get to see Stottlemeyer dealing with his divorce in more detail and I think he comes off as particularly caring and compassionate about Monk in Natalie's eyes.

“That’s quite a list,” Disher said. “I could use a hand.”

“Get all the help you need”

“What will you be doing?” Disher asked pointedly.

“Captain stuff,” Stottlemeyer said, his eyes daring Disher to push it beyond that.

Once again Disher gets short shrift, but that's the way it goes in the series as well, so no big surprise. He wriggles into a few scenes, but no major heroics or imaginary girlfriends or dental appointments. He isn’t actually there to hear it, but there is a very nice bit about him from Stottlemeyer: “The cases he solves aren’t unusual, high-profile, or particularly colorful. But, by God, he closes them.”

A cast of colorful guest characters, the reinstated detectives and their companions, fill out the rest of the book.

Det. Cindy Chow is a paranoid schizophrenic accompanied by her psychiatric nurse doing a doctoral thesis on the commonality of certain facets of complex, recurring conspiratorial delusions which form an almost Jungian shared unconscious.... you get the idea. He doesn’t seem to be helping her much:

“You can drop the charade,” Chow said. “I know you both work for them.”

“Them?” Monk said.

“The extraterrestrials occupying the shadow government,” she said.


"Mad Jack" Wyatt is the second coming of Dirty Harry or at least thinks he is. “I’m back in the game and my gun has bullets,” He announces, cleverly working the title of a previous Lee Goldberg novel into his would be catch phrase. He has his own personal anger management counselor in tow who says things like: “Don’t let your anger drive you. Drive your anger. Steer it to the garage and park it.”

He and Monk hit it off right away.

“I was born to take scum off the street”

“So was I,” Monk said. “Which cleanser do you prefer?”

Wyatt opened his jacket to show Monk the gigantic gun in his gigantic holster. “Three fifty seven Magnum. You?”

“Simple Green,” Monk said.

Frank Porter is a once brilliant detective now suffering from senility and tagging along with him is his twenty something granddaughter, Sparrow. She takes care of him, “Because it beats slinging burgers at McDonalds.”

Frank’s memory isn’t what it used to be.

“What day is it?” Porter asked.
“Sunday,” Sparrow said.
“That’s good to know,” Porter said. “What year?”
“2007,” Sparrow said.
“No really,” Porter said. “What year?”
“2007,” Sparrow said.
“That’s not possible," Porter said. “I’ll be dead by then and there will be Holiday Inns on the moon.”

Toss in a few murderers and half dozen or so murder victims for a super fun concoction.

Blue Flu has so many nice touches that you’ll just have to read the book to enjoy them all, but I’ll just mention my favorite. At the first murder scene Monk and Natalie meet a uniformed cop. “His name was Milner and if not for the wedding ring he was wearing I might have been interested in his first name too,” says Natalie. That first name turns out to be very interesting. He’s Officer Kent Milner. Get it. Kent McCord, Martin Milner, Adam-12, Officers Reed and Malloy. Well, I thought it was very cool.

In fact the whole book was cool, exciting, funny and the perfect remedy for the fan who has two more weeks before Monk episodes resume on USA.

Buy it at Amazon!

By Lee Goldberg
304 Pages
ISBN 0451220137
Price: $6.99
Release Date: Janurary 2nd, 2007


Monk Fun Page Review:
Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii

Hawaii Cover

Sung to the tune of the theme from Hawaii Five-0 —
If you get in trouble, call the Monk, that's me.
If you find a dead body, I'm the guy to see-eee
Stop! In the name of the law.
Stop! Murder sticks in my craw.
I'll find the killer. Call the Monk that's me....

Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii is filled with inspired goofiness, rich characterizations, an intricate mystery and a lot of fun. You probably won't want to put it down until it's over and that's way too soon.

Unwilling to stay home alone, Monk tags along on Natalie's vacation, with a little help from Dr. Kroger's magic "Dioxynl" pills, which make the long flight tolerable for Monk and intolerable for Natalie.

"Everything should be dry-roasted," he proclaimed to one and all. "Has anybody ever tried dry-roasted chicken? Or dry-roasted granola? The possibilities are limitless!"

I thought the flight would never end.

(Natalie doesn't realize how lucky she is that no one was actually murdered on the plane.)

