Wednesday, February 04, 2009

BOOKS: Review- Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants

I took Lee Goldberg to task yesterday for decrying the state of Canadian TV. I think he's wrong about it. On the other hand, he's right about choosing to continue his series of amusing detective novels featuring TV detective Monk.

On TV, Tony Shalhoub has turned Adrian Monk into a fascinating character, solving crimes despite his debilitating neuroses. Monk's the star of the TV show, but Goldberg's focal point in the book series is Monk's not-too-long suffering assistant Natalie Teeger.

As it turns out, Teeger was NOT the first Monk assistant/nurse. The series started with Sharona Fleming as Monk's lifeline to reality. Sharona was played with Jersey brashness by Bitty Schram. For whatever reason, Schram left back in the third season of the show. Off-screen, Fleming decided to re-marry the doltish father of her son and move back east. Thus the need for Teeger, as played by Traylor Howard. I have great affection for both actresses. To me, it was like replacing orange sherbert with white chocolate. Different but great, no matter which one you choose.

Goldberg takes advantage of being a novelist to bring back Sharona in Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants. And that sets up a battle between assistant Past and assistant Present to see who will be assistant Future. In doing so, he captures Natalie's insecurities perfectly. Afterall, he's been inside her head for quite a while now. He also recaps most of those earlier book adventures in some small detail during this book, making it a good jumping on point for the series. Not suprisingly, this is apparently the best-selling of the series of novels to date.

Where Goldberg falls down just a bit in this book is that he makes Sharona a little harsher than I remember the character. I went back and watched several first and second season episodes to see if my faltering memory was maybe playing tricks on me. Turns out, not so much. Sharona was less nurturing than Natalie, but a lot less of the hard-hearted Sharona that permeates the start of this book. Sure, Sharona left Monk in the lurch in the best interests of her family. But her desire to restart the association with Monk at Natalie's expense seems a little forced. Good nurses, and Sharona is supposed to be one, are in demand. Sharona would hardly be looking at Monk as her sole provider of employment.

And the mystery of who killed the key person was a lot less involving than I would have liked. Except for the fact that the killer seemed to relish his obviousness and nearly turned the tables on Monk. It took a bit of reflection for both Monk AND me as the reader, to work out just how to nail the weasel. Goldberg played fair with the clues, making the lack of a red herring all the better for BEING a red herring until the "how he dunnit" scene.

Teeger won the caged wrestling match and was awarded possession of Monk for the immediate future. That certainly means we won't see Sharona again until the TV series has run its course (maybe this spring). After that, Goldberg can have at it for another Sharona-Natalie episode.

It would make good reading, I'll bet.


Sonia said...

Nice review about the Monk!!!
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Peetu said...

Its nice review about Monk. Thanks for sharing it. Recently i am watching season 8 episodes of this show. These are mind blowing episodes.

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