Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu by Lee Goldberg

August 7, 2013

Plot summary (from the publisher): Monk is horrified when he learns there’s going to be a blue flu in San Francisco-until Capt. Stottlemeyer explains that it just means the police plan to call in “sick” until they get a better contract.The good news is the labor dispute will give Monk a chance to get back on the force.The bad news is it means he’ll be a “scab”-and he doesn’t like the sound of that either.

But before he knows it, Monk has his badge back, and his own squad to command. Unfortunately, some of the squad members make Monk look like a paragon of mental health. But despite the challenges, they’ll have to pull together to catch an astrologer’s killer, solve a series of mysterious fatal assaults, and most importantly, clean up their desks.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • I liked the motley crew of detectives that ended up working with Monk in this book — especially the fact that they all had assistants. This made Natalie realize how much worse her job could be (relatively speaking). At the same time, she hit upon the brilliant and hilarious idea of having a sidekick support group. I really hope this turns up again in future novels!
  • I enjoyed the Natalie-Julie-Monk dinner scene and the conversation that followed, the one about how Monk would always need Natalie in his life because he would always need help. Later, Natalie wondered what she would do if Monk didn’t need her anymore, which led to some very telling introspection about her career choices and so forth. She concludes that she likes working for Monk so much because he’s a “gentle soul” and they have a shared pain (spouses’ deaths) that make them a good fit for each other. This was just a wonderful passage that I really wish had made it into the television series at some point.
  • The coffee shop scene with Natalie and Stottlemeyer was interesting. The TV group often paired up in different combos and Natalie has been shown to spend time with Randy in the past (her brother’s wedding, watching the football game at the police station, Randy acting as her bodyguard, etc.), but never with the Captain. I wonder why she felt the need to “keep it formal” by calling him Captain, though. Did she think he was going to hit on her? I never ever got that vibe from any of the episodes.
  • I loved the explanation of why Monk is afraid of milk: “It’s a bodily fluid in a glass that some twisted person intends to drink.” When he puts it like that, I don’t want to drink it either! His comment then led to Natalie saying that she breast-fed Julie, which in turn caused Monk to avoid eye contact with her for a long time. Definitely in character!
  • The author pointed out something that I’d noticed quite often in the TV series, but was never able to articulate myself: Monk is awkward, scared, timid, and tentative at all times EXCEPT when he has solved a murder and is facing down the killer. Every “Here’s what happened…” in the television episodes bears this out.

Disliked:

  • I wanted to see more of the core four working together, but I guess the nature of the storyline (blue flu) made this impossible. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I missed Disher and his dumb comments!
  • This is my problem, not the author’s, but I’m including it here because it’s something I genuinely dislike about reading the books as opposed to watching the show. I have a hard time picturing Tony Shalhoub, Traylor Howard, et al. giving the dialogue their interpretations, twists, and inflections, so the words feel very flat to me. It has nothing to do with the writing; I’m sure I’d feel the exact same way if I read any Monk script for an unaired episode. The actors truly do bring these characters to life and reading the novels, while enjoyable on the whole, just isn’t the same at all.

Rating:

Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu was a quick and entertaining read. It manages to combine an interesting case with several scenes designed to add depth and dimension to the characters we already know and love, and is probably the best out of the first three installments. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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