Mr. Monk Goes to the FirehouseI love the Adrian Monk TV show series with Tony Shaloub. I also love ready mystery stories. I was thrilled to see that a book series was beginning that involved this combination. I was very, very eager to enjoy it. I have to be honest and say that I was really disappointed when I was done. I handed the book to my boyfriend without giving him any indication of what I felt. When he was also very disappointed, I know it wasn't just a quirk. It just isn't a great translation of the stellar TV show.
The story is written from the point of view of Monk's assistant, Natalie. Monk's home is being fumigated, so Monk is living with Natalie for the time being. Natalie's daughter is sad because of the murder of a dalmatian at the nearby firehouse. Monk is enlisted to figure this out. Soon there are a few other murders, and Monk of course ties them all together and solves the case.
I normally am thrilled by a "female voice" in a book, and as I've said, I really enjoy the Monk character. On page 2 there was a typo, which of course Monk would have hated. I let it pass. After all, we're only 2 pages into the book. On page 3 is a HUGE issue - Stottlemeyer says his wife would leave him if Monk stayed with them. News flash - Stottlemeyer's wife HAS left him. This book was released in January 2006, and I read it in the first days of March 2006. It was a really "icky" feeling to have that sort of joke made. Surely the author was told what the upcoming series was going to hold.
On through the story we move. I've always admired Natalie in the TV show as being a reasonably honest, caring single mother with good morals. In this book she is completely inane. She is VERY obsessed with breast size and comments on them repeatedly. Either she is upset that another woman has big breasts or is criticizing herself for not having giant ones. By the second or third reference I was rolling my eyes. Enough already!! Next, pair this up with her shallow view of men. She says that the main reason she was with her husband was that he was good looking. She's obsessed with the "hunky" fireman and then is worried that he might have a high pitched voice or something else to "ruin" him. She's interviewing an overweight male person and when he talks about taking a bath she says that she felt like she would have to *vomit* because of the mental image. This goes way beyond "changing Natalie". Natalie has turned into the most shallow, body-obsessed brainless twit that I have encountered as a heroine in a story in many years. It really, really upset me.
It goes further. After having a self-righteous attitude against many people she runs into, they head out onto an island of the wealthy. Natalie is quick to mention that she does "not have anything against the rich." Oh, ok, it's fine to bash heavy people and people with not-great breasts, but we wouldn't want to upset any readers that have money. Of course, because those with money might buy the book. Heck, they might also buy the many products that are name-dropped here too.
There are other, smaller issues. Monk is drinking milk, when it's made clear in the series that he would never do that. Natalie makes some comments that Monk must solve EVERY single crime he's presented with or not be kept on by the police. That is a rather inane thought for anyone even slightly related to the police to have. Pretty much every clue is telegraphed, so that I always had a sense of what was a waste of time and what was going to happen before it did.
There's a gleam of hope here - she apparently owned an AMC Pacer as her first car. That was my first car too. I felt a momentary kinship with her because of that - but it didn't take long before her rambling self-absorbed commentary completely drove me away again.
I'm not saying I dislike Monk, the setting or the story at all. I really did enjoy the story and general plotting. However, the damage done to the main character (i.e. Natalie) was incredible. It was very disturbing to me. If there's any sort of lobbying I can do for the second book to get Natalie to be more true to the series, I will do it. I would love reading Monk series for years - but having a Natalie like this will be true torture. Having typos and egregious Monk-errors is just silly in a book about someone who is obsessive compulsive and who clearly would have picked these out in one reading.
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