by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of this review on how to enter to win a copy of Mr. Monk is Open for Business, along with a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL & an indie bookstore.
A perfect office space, located directly between his home and that of his boss/former assistant Natalie Teeger, and the declaration by Natalie and San Francisco Police Captain Stottlemeyer that Adrian Monk is standing in his new detective agency, is not enough to break Monk’s ability to deny the truth. Or accept change. He’s had a rough week though, considering that his attempt to reconcile with his former girlfriend, Ellen Morse, proved to be an epic failure. Monk’s myriad phobias, OCD, arrogance, and stubbornness can certainly be a lot to take, although arresting one of Ellen’s relatives for murder was probably the nail in that relationship’s coffin.
When he is eventually coaxed back into their office, and working under Natalie’s private investigator’s license, Monk and Natalie are hired by an attorney to represent accused murderer Henry Pickler. Pickler was caught by the police literally standing over a body while holding a shovel, but Monk is certain of Pickler’s innocence due to the man’s criticism of his wife’s poor flossing habits and his obsessive cleaning of the interrogation room. Kindred spirits!
A second case comes along from an unlikely source. Detective Amy Devlin has never been shy in voicing her distain of Monk’s skills, but when a shooter escapes after killing three coworkers Devlin seeks out his and Natalie’s help to prove that she didn’t make a mistake. Monk might be more helpful if he were not still on the rebound from the romantic break-up, as an enamored Monk is just as irritating as one would expect. Luckily for both Devlin’s and Natalie’s sanity, aid comes in in the form of Monk’s equally neurotic brother, Ambrose, and his wife/caretaker/Harley-rider, Yuki Nakamura, as well as an unexpected visit from her Natalie’s college-aged daughter, Julie, who is seeking a new opportunity. Julie and Natalie have a refreshingly functional and loving relationship, assisted perhaps by Natalie’s skilled use of motherly guilt and a built-in lie detector honed through her investigative cases.
In this latest of the Monk mysteries, now being written by Hy Conrad, the author continues to follow the basic formula of investigating one main mystery interspersed with solving several brief cases. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, considering its origin as a television series and Conrad as one of the creators. Delight comes in seeing Natalie grow confident with her ability to spot clues almost—and that’s a big “almost”—as fast as Monk. Truly humorous moments come with the normally upfront Natalie continuing to attend, and take some comfort in, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings after Monk’s quest for cookies had her accidentally joining the group, and now she is too ashamed to fess up her deception.
As with previous novels, the culprit is often quickly identifiable; the puzzle comes in figuring out just how the crime was committed and then proving it. Locked rooms, steadfast and reliable witnesses, a smoking gun…none of those mean anything when they contradict Mr. Monk’s conclusions. Monk balances being infuriatingly irritating and appealingly vulnerable, and the novel is always entertaining with Natalie’s sardonic narrative and her completely relatable and admirable intelligence.
To enter to win a copy of Mr. Monk is Open for Business, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Business,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 27, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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