Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse by Lee Goldberg (Monk #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Easy to read book that captures the fun of the TV show
Cons: A couple inconsistencies with the series, but worth noting only in passing
Bottom Line:
Tie-in series starts
With all the fun of the show
Fans will want to read

Mr. Monk and the Dead Dog

Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse is the first novel in a series tying into the TV show Monk, which airs on the USA Network. The mystery series follows Adrian Monk as he solves crimes in San Francisco. A former police detective, Monk was kicked off the force after his phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder made it impossible for him to function on a normal basis. He still consults on some of their most difficult cases since his problems often help him find the one clue needed to solve the case.

Adrian Monk is about to be homeless. His apartment is being fumigated for termites, so he needs a place to stay. Fortunately, his assistant Natalie is willing, reluctantly at best, to take him in for the week.

Monk's hardly started moving in when Natalie's daughter gets a phone call. Sparky, the Dalmatian at the local firehouse, has been murdered. While not the type of case that Monk would normally take, he agrees to find the killer to make Julie feel better.

While trying to interview Fireman Joe, Sparky's owner, Monk and Natalie go to the scene of a fatal fire. Monk hasn't been there five minutes before he declares that the fire was not the accident it looks like but arson to cover up a murder. Is there a connection with the case of the murdered dog?

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I love this TV series. Knowing Lee Goldberg's excellent work with the Diagnosis: Murder novels, my hopes were high for this book. They were met on every level.

Mr. Goldberg decided to write the book from Natalie's point of view. Not only does this give us great insight into the character, but it also allows us to marvel, laugh, or be frustrated with Monk's strange antics. The characters on the show are well rounded, and that holds true here as well. While we may be laughing at Monk in one scene, we sympathies with him in the next. Watching this from Natalie's viewpoint allows us to see how she deals with the challenges of her job on a daily basis.

The plot stays true to the series as well. Even though it is rather obvious early on who did it, the real mystery becomes how will Monk prove it. Along the way, there are several false trails and a couple twists that put Monk into uncomfortable situations. Each chapter has a title, but even looking ahead, I couldn't figure out what they might mean for the plot.

The story is told in an easy to read style that pulls you in and makes it hard to put down. I raced through the book to see what would happen next. And the humor of the series comes through as well. I started laughing on page two and a smile never left my face for the rest of the book.

While there are a couple inconsistencies with the TV show, only Monk wouldn't be able to overlook them and enjoy this book. It easily captures the spirit of the TV show and will entertain fans and non-fans alike with its humor and warmth.

And as a note of trivia, six months later Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse was turned into the fifth season episode "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing."

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

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