Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Review: Mr. Monk Helps Himself by Hy Conrad (Monk Novels #16)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: New author picks up the torch with ease
Cons: None as far as I can see
The Bottom Line:
Writer torch passes
With an entertaining book
Where is the next one?

Mr. Monk and the Clown Killer

I’m about as big a fan of change as Adrian Monk, so I seriously considered ending my involvement with the Monk tie-in novels after Lee Goldberg decided to stop writing them.  After all, I loved what he’d done with the characters especially since the series ended, and I was worried that a new writer would destroy that.  But then I learned that one of the writer/producers on the show was going to continue the series.  And Hy Conrad decided to continue the character’s lives from where Lee left them.  So I gave Mr. Monk Helps Himself a chance.

You should, too.

These novels, of course, are based on the TV show Monk that aired on the USA Network.  Part comedy and part mystery, it told the story of Adrian Monk, a brilliant detective in spite of, and because of, his numerous phobias and OCD.  Helping him deal with every day life was Natalie Teeger, who has grown into a budding detective herself.

It’s been a few months since Natalie moved back to San Francisco, and she is actively studying for her PI license.  Okay, maybe actively isn’t quite the right word, but she does have the test coming soon.  Before she takes it, she is planning on a nice weekend away at the retreat center run by self-help guru Miranda Bigley.  But at lunch on Saturday, Miranda calmly walks to the edge of the cliff and jumps off.  What would drive her to do that?

While Natalie obsesses over this case, Monk lands a case with one of his biggest phobias – clowns.  Monk has to face this fear since it is how the victim made his living.  He was obviously poisoned, but there’s no obvious means of delivery.  How was he poisoned?  And why would someone poison a clown?  Well, other than the reasons Monk would give us, of course.

The two cases are intriguing and kept me turning pages.  While Monk does ultimately provide both solutions, Natalie makes her own contributions.  This new relationship that has been growing over the course of the last few books is going to be very interesting moving forward.  Both cases reach logical and exiting conclusions.

As I already hinted, the character growth we’ve been seeing, especially in Natalie, continues here.  Both she and Monk are true to character, as is Captain Stottlemeyer.  Of course, that's hardly a surprise since Hy wrote for them on the TV show.  The other characters that Lee has created since the show ended are here, too, and they are true to themselves as well.  The new characters are fleshed out enough to fit their part in the story.

And the comedy?  I laughed several times and grinned many more.  The book is the perfect mix of mystery, comedy, and character moments, just what I expect from the franchise.  Natalie’s first person narration certainly helps with her observations often creating some laughs.

I tried to go into this book with an open mind.  By about the third chapter, I wasn’t trying any more.  I was fully lost in Monk’s world and loving every page of it.  Oh, you can pick apart some minor difference, but what do you expect with a new author writing the books?  Those who love the characters will be perfectly content with what we get in Mr. Monk Helps Himself.

After all, we aren’t Monk.

But like Monk, we want to read the Monk Mysteries in order, right?

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