by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a review of the final Monk book, Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant, by Hy Conrad. We also have a fun interview with Hy about his time with Monk both in books & TV. At the end of this post are details on how to win a copy of this book, and a link to purchase it where a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy.
Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant, by Hy Conrad
Review by Sandra Murphy
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Mr. Monk and Natalie Teeger are no longer boss and assistant. They are equal partners (in Natalie’s mind anyway) in Monk and Teeger, Consulting Detectives. The staying the same part is…well, Monk is still Monk. In order to maintain the peace, they take turns at the office.
Monk still has his “no divorce work” rule. Natalie has a rule of her own: bring in enough business to pay the bills and be able to eat. In a moment of madness, she takes on a divorce case. That’s the easy part. Making sure Monk doesn’t find out is the hard part.
Of course, as soon as Natalie takes the job, business picks up. She’s arranged for them to be on retainer with a law firm that needs to find out who is leaking the details of a client’s huge business deal. Mr. Monk doesn’t know about the retainer agreement, either.
The worst is that Judge Oberlin has died. Just back from a trip out of the country, he suffers a vacationer’s illness which shouldn’t have been fatal. Leave it to Monk to stand at the open casket and declare the Judge’s death a murder.
When Captain Stottlemeyer has similar symptoms just a few days later, it raises alarms with Natalie, the Captain’s new wife, and Monk—particularly since Teddy Bear, the Stottlemeyer’s dog falls ill too. (Don’t worry.)
It’s poison, but how did the Judge, the Captain and the dog all ingest or breathe it? Even Monk is stumped about the who, how and why of it all.
The new Lieutenant is A.J., son of an old friend of Stottlemeyer’s. He’s not all that great a cop, and his people skills are worse than Monk’s, but friendship overrides and he’s now second in command. That also puts him in charge of paying consultants like Natalie and Monk. With fewer cases coming their way and A.J. discounting their invoices, things are looking grim.
Monk always has a solution though, even—or especially—when it isn’t convenient for anyone but him. One phone call is enough to bring Randy Disher, Stottlemeyer’s former Lieutenant, back from the East Coast to help.
A note left on Stottlemeyer’s desk says the Judge’s death is revenge. Seven years ago, Natalie and Monk were out of the country when the police worked a few cases on their own, hard as it is for Monk to believe. It seems one of them has come back to haunt them.
There’s enough misdirection, sleight of hand, and clues in plain sight to keep a reader busy. Natalie is much stronger, her daughter Julie is an adult now, and Monk, although still in the throes of OCD, does show some signs of improvement. In spite of all the red herrings, I did figure out who the murderer was but not how or why. With Monk, the reader is taught to watch for the small details so figuring it out is not a disappointment—it just makes you feel smarter to see the same thing Monk saw.
According to Conrad, this could well be the last Monk book to be written. Conrad was a writer on the Monk television show from the beginning and took on the books when Lee Goldberg stopped writing them. Now Conrad is moving on as well (look for his original series coming the end of January, the Amy’s Travel Mysteries). This book wraps up enough loose ends, personally and professionally, to satisfy but leaves room for more books to follow, should another writer be found. I, for one, hope that happens. A world without Monk to instill order in the chaos is too sad to contemplate.
Editor’s note: Check out a review of Hy’s first book in his new mystery series right here in this issue of KRL along with a giveaway of the book!
Interview with Hy Conrad
KRL: I understand that the new Monk book, Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant, will be the final one in the series–how does it feel to have the story of Monk coming to an end after being involved in not only the last few books but the show as well?
Hy: Just last week, I had lunch with Andy Breckman, the show’s creator, who asked me a similar question: “After all these years, how does it feel to kill off Adrian Monk?” He didn’t really expect an answer. But he knew that, no matter how much a writer loves a character, there comes a time when you have to move on.
Monk was a group creation – Andy, Tony Shalhoub, the writers, the directors. As such, he didn’t reflect any one person’s voice or personality. It will be good for me to move on and create characters that reflect just me. It’s quite liberating, to be honest.
KRL: Can you tell us a little bit about this book?
