You may have encountered Adrian Monk before. As played by Tony Shaloub on television for eight years, he’s the world’s greatest detective – a former San Francisco police detective who had a nervous breakdown after the murder of his wife, he now consults with the SFPD. Oh, and he has… some issues. He suffers from OCD and 312 phobias (which he has ranked in order). But he is an amazing detective.
This novel is set after the series has finished. Adrian and his assistant, Natalie Teeger, are summoned to Summit, New Jersey, by an old friend who is now chief of police there, to help solve a crime spree. Needless to say, it isn’t long before there’s a dead body alongside the numerous burglaries to get to the bottom of. Of course, Adrian can only solve the mystery if he has time while he deals with the most dreadful crime he has ever encountered – a shop called “Poop”, where every item sold is made out of excrement…
Monk is another TV that I’ve never got round to reviewing but it’s one that I absolutely love. The central performances – notably Tony Shaloub, Traylor Howard (Natalie) and Ted Levine (Captain Stottlemeyer) – clever mysteries (mostly howdunits rather than whodunits) and a good line in humour. But how does that translate to the written page?
Very well indeed – especially the characters and the humour. Lee Goldberg has written fifteen novels based on the Monk TV series and three episodes of the show itself, so by now – this is the thirteenth novel – he knows the characters well. This the first novel set after the end of the TV show, he also has a freer hand in shaking up the status quo, which he does by relocating Monk and Natalie and giving them both a career change by the halfway point of the book, as well as introducing a potential love interest for Monk. If this was set during the series, you would know the relationship would be doomed (and she’d probably be the murderer to boot) but here, those sort of assumptions can’t be made. The central characters of Monk and Natalie (the narrator) are caught perfectly, apart from the oddity of the narration repeatedly referring to Monk, rather than Mister Monk, but that would look odd as well.
And there’s the poop jokes. Lots of poop jokes. And they’re very funny poop jokes.
The mystery – well, mysteries – are unfortunately a bit obvious. The first one – a whodunit – is hardly a surprise, given a dearth of suspects at that point, and the second – a howdunit – basically steals its method from one of the more important episodes of the TV series. But it’s told with charm and humour and, given I needed a distraction from more important matters when I was reading it, it was exactly what I needed at the time. It’s a lot of fun – as are the other books in the series that I’ve read – and if you’re a fan of the show, it’s Highly Recommended.