Mr. Monk Helps Himself by Hy Conrad

November 12, 2013

monk helps himself Plot summary (from the publisher): Now that Monk and Natalie are both in San Francisco again, life is almost back to normal for the duo, with one exception: Natalie is studying for her PI license, the last step to becoming Monk’s full partner.

Before taking the plunge, Natalie sneaks off to Half Moon Bay for a retreat run by Miranda Bigley, charismatic leader of the Best Possible Me self-help program, whose philosophy has helped Natalie deal with her recent life changes. But her plans for a relaxing weekend away are disrupted when Monk tracks her down, determined to rescue her from the “cult.” Their argument is cut short when Miranda, in full view of everyone, calmly walks to the edge of a cliff and jumps off.

Even though Miranda’s death looks like suicide—especially when it’s discovered that she was on the brink of financial disaster—Natalie is sure it is murder. But Monk brushes her off to help the SFPD solve the murder of a clown, despite his coulrophobia, or fear of clowns—number ninety-nine on his list of one hundred phobias.

As Natalie and Monk begin their separate investigations, they are quickly caught up in many precarious situations, but if they want to figure out whodunit, they will have to find a way to become true partners…

Warning: Spoilers below!


  • I liked the new author’s writing style much more than the previous one. The prose felt more polished and assured throughout, which made the reading experience much more enjoyable.
  • The Monk character sounded more like himself in this book. I could easily imagine the television version saying and doing the things Conrad described, whereas with the other author Monk’s actions were more hit or miss in terms of meshing with the image I have from the show.
  • Natalie is finally using Monk’s first name!!! TBH, the “Mr. Monk” thing never bothered me like it did some people, so I didn’t care one way or the other. But it really makes sense that she would use “Adrian” now that they’re partners and not boss/employee. What a great way to work that in!
  • Conrad managed to make Ellen Morse a LOT more likable. Don’t get me wrong, I still dislike her on the whole and wish she would just leave. But at least she wasn’t totally annoying in this one.
  • The Dale the Whale story line was fairly clever and interesting. I knew something was up as soon as someone mentioned that the regular doctor was in Hawaii on a trip his wife “won”, but couldn’t quite piece the whole thing together. Pretty cool that Dale had his assistant wheel out a different patient during the commotion while he just stayed in the hospital to continue his recovery. Leave it to Monk to figure it out, though.
  • While I didn’t care too much for the clown story line, I did think it was funny that no one involved in the investigation was allowed to use “clown” or “circus” or to refer to any of the guy’s equipment (oversized shoes, rubber nose, etc.) in any way. I can totally imagine Monk making those rules!
  • I liked how the book ended, with Monk and Natalie polishing light bulbs together. After spending so much time apart in the past few installments, it was nice to see them have a quiet moment alone like that.


  • Natalie still doesn’t seem like (TV) Natalie to me. Although much more even-keeled in this book, she still comes off as way too antagonistic towards Monk. What happened to the patience and sweetness the TV character unfailingly exhibited? I’m not saying Natalie should be a doormat, but she doesn’t have to be mean either.
  • I wish Ellen would just leave already. I know I said she was more likable here, but that’s still a relative term. I was sooo hoping that when the author started dropping hints about her store not doing well that it would signify the beginning of the end of this character, but I guess not. Sigh. Well, if she’s going to stick around, I at least hope she won’t be involved in any more investigations. Three’s a crowd. Just stick to the occasional dinners with Adrian and stay out of the main story lines!
  • I also didn’t care for Ellen’s friendship with Natalie. I can see them being friendly towards each other, but actual friends who show up at each other’s houses, go out to dinner together, and comfort each other with pints of ice cream? Uh, no. Please. Yes, Natalie does need a bestie, but I just don’t want it to be Ellen!!!
  • Why were Yuki and Ambrose even mentioned at all? I’ve said this before: Ambrose was such a minuscule part of the TV series that I don’t understand why he needs to be involved in the books at all. The occasional mention would be fine, but I don’t care enough about the character to want to spend too much time with him.


I thought Mr. Monk Helps Himself was one of the more enjoyable books in the tie-in series. The Monk character was far more recognizable than in recent installments and Natalie is hopefully on her way back to being herself again. The mysteries were well done in this one, too. Overall, this was a quick, fun read and makes me think the series is in good hands. I give this one 4 stars out of 5.

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