Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out
by Lee Goldberg
Cover Artist: Photo: Universal Studios
Review by Don Metzler
NAL Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451230096
Date: 06 July 2010 List Price $22.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Clasker's body was gone but the seat, dashboard, and windshield were still covered with his blood spatter. It was a gruesome sight.
San Francisco storefronts are boarded up. People everywhere are losing their jobs, and then losing their homes to foreclosure. The Great Recession has descended upon us.
And Mr. Monk is summoned to a murder scene. The victim is a man who ranked prominently among the legion of culprits who, through greed and unbridled avarice, were the architects of the financial meltdown. Mike Clasker, former CFO of Big Country Mortgage, had been en route to testify in court against his former bosses, in accordance with a plea bargain agreement, when he was murdered in his car.
In a twisted way, the killing may represent a sort of poetic justice, but it presents the police with a baffling crime scene.
Before Monk is able to make sense of the mystery, he is informed that his position as special consultant to the San Francisco Police Department has been terminated, for the second time in less than a year. The reason this time: the SFPD is out of money. Monk's job is but the latest casualty of the deepening global recession. But true to form, and much to the chagrin of Mr. Monk's personal assistant, Natalie Teeger, he begs to be allowed to continue his work for the police department on a pro bono basis.
Typically, the obsessive-compulsive Monk is more distressed by his drinking water, or rather the absence thereof, than by his loss of income. The company that produced Summit Creek bottled water, the only liquid that ever passes Adrian Monk's lips, has gone bankrupt. For Monk it seems that the end of the world is at hand. Natalie tries to interest him in other brands of bottled water, to no avail. As far as Mr. Monk is concerned, it is Summit Creek or nothing. So he will surely perish from dehydration long before his money runs out.
Or will he? When Monk visits his bank to find out why his personal checks have been bouncing, he learns that his trusted investment manager was the founder of a massive Ponzi scheme that has finally collapsed. Mr. Monk has been left penniless.
What else can possibly go wrong?
Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out may well be the finest entry to date in the Mr. Monk series, although it took me awhile to put my finger on the precise reasons that I liked this book so much. One major reason, I finally realized, is that this story resonated on some very sympathetic levels. The descriptions of small businesses gone bankrupt, police officers and others who have lost their jobs due to budget cuts, and people fearful of losing their homes to foreclosure struck a definite chord. So many of us these days find ourselves walking an economic tightrope, and this book's frank portrayal of that condition seemed to create a sort of brotherhood--a brotherhood comprised of both the readers and the characters. A kind of, "We're all in this together" spirit of dismal camaraderie.
Speaking of characters, throughout the Mr. Monk series author Lee Goldberg has always kept a firm grasp on exactly who his characters are, and he is able to expertly play them against one another to the best dramatic and comic advantage. If anything, Goldberg's use of his characters, dialogue and dramatic pacing has with time gotten better yet. From Natalie Teeger's inner dialogues that reflect the uncertainties of a single mother (and single woman) in today's uncertain world, to the lovable, but usually clueless and banal ideas that fall from the lips of police detective Randy Disher, to the extreme obsessive-compulsive manias that beset Mr. Monk on a daily basis, the idiosyncrasies and resulting interplay of these characters is a delight to the reader.
Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out is a first rate comic crime novel, but more so it is a celebration of all things Monk. A celebration that any fan of Mr. Monk will revel in. I heartily recommend this book.