Once the effects of the medication have worn off Monk discovers that Hawaii is not his idea of paradise and Natalie learns that a vacation with Monk is no vacation. Quicker than you can say Prince of Darkness, Monk spoils a wedding and a fellow hotel guest falls victim to the Monk curse. ("Stop calling me the Prince of Darkness. That's how rumors get started.") Even though the local police have concluded she was accidentally killed by a falling coconut, Monk knows she was murdered. All the clues and a TV psychic point to her philandering young husband, but Monk realizes there's more to it.

Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii is the second Monk novel by Lee Goldberg. This one is also told from the perspective of Monk's assistant Natalie Teeger. In fact the author has settled so comfortably into her voice you almost expect to see her name on the cover. This is the kinder, gentler Natalie she's grown to be on the show. This is the Natalie I'd like to spend more time with: funny, strong, loving and vulnerable.

In Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse having the story told from her viewpoint created a bit of a barrier between Monk and the reader, which required some adjustment from long time Monk fans. However, in this novel, by removing them from their natural habitat we get a deeper exploration of their relationship and a better understanding of Adrian Monk through Natalie's eyes.

The change of scenery also means that the novel is virtually SFPD free. On Kauai, the character of Lt. Ben Kealoha fills the gap left by Stottlemeyer and Disher. This isn't the first time Lt. Kealoha has dealt with a crazy haole [foreigner]. He was introduced in the Diagnosis Murder novel The Death Merchant by Lee Goldberg, where Dr. Mark Sloan takes a Hawaiian vacation with similarly predictable results.

"Almost too great," Monk said. "I never trust people with great alibis. Or people who drink soda directly from the can. Or people who pierce any part of their bodies."

"I have pierced ears," I said.

"So do I," Kealoha said. ""Nipples, too"

I'd definitely like to know more about Kealoha. Maybe he can visit Monk in San Francisco one day.

On my one and only visit to Hawaii the luau was the only disappointing part. It rained, so we had it indoors. On the other hand, Monk and Natalie's luau absolutely rocked, but I won't spoil it for you by describing the entree.

This book marks the first time that Summit NJ has been immortalized in literature. At least I'm betting it's the first time. The mention in the book is a nod to the Monk writing staff who toil in Summit rather than in Los Angeles where most television writers are found. Reportedly they have a lot more fun.

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It's a solid mystery and I found the solution particularly satisfying. No doubt fans will catch a few errors, but I didn't notice any.... except that Monk and Natalie are flying out of LAX and Monk's still eating cereal (but I didn't notice any mention of milk: he could be eating it dry.) By and large though, it's very consistent with the series and yet charmingly enhanced by Natalie's voice.

Lee Goldberg once said,"I want to capture the feel of the series, but also I want these books to stand on their own. They’re original novels. They’re not based on episodes. So I want them to almost read as if they’re the books the TV series is based on." I think that's what he's achieved with Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii.

Each Monk season consists of only sixteen episodes a year, which allows the writers and cast to deliver consistent quality, but a loyal fan is left wanting more. A couple of Monk novels a year sure helps. I'm not sure how that equation will work if they keep making episodes based on the novels (as with the episode Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing based on Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse.) However, I'm pretty sure they can't afford to film in Hawaii.

The novel ends with an excerpt from Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu which will be released early next year. Looks like San Francisco has a new fictional Mayor in Blue Flu and he shares the last name of a favorite actor of mine, Smitrovich. Bill Smitrovich played Inspector Cramer in A&E's Nero Wolfe, for which Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin wrote. Coincidence? I'm thinking, not.

"Open your eyes, woman. There are lizards on the wall. This is a full-wipe situation." — Adrian Monk

By Lee Goldberg
294 Pages
ISBN 0451219007
Price: $6.99
Release Date: July 1, 2006


Monk Fun Page Review:
Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse

Most insanely devoted Monk fans, and some of the more casual viewers, will approach Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse with a little trepidation. How can this new medium hope to capture the essence of Monk the series and Monk the character? The charm and success of both seem inextricably tied to the virtuoso (Emmy, SAG, Golden Globe winning) performance of the show's producer and star Tony Shalhoub. Author Lee Goldberg's answer to that is to dedicate the book To Tony Shalhoub, the one and only Monk and to take a step back from the title character. Instead he tells the story from the point of view of Adrian Monk's assistant, Natalie Teeger and it turns out Natalie's head is a nice place to be.

