Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: Mr. Monk is Miserable by Lee Goldberg (Monk #7)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Hilarious moments in a good mystery...
Cons: ...that is slow to get started.
The Bottom Line
Stopping off in France
Proves yet again that Monk can't
Take a vacation 

Mr. Monk and the Skull in the Catacombs

Over it’s eight year run, the TV show Monk has picked up numerous fans.  And for those who want a little bit more of the defective detective, there are the Monk tie in novels.  Mr. Monk is Miserable is the seventh novel in the series.  And it continues to expand on the franchise in entertaining ways.

If you aren't familiar with the franchise, here's a quite introduction.  Monk is a former homicide detective for the San Francisco Police Department.  After his wife was murdered, his obsessive compulsive disorder took over his life.  But he still consults on some of their most difficult cases.  He is aided in daily life by Natalie, his assistant and our narrator for this adventure.

This book opens immediately after the last book, Mr. Monk Goes to Germany, ends.  While it isn't essential you read it first, it does help.  The more important thing to keep in mind is that this novel is still set in the midst of season six.  Obsessive fans will want to note that bit of chronology as they delve into the story.

Natalie is ready for a vacation.  Since she and Monk are already in Germany, she blackmails Monk into paying for them to visit Paris.  She is looking for a few days of relaxation, which means she wants no murder investigation.

When they arrive, Monk surprises her by asking to tour the sewer system.  Later that day, she insists they head to the catacombs.  That was her mistake.  See, in the middle of a pile of bones, Monk spots a skull that is only a few months old.  Worse yet, the person was murdered.  Despite Natalie's insistence that they are on vacation, Monk begins to work on the case.  Who was the victim?  Why was he buried in the catacombs?  And will Natalie ever get a real vacation?

The same complaint I had with the last book applies here as well.  The book starts pretty slowly.  In fact, there are a few chapters that are more travel log than anything else.  While Monk's problems were entertaining, they only went so far.

That doesn't last for long, and once Monk finds the skull things really took off.  Fortunately, I hadn't read the teaser on the book, because I think it gives away too much.  Since I hadn't read it, I enjoyed several surprising twists that kept me wondering how things were going to turn out.  The ending was, as always, perfectly logical but surprising at the same time.

Because there are more pages in a novel, author Lee Goldberg is able to explore the characters in greater depth.  In this book, he really shows us several different sides of Natalie.  There were times I was equally frustrated and sympathetic to her character.  Of course, all the characters from the TV show are true to themselves.  And we make some new friends as well.  There wasn't a weak moment as far as the characters were concerned.

Those familiar with the TV show know that it is as much comedy as mystery.  That holds true here as well.  I was laughing pretty hard at many things over the course of the book.  There is a sub-plot introduced in the second half that fans of the TV show will especially find hilarious.  It may have been my favorite part of the book, in fact.

As any fan of the TV series know, when Mr. Monk is Miserable, we benefit.  That's certainly the case here.

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

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