Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop by Lee Goldberg (Monk #8)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, engaging story
Cons: None
Bottom Line:
Monk has a new job
But can't leave murder behind
Which is fun for us

Mr. Monk and the Budget Cuts

Mr. Monk must be in eighth heaven.  First, it's an even number.  Second, the TV series started the eighth (and final) season just a month after the eighth novel based on the series was released.  The good news for fans of the show is that Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop is another strong adventure for our favorite police consultant.

And police consulting is now Adrian Monk makes his living.  He used to be a detective for the San Francisco Police Department, but after his wife was murdered, his obsessive compulsive disorder and phobias took over his life.  He is still brought in when Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher face a case they can't solve.  Rounding out the main characters is Natalie, Monk's assistant, who helps him get through his every day life.

As this book opens, the city of San Francisco is hosting a conference for cops all across the country.  As part of that, Captain Stottlemeyer and Monk have been asked to speak about their unique working relationship.  But the panel is moderated by Paul Banning, a dirty cop that Stottlemeyer had forced out of the SFPD years before.

By the time the panel is over, Stottlemeyer looks like an idiot who relies on Monk for everything.  So Natalie assumes it is payback when Monk finds out the next day that his consulting services have been terminated even though the official explanation is budget cuts.  Monk is determined to continue helping out the department whether he gets paid or not.  Natalie, on the other hand, is concerned about money.  Will someone else hire Monk?  What about the string of murders occurring in San Francisco?

I'm being purposefully vague about the murders because they don't really start to come into play until late in the book.  Instead, the focus of the first part is the set up that pays off in the second half of the story.  Trust me, nothing is wasted and the pace is steady over the course of the entire novel.  When the mystery really kicks in, it becomes an extension of all that has come before.  And yes, the mystery is quite strong.  I suspected I knew where it was all leading yet was still surprised when it got there.

All four of the TV characters get their moment to shine here while staying true to their series selves.  Monk manages to maintain his oblivion to those around him while still letting a few moments of compassion to others shine through.  Natalie has quite an interesting character arc, and I loved how that played out.  Stottlemeyer and Disher both earn our sympathy as events unfold.  There are a couple scenes between those two that truly made me feel for both of them.  And yes, new psychiatrist Dr. Bell makes his first appearance in a novel here, although it is very brief.

This book has some strong supporting characters as well.  I'm not going to give anything away, but I did feel like they were real people.  There's even one I wouldn't mind seeing show up again.

Speaking of showing up again, author Lee Goldberg manages to work in a character from an episode of the TV series that he wrote.  I found that extra fun.

Of course, there are plenty of jokes along the way.  Watching Monk deal with the world is always funny.  Here, I just loved the sub-plot involving the Diaper Genie.

Fans of the TV series that have missed the novels have truly missed out on some fun.  If you aren't obsessive compulsive, Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop makes as good a place as any to start.  Whether you do that or start at the beginning, pick up one today.  You'll thank me later.

Interested in reading more?  Since this is Monk, you'll have to read the Monk Novels in order.

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