Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out by Lee Goldberg (Monk #10)


Stars: 4 out of 5
ProsFast moving, fun book with plenty of laughs
ConsRecycled set up; some characters issues
Bottom Line:
Monk on a job hunt
Creates humor that supports
A good mystery




Mr. Monk and the Ponzi Scheme

Like all the fans of the Monk TV show, I was disappointed when the show went off the air this last December.  However, I wasn't completely heartbroken since I knew I'd have more adventures with the wonderful series of tie-in novels penned by Lee Goldberg.  Mr. Monk Is Cleaned Out is the tenth novel in the series, and it does a great job of keeping the fun alive.

This book is set before the series finale, so anyone who has seen the show can jump right in.  And if you haven't?  All you really need to know is that Adrian Monk is a brilliant detective who is hampered by his phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder.  He is aided in his daily life by his assistant Natalie.  He makes his living by consulting with the San Francisco Homicide Department, especially Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher.

Budget cuts are an on-going problem at the San Francisco Police Department, and unfortunately, Monk is the victim once again when his services are no longer affordable.  Then he gets the bad news that all of his life savings are gone.  Seems he had turned them over to Bob Sebes, a man now under house arrest for running a giant Ponzi scheme that has collapsed.

Then one of the key witnesses against Bob Sebes is murdered.  Monk immediately decides that Sebes must be the killer despite the fact that Sebes is wearing a GPS device at all times and his house is surrounded by the media.  Is Monk right?  Will he solve the case even though he is no longer a consultant?  And can Natalie find the two of them a job that they can both keep?

I was a bit put off at first because Monk being let go due to budget cuts was a major plot point of the eighth book in the series, just two books ago.  However, as soon as that was acknowledged, I let it go and began to enjoy this book for what it was.  Actually, quite a bit of time was devoted to the story of Monk and Natalie trying to find a new job, and I found those parts of the book extremely entertaining and funny.  I couldn't help but feel sorry for Natalie who felt responsible for making sure Monk had income even though it was costing her jobs as well.

At times the mystery takes a back seat of Monk's job woes, but when it is front and center, it is quite strong.  I was left wondering how things would end, and I thought the ending was great.  And no matter which plot line was front and center, the story was always moving forward and keeping me entertained.

Some of the characters were a bit off to me here.  Monk, Natalie, and Stottlemeyer were great.  I could definitely see the actors who played them as I read about them.  However, Disher seemed off to me.  Frankly, of the four main characters, he's always seemed like the hardest to get right.  He's a goofball it's hard to take seriously.  He'll often provide some comic relief, but he can easily go over the top and just be absurd.  That was the case here, although I could see his TV counterpart doing most of the stuff he did here.  Natalie's daughter Julie was more of a whiney teenager than I ever thought she was in the TV show, and since I loved that character on the show, the changes bothered me a little.

This book focuses quite a bit of time on Natalie and Monk, and it's hard to say very many other characters got enough page time to be fully developed.  However, I didn't feel they suffered from that lack of page time.  These were real people who just didn't have a lot of time in the story.

As always, Natalie's first person narration keeps the story moving forward at a brisk pace.  I flew through the book much faster than I really wanted.

If you have been missing Monk, there is indeed a cure.  Get Mr. Monk Is Cleaned Out and catch up with these old friends.  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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