Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BOOKS: Mr. Monk Goes to Germany by Lee Goldberg

As you might have detected, English is NOT my first language. I was a Royal Canadian Air Force brat, born here. But the family encamped for Baden-Baden in what was then West Germany when I was a few months old. My brother Wayne was born there and I probably spent as much time with my baby-sitter as I did my parents. Ergo, I basically started speaking Deutsche before English.

I honestly don't have much memory of my time in Germany. My earliest memory of Europe (the only one) is playing in Madurodam in what was called Holland back then. Madurodam is the famed Miniature City and I seem to remember doing the Godzilla bit stalking through the streets of buildings that came up to about my waist. The only other memory of getting to and from Europe was that I spent the whole time in my stateroom painting the walls that kind of sickly green only reluctant sea-farers know. There wasn't any such thing as Gravol for kids back then.

To be honest, I don't even retain much German, although I did take the class in high school with John Becker, one of the better teachers at Bramalea Secondary School. As with my other language classes, I skated by the class rather than actually take it, dropping it as soon as my language requirements were done. One of my more major screw-ups.

Which brings me, short story long, to the subject of today's review: Lee Goldberg's sixth book in the Mr. Monk series, Mr. Monk Goes to Germany. Surprise!!!!

Look, this review is like all the other Mr. Monk reviews. If you like the show, or have read the preceding books, this is a good continuation of the fun and frivolity that is Natalie Teeger's daily life with Adrian Monk. Well, maybe fun and frivolity is over-stating it a bit. Okay, so Adrian can drive her (and his psychiatrist) out of the country and across the ocean. But still, there's mirth in other's misfortunes. The Germans even have a word we've appropriated for it: schadenfreude.

And boy, do we get schadenfreude in this story.

Dr. Kroger heads over to Germany for a conference, leaving Monk close to mental implosion. (And don't we still miss Stanley Kamel?) Faced with falling into the abyss, Monk decides to hop onto an old Air Canada plane (drugged up, of course) and follow him. And he does NOT uncover a murder during the plane trip!! In fact, he doesn't discover any murderous mayhem until arriving in Lohr, which is more or less on the way to the Black Forest. Monk and Natalie track down the good doctor Kroger at the conference, being held at the Franziskushohe resort. At which point Natalie and Dr. Kroger have a verbal spat, with each blaming the other for Monk being there, rather than back in San Francisco. Natalie throws the doctor's manipulation of her and Monk that led to the trip to Hawaii in his face during the fight. And with that, it's back to normal, although taking place in Germany.

Monk REALLY handles bucolic settings about as well as I would have. Cobblestone streets, millennia-old houses made of stones, mortar and long-lasting hope and the lack of straight corners has him in full-on OCD mode. Well, until an inn-mate dies and there is the chance Monk sees the six-fingered man, a critical part of learning how his wife Trudy was married.

It's all pretty clever, especially that murder in the inn. Goldberg gets the usual detecting out of Monk while wrapping it up in a love-letter travelogue to Germany. Is he on the mark with his observations? Can't tell you. For Monk, yes.

For Germany? Well, there is only so much you should expect a four-year old to remember.

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