Fun Page Review: Mr. Monk Goes to
insanely devoted Monk fans,
and some of the more casual
viewers, will approach
Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse
with a little trepidation.
How can this new medium hope
to capture the essence of
Monk the series and Monk the
character? The charm and success
of both seem inextricably
tied to the virtuoso (Emmy,
SAG, Golden Globe winning)
performance of the show's
producer and star Tony Shalhoub.
Author Lee Goldberg's answer
to that is to dedicate the
book To Tony Shalhoub,
the one and only Monk
and to take a step back from
the title character. Instead
he tells the story from the
point of view of Adrian Monk's
assistant, Natalie Teeger
and it turns out Natalie's
head is a nice place to be.
this novel, the first of at least
three, Monk's apartment is being
fumigated so he moves in with Natalie
and her 12-year-old daughter Julie
for a few days. Julie's got a ready
made mystery for their houseguest:
Sparky the firehouse dog has been
murdered. Monk agrees to take the
case, but the Dalmatian's demise
is just the tip of the garbage heap.
The mysteries pile up quickly, but
Monk eventually sorts them all out.
Natalie persona is a comfortable
host in the tradition of Dr. Watson
and Archie Goodwin. Like her literary
predecessors, she's sufficiently
mystified by the puzzles Monk solves;
she tackles the romantic subplot
with warmth and humor; and she does
most of the heavy lifting. Her encounter
with the mugger is inspirational.
The humor throughout is very Monk,
just a little off center and never
too jokey: "He's a dog,
she's a dog, I think that's all
that really matters to dogs,"
I said. "That's why they call
characterizations of Natalie, Captain
Stottlemeyer and Julie are all spot
on. Lt. Disher only shines briefly,
but that's how it usually is for
him on the series as well. All the
new characters are very vivid. So
much so that it's almost as easy
to visualize them as the characters
we already know. One of my favorites
is the Fire Chief, Captain Mantooth.
Unless I'm wrong, which I don't
think I am, that's a nod to Firefighter/Paramedic
Johnny Gage, played by Randy Mantooth
on the classic TV series Emergency.
I hope when and if the novel becomes
an episode that Randy's available
for the part. Pop culture references
abound and that's part of what makes
the book just plain fun to read.
plotting is well done, intricate
and excting, but the novel also
has the one element that defines
the series, heart. It's what makes
the character of Adrian Monk admirable
instead of laughable and what makes
all the relationships ring true.
Early on Natalie and Stottlemeyer
have a brief conversation:
are you holding up with Monk as
a houseguest," Stottlemeyer
only been a few hours."
few hours with Monk can seem like
decades," he said. He took
a pen from his pocket, scrawled
something on the back of a business
card and handed it to me. "This
is my home number. If you need a
break, give me a call. I can take
him out to the car wash."
you, Captain," I said. "That's
very nice of you."
and I are the only ones who take
care of him. We have to back each
sort of like partners."
of," Stottlemeyer said.
likes the car wash?"
it," Stottlemeyer said.
From that point on I didn't put
the book down.
cheered at the ending of the main
mystery and loved the final chapter
with the revelation of a secondary
fans will no doubt spot a few continuity
errors. Most noticably, as revealed
in the series, Monk doesn't drink
milk and although he never actually
gets around to it here, it's discussed
as if he does. I was also suprised
that Monk was allergic to cats.
In "Mr. Monk and the Missing
Granny" it was established
that Disher was allergic to cats,
but there was no indication that
Monk was and in that particular
episode he's exposed to the same
cat that Disher is.
a result of a surprising development
on the show, Natalie goes from saying
she pushes a cart around Wal-Mart
in the beginning of the novel to
admitting she grew up with money
and it feels like a bit of a U-Turn
even if it was unavoidable.
at the beginning some readers may
already identify more strongly with
Monk than Natalie does, but the
bond between the characters seems
to get stronger as the plot progresses.
We finally get a deeper look at
Monk from Natalie's perspective
when he confides in her about what
drives him: "There's nothing
magical or spiritual about it. I'm
not skilled enough yet to figure
out who murdered my wife. If I solve
enough cases, maybe someday I will
with a couple of minor flaws that
won't get by most Monk fans, Mr.
Monk Goes to the Firehouse
is just what Monk should be. Goldberg
has a clever, breezy style that
matches the tone of the series.
Even the hard to please devoted
fans of the TV series shouldn't
be disappointed and with only sixteen
episodes a year supplemental Monk
is a blessing.
Author Lee Goldberg is the mystery
writing's answer to Pierce Brosnan.
Brash, yet sensitive; jaded, yet
optimistic, he's toiled in the Hollywood
trenches for decades as a screenwriter
and producer on such cultured fare
as Diagnosis Murder, Nero Wolfe,
Deadly Games, Flipper, Baywatch
and, of course, not just one,
episodes of Monk. He has a couple
Award Nominations and a notorious
blog. He doesn't brag about
it, but he writes like a girl: "My
wife is amazed I was able to capture
a woman's voice, too" admits
Goldberg. "If I understand
women so well, she says, why don't
I understand her!" (Probably
the same reason Adrian Monk can't
solve his wife's murder: he's just
too close to it.) Lee is also the
man behind the woman for Natalie's
blogs on the USA
Network Monk Site.
Monk Goes to the Firehouse.
New York: Signet, 2006. 292 pages.