Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants by Lee Goldberg (Monk #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Funny story; great mystery; strong characters
Cons: One needless scene
Bottom Line:
Sharona is back
In a wonderful story
Filled with some great laughs

Mr. Monk and Sharona's Return

One of my favorite TV shows in Monk. Every episode finds our hero battling the forces of evil, both in the form of criminals and the form of dirt and disorder. Beside some brilliant puzzles, there are some funny and tender human moments are Monk tries to deal with the world around him.

Monk has had two assistants over the course of the series. For the first two and a half seasons, Sharona was by his side helping him deal with every day life. When the character of Sharona left the show Monk, many fans were upset. And while most have eventually warmed to Natalie, her replacement, some have wondered what would happen if the two met. That's exactly the scenario explored in this tie-in novel, entitled appropriately enough Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants.

When Natalie's daughter Julie breaks her arm, Monk accompanies the two to the emergency room. There, he is shocked to discover that the ER nurse on duty is his former assistant, Sharona. She's returned to San Francisco after her husband was arrested for a murder down in Los Angeles. While he insists he's innocent, Sharona has written him off and intends to leave him forever.

Natalie is not happy about this turn of events. While Monk can irritate her, she has grown to love her boss and doesn't want to lose her job. So she heads down to LA to find out what she can. Her meeting with Trevor convinces her of his innocence, so she goes about trying to get Monk to take the case.

Monk quickly agrees with Natalie's assessment, but the dirt in LA distracts him. Plus there's a bizarre case in San Francisco that needs his attention. Can he free Trevor? Will Sharona return to work for Monk?

If you're at all a fan of the show, you'll love this book. Since Lee Goldberg has written episodes of the show with both assistants, his characterizations are spot on. Not that it is any surprise since all of Mr. Goldberg's books feature great characters. And there are some great moments that explore the relationships more than can be done on the TV show. This book does a good job of filling in the story around Sharona's departure from Monk's life, and she comes out of the novel looking pretty good.

This novel really revolves around Monk, Natalie, and Sharona. But that's not to say the other characters are bad. Even some of the ones that only have one scene are memorable. And those who are actually involved in the story are well developed.

The book moves through the set up pretty quickly. In fact, the story keeps moving pretty quickly. It did seem to be getting off track at one point, but my faith in Mr. Goldberg's storytelling was rewarded. Everything became important in the end.

And of course, the story was funny. Monk keeps finding himself in situations that make for some funny moments. The drive the three characters take from San Francisco to Los Angeles is a classic. Natalie's first person observations really help bring out the humor.

Having lived in the LA area for over a decade now, I enjoyed watching Monk travel in some of my stomping grounds. It's the geek in me, I guess.

As with all Lee Goldberg's novels, the writing flows. I flew through this book and wished there was more.

Despite all the praise, there was one scene in the middle of this book that really made me uncomfortable. Frankly, it didn't feel like it belonged in the Monk universe which is usually a bit more innocent then this frank talk about sex. But that's my only complaint, and it only detracted from my enjoyment momentarily.

That minor quibble aside, Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants is a great entry that will please fans of either assistant.

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

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