In this novel, the first of at least three, Monk's apartment is being fumigated so he moves in with Natalie and her 12-year-old daughter Julie for a few days. Julie's got a ready made mystery for their houseguest: Sparky the firehouse dog has been murdered. Monk agrees to take the case, but the Dalmatian's demise is just the tip of the garbage heap. The mysteries pile up quickly, but Monk eventually sorts them all out.

The Natalie persona is a comfortable host in the tradition of Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin. Like her literary predecessors, she's sufficiently mystified by the puzzles Monk solves; she tackles the romantic subplot with warmth and humor; and she does most of the heavy lifting. Her encounter with the mugger is inspirational.

The humor throughout is very Monk, just a little off center and never too jokey: "He's a dog, she's a dog, I think that's all that really matters to dogs," I said. "That's why they call them dogs."

The characterizations of Natalie, Captain Stottlemeyer and Julie are all spot on. Lt. Disher only shines briefly, but that's how it usually is for him on the series as well. All the new characters are very vivid. So much so that it's almost as easy to visualize them as the characters we already know. One of my favorites is the Fire Chief, Captain Mantooth. Unless I'm wrong, which I don't think I am, that's a nod to Firefighter/Paramedic Johnny Gage, played by Randy Mantooth on the classic TV series Emergency. I hope when and if the novel becomes an episode that Randy's available for the part. Pop culture references abound and that's part of what makes the book just plain fun to read.

The plotting is well done, intricate and exciting, but the novel also has the one element that defines the series, heart. It's what makes the character of Adrian Monk admirable instead of laughable and what makes all the relationships ring true. Early on Natalie and Stottlemeyer have a brief conversation:

"How are you holding up with Monk as a houseguest," Stottlemeyer asked me.

"It's only been a few hours."

"A few hours with Monk can seem like decades," he said. He took a pen from his pocket, scrawled something on the back of a business card and handed it to me. "This is my home number. If you need a break, give me a call. I can take him out to the car wash."

"Thank you, Captain," I said. "That's very nice of you."

"You and I are the only ones who take care of him. We have to back each other up."

"We're sort of like partners."

"Sort of," Stottlemeyer said.

"He likes the car wash?"

"Loves it," Stottlemeyer said.

Perfect. From that point on I didn't put the book down.

I cheered at the ending of the main mystery and loved the final chapter with the revelation of a secondary mystery.

Monk fans will no doubt spot a few continuity errors. Most noticably, as revealed in the series, Monk doesn't drink milk and although he never actually gets around to it here, it's discussed as if he does. I was also suprised that Monk was allergic to cats. In "Mr. Monk and the Missing Granny" it was established that Disher was allergic to cats, but there was no indication that Monk was and in that particular episode he's exposed to the same cat that Disher is.

As a result of a surprising development on the show, Natalie goes from saying she pushes a cart around Wal-Mart in the beginning of the novel to admitting she grew up with money and it feels like a bit of a u-turn even if it was unavoidable.

Also at the beginning some readers may already identify more strongly with Monk than Natalie does, but the bond between the characters seems to get stronger as the plot progresses. We finally get a deeper look at Monk from Natalie's perspective when he confides in her about what drives him: "There's nothing magical or spiritual about it. I'm not skilled enough yet to figure out who murdered my wife. If I solve enough cases, maybe someday I will be."

Even with a couple of minor flaws that won't get by most Monk fans, Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse is just what Monk should be. Goldberg has a clever, breezy style that matches the tone of the series. Even the hard to please devoted fans of the TV series shouldn't be disappointed and with only sixteen episodes a year supplemental Monk is a blessing.

Author Lee Goldberg is the mystery writing's answer to Pierce Brosnan. Brash, yet sensitive; jaded, yet optimistic, he's toiled in the Hollywood trenches for decades as a screenwriter and producer on such cultured fare as Diagnosis Murder, Nero Wolfe, Deadly Games, Flipper, Baywatch and, of course, not just one, but two episodes of Monk. He has a couple of Edgar Award Nominations and a notorious blog. He doesn't brag about it, but he writes like a girl: "My wife is amazed I was able to capture a woman's voice, too" admits Goldberg. "If I understand women so well, she says, why don't I understand her!" (Probably the same reason Adrian Monk can't solve his wife's murder: he's just too close to it.) Lee is also the man behind the woman for Natalie's blogs on the USA Network Monk Site.

Goldberg, Lee. Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse. New York: Signet, 2006. 292 pages. $6.99


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