Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii
by Lee Goldberg
Review by Don Metzler
Signet Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0451219007
Date: 05 July, 2006 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Adrian Monk's incredible attention to detail makes him the best detective in San Francisco, perhaps the greatest detective since Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, that same attention to detail stems from the fact that he suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, and his OCD makes a normal life all but impossible. Assistant Natalie Teeger follows Monk about with the ever-ready moist towelette in case he finds himself in a situation where he must shake someone's hand or (Heaven forbid!) touch a doorknob. Anything that is out of place or unbalanced, such as a woman wearing an earring on one ear but no matching earring on the other, drives Monk crazy. He is unable to sleep if the ceiling fans in his room have not been meticulously synchronized.
Because of his affliction Monk has become entirely dependent on Natalie to help him negotiate a disorganized, germ-ridden world. So when Natalie announces that she is off to Hawaii for a week to attend her best friend's wedding, Monk is devastated, and finally decides to tag along with her rather than to be on his own for a full seven days.
As luck would have it, on their first day in paradise Monk and Natalie stumble onto the scene where a rich, elderly tourist named Helen Gruber has died. The cause: a blow to her head from a coconut. The local police are writing it off as accidental death, but Monk sees evidence that leads him to believe this was anything but an accident. The Hawaiian police agree to accept Monk’s help, and suddenly he is in his element.
Monk's investigation is complicated by the interference of popular television psychic Dylan Swift. Swift claims to channel messages from beyond the grave – in this case from the dead woman herself. So now Monk has two chores before him: solving Helen Gruber's murder and exposing Dylan Swift as a fraud.
The story is fun and well written, and the mystery not so arcane that the reader is unable to follow along with his/her own guesses as to the outcome. All in all, a fast-paced novel that keeps the reader involved. If there is a shortcoming, it is with the character of Adrian Monk. I was somewhat reminded of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. Poirot, you will recall, was somewhat of an obsessive character himself. His mustaches had to be waxed just so, his pointed shoes shined to perfection, his meals prepared to a certain standard. But Poirot's idiosyncrasies were lovable because they were a sidebar, and did not intrude on the stories themselves. The mystery itself was always the primary focus of Christie's books.
Unfortunately, with Adrian Monk, the man's obsessions assume the spotlight at the expense of the mystery. His habits are frequently annoying, and at some point he treads the dangerous line of ceasing to be likable, much less lovable.
The character of Adrian Monk is apparently derived from a television series. This reviewer, not being a watcher of television, is unfamiliar with Monk in that context, and can judge this book on its own merits alone. The story is entertaining light fiction. The mystery is engaging, though seldom deep. Despite the annoying character of Adrian Monk, this novel is worth the read for fans of the whodunit genre.