Mr. Monk is a Mess and Mr. Monk Gets Even

June 4, 2013

gets even Even though I’m a big fan of the Monk television series, the books didn’t do much for me. Reading about these characters just doesn’t even come close to seeing them on screen, and I didn’t care for the novelist’s take on Natalie. At first it was cool to have the character fleshed out a bit more by being privy to her inner thoughts. But when she turned out to be significantly more antagonistic towards Monk than she ever was in the TV series, I just couldn’t continue reading.

But I heard that a different writer will be taking over the series, beginning with a book slated to hit shelves on June 4. The new writer was actually part of the regular writing staff for the show, not someone who just wrote a few episodes in the earlier seasons, so I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes the book characters. In anticipation of reading the newest book, I went back and read the final two books penned by the original author: Mr. Monk is a Mess and Mr. Monk Gets Even.

Since I basically just skimmed the books to get a general idea of where things stand with Monk and Natalie, I’m not going to give a traditional review here. Instead, I’m just going to post random thoughts and reactions that occurred to me while reading.

  • I think it’s silly that Natalie is a police officer. I have nothing against character development and never expected her to hand Monk wipes for the rest of her life, but a badge- and gun-carrying police officer without having had any formal training?? Would have made more sense just to have her go for the PI license from the start instead of detouring to New Jersey like that.
  • In “Gets Even”, the writer has Monk sitting in the backseat several times. What is that about? Isn’t sitting in the front of any vehicle one of Monk’s things? I suppose his willingness to sit in the back could be attributed to him slowly getting better, but the author didn’t frame it in that context (like he did with other things, such as Monk trying to lie to protect Julie’s feelings or whatever).
  • In one of the books (they’re blurred together in my mind because I read them back-to-back without pause), Natalie said that Monk’s world was balanced because one woman he loved was leaving (Natalie, going to NJ), but another was entering the picture (Ellen, moving to SF). (I vehemently dispute the notion that Monk “loves” Ellen, but I’ll save that for later.) Anyway, if we take what Natalie says at face value, then I thought it would have been better for Ellen to move back to NJ by the end of “Gets Even” since Natalie decided to stay in SF. That would have been far more in keeping with the book’s title, wouldn’t it?
  • I cannot stand anything about Ellen Morse and do not believe for one second that Monk would date the proprietress of a poop store. I know, I know — it’s supposed to be funny and ironic and show how Monk has changed, but I don’t buy it at all.
  • Lest you think I hate everything about these books, I want to say that I do like Amy Devlin. Having a competent lieutenant there to back up the captain is a refreshing change from dipshit Disher, and I enjoy the antagonistic relationship between Amy and Monk/Natalie.
  • Another thing I liked is that Julie was written fairly well. I’m glad the author decided to have her stint as Monk’s assistant be very temporary and that he showed her reacting as a normal 20-something college girl would. She kept her distance from the bodies and spent more time on her iPhone than examining crime scenes or questioning suspects.
  • Having Monk and Natalie apart for a majority of “Gets Even”, yet having Natalie still narrate the events, was a strange choice. I didn’t like it. It made me feel too removed from the action — and it made me wonder how Natalie got all the details since Julie was always playing with her phone instead of paying close attention to what was happening for her reports to Natalie.
  • Ambrose and Yuki…meh. Ambrose didn’t play a huge role in the TV series, yet he’s making all these appearances in the books. The character just isn’t that interesting to me and I don’t care to spend a lot of time with him.
  • I didn’t pay much attention to the mysteries (as with the TV show, I care about the characters, not the case of the week), but Cleve Dobbs? Peach? Come on, I know that’s supposed to be transparent and funny, but it was just…juvenile.

Anyway, here’s hoping the next author writes the characters so they more closely align with their TV personas.

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