I’m a snob. You may have noticed, or maybe not, but it’s true: I’m a snob. I have always had an attitude of superiority about tie-in novels. They couldn’t be any good. No, really. They have to be crap, because a real writer wouldn’t take characters created by someone else and write a quality story because if they, the writer, were any good they would be writing their own damn stories. Not something a publisher hired them to essentially ghost write, right?
Well, I was wrong. Dead wrong. I just finished reading Lee Goldberg’s Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu, and I enjoyed every minute. It is based on the USA Network’s television series Monk, and it captures the tone of the series, the rhythm, the dialogue, the humor, the flair, and the characters beautifully. It is an episode of Monk, only longer, more insightful and a helluva lot of fun.
The novel begins as any ordinary day for Monk: a murder scene complete with Captain Stottlemeyer, Lieutenant Disher and Natalie, but everything in Monk’s world is about to change. The city of San Francisco and the police department are in contract negotiations, and when they fail the police force is ravaged with a case of the blue flu.
That is, the police force generally, and the detectives particularly, call in sick as a protest against the failing negotiations. Monk is called back into active duty. He gets his badge back, and promoted to Captain over a rag-tag team of former detectives. They are scabs, but each of them wants to finish their careers with one more victory and a shot at dignity. The scary thing is, Monk is the sanest of the crew. There is an ancient detective suffering from dementia, a paranoid schizophrenic, and a Dirty Harry-type who has serious anger issues. Add a serial killer, a few seemingly random murders and Monk is in way over his head.
Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu is a triumph. Lee Goldberg has transformed great television into a wonderfully humorous and rewarding novel. No one does a whodunit like Monk, and Lee Goldberg captures everything I love about the television series. The mystery is solid and intriguing, the humor is top-notch, and the characters are perfect. If you enjoy a good laugh, an enjoyable mystery, or just a great read, Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu is your bag.