Hy: The story, in a nutshell, is that someone murdered a judge and now is trying to kill Captain Stottlemeyer, first by poisoning, then a gun attack, then a car bomb. Monk comes to his friend’s aid, but his job is made harder by the captain’s new lieutenant, a know-it-all bully who hates Monk and has no patience for his little quirks.
The apparent motive, revenge, stems back to an earlier case, one that Monk wasn’t involved in, so Stottlemeyer’s old lieutenant, Randy Disher, flies to San Francisco to help out. More comedy and murder ensue.
KRL: Do you feel like the series has had a satisfying ending?
Hy: I hope it does. So far, I’ve had no reaction to the ending, except from my editor, who is basically paid to love everything I write.
The thing I wanted to avoid was tying it all up in a pretty ribbon, giving Monk a happy ending with nowhere else to go in the reader’s imagination. One of my favorite endings was the finale to The Sopranos. People complained that the ending was a cliffhanger, but it wasn’t. The uneasy safety of Tony and his family in the diner, followed by a blackout, seemed a perfect allegory for the mobster’s future. In the same way, you could consider the ending of the Monk novels as a window into his future.
At the time I wrote New Lieutenant, I didn’t know if the publisher would continue the series with a new writer or not. I wanted to give an open ending for someone to come along and make the series new again.
KRL: Was it difficult to write it knowing it was your last time with Monk?
Hy: No. It was actually easier, although it took longer. Andy Breckman always told me that I should make Monk more my own creation in the books. Knowing that this was my last time gave me the freedom to do just that.
Having said that, I don’t think I’ve completely processed the fact that I won’t be writing in his brilliant, unforgettable voice anymore.
KRL: How do you feel about how Monk has changed over time?
Hy: I remember in Season One, watching as Tony Shalhoub prepared for each take. It was almost painful to see him put so much energy into the character’s quirks and phobias. Over time, he relaxed more into the role, trusting his instincts and making the role his own. I think that’s what the writers did as well. There are certain “givens” in the world of Monk: he can never be happy; he can never be cured; he can never be in another happy relationship. But he can never stop trying. He’s like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, which is what makes him so endearing.
KRL: How many Monk books have you written including this one?
Hy: I’ve written four of the nineteen Monk books: Mr. Monk Helps Himself, Mr. Monk Gets On Board, Mr. Monk is Open for Business and the last, Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant.
KRL: How does writing the books compare to writing for the show?
Hy: Writing for TV involves more dialogue and very little description. Plus, in TV, you’re trusting your actors to add their magic. In a novel, you have to trust the reader.
KRL: What was it like writing for and producing the show?
Hy: That’s a tough question. Monk was my first foray into TV writing, and it only happened because Andy, the show’s creator, was in a bookstore, looking for mystery ideas when he came across one of my books and decided to call me up. It was a great eight years and probably spoiled me for any other job in TV.
KRL: Did it feel good coming back to the character when you took over writing the books?
Hy: I felt rusty and out of my element, to be honest. But I read a few of Lee Goldberg’s books, then re-watched a few of my favorite episodes. And then I just dove in.
KRL: Did you ever think that this character would continue on for so long after the show ended?
Hy: I was more surprised by how long the show has existed in re-runs and how loyal the Monk fans have continued to be. It’s very gratifying.
KRL: What is next for you?
Hy: Currently, I’m working on another TV project. I can’t say anything about it, except that it features another dysfunctional detective with problems to overcome. That seems to be what I gravitate to now.
KRL: You have another non Monk mystery coming out later this month–can you tell us a little about that one?
Hy: The title is Toured to Death from Kensington Publishing. It’s the first in a series featuring a travel agent, Amy Abel, who leads high-end tours around the world and always seems to run into murder. It combines my two great loves: mysteries and travel.
KRL: Anything else you would like to share?
Hy: Even though the Monk novels are definitely cozy mysteries, I’ve never thought of myself as a “cozy” writer. In the Amy’s Travel Mysteries, I think I’ve come up with a hybrid. The books are told in the third person, with a changing point of view and more complex plotting. Every good writer, they say, writes for himself. This is kind of story I would love to read. I just hope there are enough readers out there who enjoy the same things.
To enter to win a copy of Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant, 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 17, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Use this link to purchase a copy of the book & help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy: