Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants by Lee Goldberg

September 23, 2013

Plot summary (from the publisher): The husband of Monk’s former assistant, Sharona, has been arrested for murder. Now back in San Francisco, she’s ready to reclaim her place in Monk’s life-much to the chagrin of his current assistant, Natalie. While Monk tries to maintain a delicate balance between the two women, he discovers a few unsettling snags in the case against Sharona’s husband, and may be up against a killer who not only understands him, but is one step ahead.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • I enjoyed Monk’s reaction to the alligator bite. Perfect dentition, indeed. What’s not to love? (BTW, I wonder if this book was written before or after “Mr. Monk and His Biggest Fan”, which used a similar device–though it was changed to a dog bite–for the murder.)
  • I’m glad the author dealt with the issue of how difficult it was for Natalie to transition into the role as Monk’s assistant. It was interesting to note that not only Monk, but also Stottlemeyer and Randy compared Natalie to Sharona all the time at the start before finally accepting that she was a completely different person. That was only mentioned maybe once or twice on the TV show (in “Cobra” about reimbursing Natalie for expenses and in “Las Vegas” about playing the murder victim), but never by the captain or Randy.
  • This was a short, easy read that took a day and a half to finish.

Disliked:

  • Monk as a character isn’t very likable in these books. As the Publisher’s Weekly review noted, Tony Shalhoub’s portrayal gives the character a certain charm that is decidedly lacking when reading the printed word. I might say the same about Natalie as well. Although these characters are recognizable in a basic sense, it’s just not as entertaining to read about them as it is to watch them on TV.
  • Is it just me, or does Monk seem more, I don’t know, confrontational, about his phobias in the books? He goes out of his way to explain why things should be done/ordered/organized a certain way, and the explanations are often lengthy. Like at the hospital after Julie broke her arm. When Monk appeared by Julie covered with a gown, gloves, and mask, he felt the need to explain what he was “protecting” himself from. On the TV show, Julie and Natalie would just give him a look and not even ask why he was dressed like that because they would already know. Same thing with trying to convince Julie’s doctor to put a cast on both wrists. We know it’s about “balance” and being “even”, but the debate went on for a couple of pages in the book anyway.
  • Near the end of the book, Ludlow accused Natalie of murdering Ronald Webster so she could keep her job because she’s “in love with” Monk. Natalie says, “Of course not. I don’t love him,” and then feels bad when she notices that she “hurt” Monk by saying that. I don’t get it. Why would Monk be hurt by that? There has never been any indication that he sees Natalie in any kind of romantic capacity, so why would he expect her to love him? If an employee or platonic friend of mine made the same reply in response to a murder accusation, I wouldn’t even blink.
  • And what was the deal with Sharona’s declaration of love for Monk? Did she mean that in a platonic sense? I hope so, because it would have been ethically inappropriate for a nurse to fall in love with a patient like that. She helped him through his most vulnerable time, so of course there were bound to be strong feelings there. But that’s why ethical guidelines exist. Plus, if she loved Adrian so damn much, why did she leave to marry Trevor instead of trying to make things work with Monk?

Rating:

I’m going back and forth on these Monk tie-in books (liked the first one, was lukewarm about the second, like the third, was lukewarm about this one), and can’t tell whether it’s just me, the writing, or the format that bothers me. Whatever the case, I give this book 3 stars out of 5. I think I’m just going to quit while I’m even here and not spend any more time or money on this series.

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