by Cynthia Chow
Lee Goldberg has passed the baton of writing the Monk books over to mystery & TV writer Hy Conrad and KRL is starting the year off with reviews of the first two! Details on how to win both at the end of this post.
Mr. Monk Helps Himself
After having left her position as a minder for the brilliant but unable-to-interact-with-life police consultant, Adrian Monk, to become a police officer herself in Summit, New Jersey, Natalie Teeger has returned to San Francisco once again to partner up with the demanding phobic. However, Natalie is determined that their relationship be established on new grounds, as she works to attain the private investigation license that Monk will work under, as they partner up as consultants under a retainer for the San Francisco Police Department. Not surprisingly, this will prove to be far more difficult than even she can predict.
All of this upheaval in Natalie’s life has her understandably questioning her decisions, and this has led her to seek advice and solace from infomercial lectures conducted by self-help guru, Miranda Bigley. Additional recommendations for the life coach come from Monk’s sort-of girlfriend, the “sort-of” due to her ironic ownership of Poop, a store that sells all matter of hygienic fecal knick-knacks despite her own OCD tendencies. Needing time away from Monk to work on her identity, Natalie signs up for a weekend retreat and workshop at Bigley’s Best Possible Me Sanctuary at nearby Half Moon Bay.
Naturally, Monk detects Natalie’s deception and crashes the “cult,” only to have his confrontation end with Miranda walking off a cliff. Although it is declared a suicide, Natalie’s gut tells her something different and Monk’s picking up of clues of Miranda’s husband being involved in an affair have Natalie investigating just how he might have forced his wife to end her life.
The secondary case involves something far more terrifying; clowns. Although being somewhat low on Monk’s list of one hundred phobias, this is due to the actual odds against encountering clowns, not to their lack of “horribleness.” A professional clown was poisoned to death while clutching bundles of tainted cash, and this leads to Natalie and Monk to track down the clown’s list of clients and who may have ended the jester’s life.
I have to admit, not having watched the television series and being a huge fan of the novels previously written by Lee Goldberg, I was very leery about the Monk mysteries, newly helmed by Hy Conrad. In the foreword, author Hy Conrad states that his Monk is different from Goldberg’s Monk.
I shouldn’t have worried. Initially this Monk does seem to be distinctly more psychologically twitchy and phobic, but he retains all of his observational skills, intelligence, and ability to frustrate his coworkers and drive them nearly insane themselves. While the culprits are identified early on, the true tasks will be finding both the motives and proof of the means. Natalie and Monk’s relationship seems to have moved to a new stage as well, and this will be absolutely hilarious to observe.
Mr. Monk Gets on Board
Roommates. Tiny closets. Close quarters. Miniscule bathrooms. Buffet lines. Considering the one hundred major phobias and hundreds of minor fears, one would think that a cruise ship would be the last place Adrian Monk would ever even consider stepping a foot upon. However, that’s just where Monk finds himself when his new “boss” Natalie Teeger signs up for a “B. On the Sea” cruise ship offering a business conference for independent business owners. With her new private detective license, Natalie is the nominal head of San Francisco’s Monk and Teeger Consulting Detectives, LLC, although the OCD Monk has been less than complacent with his new role as employee to his former caretaker/keeper. Imagine Watson taking the helm while Sherlock sits in the metaphorical back seat and allows the good doctor to take the lead in an investigation. Not.
While Natalie had hoped that the sheer thought of a cruise ship would discourage Monk from joining her. This would allow her the time to attend seminars on promoting business, as well as spend some quality alone time with the attractive book specialist, Malcolm Leeds, Monk has determinedly–and secretly–signed up for the cruise, lugging along his eight suitcases of bottled water. As much as Natalie would have appreciated some time away from his needy narcissism, Monk’s presence proves to be fortunate when she overhears a conversation between the young cruise director, the ship’s captain and his wife. Natalie knows that murder is imminent. When the inevitable occurs, Monk and Natalie immediately identify the murderer; they know the who, but proving the how, that’s another matter entirely.
The scriptwriter for many of the televised Monk episodes, Conrad aptly continues to craft these quirky novelizations originally written by Lee Goldberg. Monk always manages to toe the line between being infuriatingly annoying and eccentrically brilliant, but here he has some definite work to do repairing his romantic relationship with a lovely Poop store owner. Always funny and entertaining, Monk and Natalie prove their mettle as a detective team and equal-ish partners. The more important question to be asked here though, is the one which ponders whether Natalie is ever going to finally find someone to date who isn’t a criminal or a murderer? Step into Monk’s crazy world to find out!
To enter to win a copy of both Monk books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Monk,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 11, 2014. U.S. residents only.
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