Friday, September 24, 2010

Mr. Monk and My Mental Vacation

I just took a little business trip. It involved four flights and lots of time sitting in airports, so I figured I'd need to bring an extra book. It needed to be small and I wanted something not too challenging. That would usually mean an old Star Trek novel, but this time I grabbed a Monk mystery.

Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse was kind of fun. It is the first in the series by Monk writer Lee Goldberg. The troubled detective and Natalie, his Dr. Watson, investigate the murder of a firefighter's dog. If you are familiar with the Monk TV series you can probably guess that Monk is, coincidentally, called in to investigate an unrelated murder that is, in fact, related. Then, through a series of remarkable observations, leaps in logic, and what seem to be lucky guesses, Monk solves the crime.

The Monk mysteries aren't the kind where you are intrigued by the puzzle. They are the kind where you enjoy seeing the engaging characters overcome a problem. And the characters are engaging, but only if you've seen the TV series and have a fondness for it. As a stand-alone novel this is pretty weak stuff. Not that Goldberg doesn't try. He works to flesh out the characters and does a nice job, but the fun of something like this is that you already know the characters.

A book like this doesn't really want a review. It is light, simple reading for people who enjoyed the series; pleasant, if you don't let yourself think too much about it. Good for planes, trains, and those days you want to give your brain a vacation.

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