Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book Review: Mr. Monk Gets on Board by Hy Conrad (Monk #17)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun and a puzzling mystery on a cruise ship
Cons: The 271 pages would annoy Monk (since they’re odd)
The Bottom Line:
Murder on board ship
Means relaxing is over
Fun for us starting

Mr. Monk Goes Cruising

I’ve always heard that writers never throw out unused ideas.  That’s a good thing since an unused script for the TV show Monk became the basis of Mr. Monk Gets on Board.  I’m sure many changes were made to the original script (it was a Sharona episode for starters), but the result is another great adventure for Monk fans.

Now if you are not familiar with the TV show Monk, you might not want to jump in here.  You certainly could.  There’s enough background given that you won’t feel completely lost.  But there are enough references to things past that you’ll enjoy it more if you have some background on the characters (and the episode “Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico”).

Even if you were a fan of the show, it would be good to back up a few books and take a running start at this one.  Since the show stopped production, the characters and new arcs have been introduced that have really allowed the characters to grow for the better.  Yes, Adrian Monk is still a phobic OCD detective who is brilliant at solving murder.  Natalie still works with him, although their relationship is changing (no, not romantically).  It’s good stuff, but it’s best read in context.

When this book opens, it’s been a couple of months since the founding of Monk and Teeger, Consulting Detectives, and business is very slow.  So slow, in fact, that Natalie is doing anything she can to drum up business.  So when a guy they meet at a crime scene suggests the B to Sea Cruise, Natalie decides to go.  It sounds like a great way to network, and a week on a cruise ship will be fun.

Or it would if Monk hadn’t decided to tag along.  As Natalie and Monk begin a game of musical rooms, Natalie overhears a conversation that makes her think someone is about to be murdered.  Is she right?  Can she and Monk prevent the murder from happening?  And what about the strange accidents that keep happening aboard the ship?

I’ve often said that Monk was a how-done-it show.  You know who did it – the person with the perfect alibi.  All you need to know if how they committed what appears to be the perfect crime.  That’s the case again here.  Yes, I was able to pick up on a few of the clues, but they were just random facts.  I needed Natalie and Monk to piece them together for me.  As usual in the books, there are several plots running parallel, but everything is juggled with ease.  Like the show, there are a couple of points where Monk’s antics overtake the mystery, but I was being so entertained, I didn’t mind.

The characters are strong once again in this book.  Natalie continues to come into her own as a detective.  She’s still no Monk, but she’s learning and figuring things out with a nudge or two from him.  Monk is also growing, although not as fast and not quite as much.  Since so much time is spent on the ship, we get plenty of new characters, and they are equally well developed, so we can care about the outcome.

As I hinted at earlier, the comedy from the series translates as well.  Natalie’s first person narration is perfect for conveying the action.  The pages just fly by in a mix of mystery and fun, and the book is over all too soon.

So if you have a background in Monk, you’ll enjoy Mr. Monk Gets on Board.  And if you aren’t familiar with this great franchise, I recommend you start today.  You’ll enjoy it.

Of course, this is Monk.  You will read the Monk Mysteries in order, right?  You'll thank me later.

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