Goldberg, Lee: Mr. Monk On the Road
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Mr. Monk on the Road, the 11th book in Lee Goldberg's series, takes place shortly after the events of the final episode of Monk the TV show. Big changes had occurred on the series, it turns out, while I wasn't watching, and Goldberg sums them up rather briskly in his first chapter (after a warning to readers about the upcoming spoilers): the biggest change--and I won't spoil anything here--is that Monk finally solved the mystery of his wife Trudy's murder, the one crime he had never been able to figure out. The solution hasn't cured Monk's laundry list of phobias, but it has made him feel better, as if the world is a little less out of balance than it was. So it is with a relatively jaunty step that he visits his agoraphobic brother Ambrose one morning, accompanied as ever by his assistant--and the narrator of the Monk books--Natalie Teeger. The visit prompts Monk to conjure up an unusual present for Ambrose's upcoming birthday, one that could either change Ambrose's life forever and for the better or land Monk in jail for kidnapping.
The mysteries Monk solves on the road seemed a little far-fetched to me, so that was a negative. On the other hand, I liked very much how he went about solving them, his brain working on the problems in the background without his even realizing it. We're surprised then, along with Natalie, when Monk rolls his shoulders toward the end of the book in a signature move that indicates he's solved a murder. But Goldberg's books aren't only about the crimes. More important are the series's wonderful characters. The development of Monk and Natalie's relationship over the series makes for many sweet moments, but in this outing the focus is on Ambrose's interaction with Monk and Natalie and with the world at large. As usual in the series, there is some very funny dialogue. Usually this is centered on Monk's abhorrence of all things unsanitary, but Ambrose's social ineptitude also makes for some funny lines.
I really enjoyed this one and the series as a whole, and I'm hoping the books never stop coming.