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Mr. Monk in Trouble by Lee Goldberg
Cover Artist: Universal Studios
Review by Don Metzler
NAL Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451229052
Date: 01 December 2009 List Price $22.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

I leaned over the edge of the pit, staring into the blackness. The pit seemed bottomless.

“Natalie,” Monk whined. He was about ten feet below me and flush against the side of the pit, holding on to the jutting rock. But he was trying to find a toehold and the combination of his movement and his weight was jogging the rock loose.

What would MacGyver do in a situation like this? He’d be able to fashion a rope out of whatever he had in the pockets of his jeans, even if it was just lint and a breath mint.

The jeans.

Denim could take a beating. They might hold Monk’s weight. I stood up and stripped off my jeans. I wrapped the end of one pant leg firmly around my wrist, grabbed the denim tight in my fist, and got back down on my stomach. I reached over the edge and dropped my jeans down to him.

“What do you expect me to do with that?” he said.

“Grab it,” I said.

“Those are someone’s dirty pants.”

I could see that the rock he was holding was coming loose. It would pop out in seconds and Monk would fall to his death.

“Grab my pants now,” I said.

More Lee Goldberg:
* Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii
* Mr. Monk and The Blue Flu
* Mr. Monk and The Two Assistants
* Mr. Monk in Outer Space
* Mr. Monk Goes to Germany
* Mr. Monk is Miserable
* Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop
* Mr. Monk in Trouble

Adrian Monk, the obsessive-compulsive detective, is back on the case. This time Monk and his ever-faithful assistant Natalie Teeger are off to the Sierra foothills of California, to a community called Trouble. Trouble is a near-ghost town, a leftover relic from the days of the forty-niners. Monk has been asked to assist the undermanned local police force in investigating the murder of Manny Feikema, a retired cop who was working as a museum guard in the town of Trouble. Manny had been an old friend of Captain Stottlemeyer, and that is the connection that brings Monk to the scene of the crime.

So Monk and Natalie find themselves in gold country, where they encounter all manner of conditions that are abhorrent to Monk’s obsessive-compulsive personality: wild burros who wander the bare dirt streets, wooden plank sidewalks that bristle with splinters and loose nails, and citizens uncouth enough to actually spit in the public thoroughfares. Monk insists that they must turn the car around and abandon this hell-hole immediately, but Natalie manages to convince him that they should remain until he has solved the murder.

There is only one thing in the town of Trouble that pleases Monk’s over-developed sense of the orderly and symmetrical. It is a structure known as the Box House, which nowadays houses the local historical society and chamber of commerce. It is a perfectly square building, exactly centered on its also perfectly square lot. And they learn that the Box House was built in the 1850s by the town’s assayer, who happened to be a part time detective -- one Artemis Monk. Adrian Monk’s ancestor? The answer to that question shall remain a mystery for the time being.

Speaking of mystery, Monk gets to work on the puzzle of who murdered Manny Feikema, and why he was murdered. And for good measure Monk also delves into the conundrum of an unsolved train robbery that took place nearly fifty years earlier. While Natalie performs her accustomed task of supplying Monk with wet wipes and helping him to overcome his myriad neuroses and fears of everyday life, she is faced with a distraction of her own -- an unexpected physical attraction to the local chief of police, Harley Kelton. Mystery and intrigue abounds.

Mr. Monk in Trouble is a worthy entry in the Monk series, perhaps the best yet to this point. The passages that Natalie reads from the nineteenth century diary of Artemis Monk’s personal assistant lend an undercurrent and backstory to the plot. Through this device, the narrative is fleshed out to a degree that sets this book on a slightly higher level than the previous Monk novels. But all the while, the relationships and interactions that we have grown accustomed to in this series, between Monk and Natalie, Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Randy Disher, are all continued in high form.

This is recommended reading for anyone who has enjoyed the previous Monk mysteries.

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