Monday, January 11, 2010

Crime Fiction Alphabet: M is for MR. MONK AND THE DIRTY COP

Mr. Monk and The Dirty CopContinuing our journey through the Crime Fiction Alphabet, we reach the letter "M" -- and my entry this week is Lee Goldberg's original novel Mr. Monk and The Dirty Cop (NAL). It's the eighth volume in a series of all-new novels inspired by the mystery TV series featuring obsessive compulsive detective Adrian Monk, which recently ended its eight-year run on the USA Network to major ratings.

Over the years, SFPD Captain Leland Stottlemeyer has generally accustomed to consulting detective Adrian Monk getting all the attention. But in Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop, Stottlemeyer is humiliated at a police convention -- where, in front of a room full of peers, the police captain is mocked for his reliance on his star consultant. Stottlemeyer claims he isn't troubled by the incident, but when he cuts short Monk's contract and claims it's merely a budgetary decision, it's hard not to wonder whether he's allowing hurt feelings to cloud his judgment.

Of course, Monk's too compulsive to stop investigating crimes and starts calling in anonymous tips. His long-suffering assistant, Natlie Teeger, is trying desperately to get him to stop solving crimes for free -- so it's a relief when Monk is offered a job by private investigative firm Intertech. Things take a nasty turn, though, when a cop with a questionable record is murdered at the convention -- and the prime suspect is Capt. Stottlemeyer.

Lee Goldberg is the perfect choice to write these all-new, original novels -- his range of experience in both television and mystery fiction includes serving as a writer and producer on Diagnosis: Murder and writing the excellent series of original tie-in novels. He was also one of the writers for the Monk TV series.

As such, Goldberg always mines important territory in the Mr. Monk novels, exploring the relationships of the characters in deeper ways than a regular TV episode allows. Using Natalie as the narrator for the novels brings a different voice to the proceedings (and the alternate point of view conveniently provides an "out" whenever inevitable discrepancies between the books and the TV show crop up.) The author also brings in some fun fan trivia to the table, such as this book's nod to Mannix and a playful jab at Murder She Wrote.

Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop is a real-deal whodunit that will have you turning the pages as Monk puts each clue in its proper place. But at its heart, this isn't just a another book where Monk works through his OCD long enough to solve a murder mystery -- it's also a book that challenges some of our preconceptions about the relationships Monk has with Capt. Stottlemeyer and with Natalie. By the end of the journey, we've learned something about these people -- and they've learned something about themselves.

Whether you're a fan of the TV show or not, Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop is a gem for any fan of mystery fiction.

More from the Crime Fiction Alphabet:
Crime Fiction Alphabet: L is for LOCKED ROOM PUZZLES
Crime Fiction Alphabet: K is for Laurie R. King
Crime Fiction Alphabet: J is for P.D. James
Crime Fiction Alphabet: I is for The Innocence of Father Brown
Crime Fiction Alphabet: H is for Homicide Trinity

Related links:
Detectives: ADRIAN MONK written by Lee Goldberg
Mr. Monk is Online: Interview with LEE GOLDBERG
Mr. Monk and the Finished Manuscript
ADRIAN MONK: The face of OCD
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)
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Die Laughing: Funny Crime and Mystery Fiction

SHE'S THE SHERIFF!

A woman with a complicated past returns home to become the small town's new sheriff. Best Mann For The Job is by the writer/artist team of Chris and Erica Well. Read it from the beginning at StudioWell.com. Watch the trailer on YouTube.