by Paula Tutman
Another person dead on arrival. Another mystery to be solved. But for Adrian Monk, the finicky gumshoe consultant who never gets it wrong, it’s a no-brainer. Monk’s critical eye is like a calculator adding up everything that fits, and most importantly absolutely everything that doesn’t. Monk announces it’s a wrap. Case closed. The guy died of natural causes, let’s wash our hands and get outta here. But not so fast, according to Monk’s ever faithful, ever present assistant. There’s more to this cold body than meets his cold calculating eye and she wants a crack at solving the unknown. And that’s the first twist in Lee Goldberg’s newest Monk novel, Mr. Monk On The Couch (Penguin/Putam June 2011).
For the first time in twelve original novels inspired by the hit TV series, Natalie Teeger steps from Adrian Monk’s formidable shadow. She’s usually consigned to handing her boss anti-bacterial wipes, smoothing his awkward interactions with others, and playing second-fiddle to his savant-like brilliance in the detective world. But Teeger’s been paying dues of her own and in Mr. Monk On The Couch she’ll finally have an opportunity to withdraw a little personal capital she’s built up as his sidekick. In fact for this novel, she’s first violin, the cello and the entire string section. In this book, Natalie moves, ever so gently from behind Mr. Monk to find her own self in the world of murder investigations. She does so despite Monk, who usually spins disorder in his quest for order. Life is messy. Monk cleans it up. Or so he believes. He actually creates more messes than he cleans up. It’s really Natalie who does the cleaning and she’s sees her opportunity to do her own mop-up, hopefully without offending the un-affable Mr. Monk.
“She loves him like a brother,” Lee says, who also penned numerous episodes of the popular television series, “plus they have something in common. They both lost a spouse to violence. Natalie knows what that can do to you. They are survivors. Yes, he irritates the crap out of her. Yes, he’s selfish. But she knows what he has accomplished despite his psychological handicaps. She knows he’s brilliant. And she knows the price he has paid for that brilliance.”
For her first stint as a quasi-solo, sort-of detective, Teeger must first elude Monk’s razor sharp sense of observation. Not so easy when this guy’s eyes are like a computer scanner that slices and dices details easier than most dispatch an onion. In the world of Adrian Monk there’s always something that distinguishes murder from all others, even in the eyes of the people who eat, drink and live by the deaths of others.
Her second quest is to solve the case where the cadaver has seemingly died twice. It’s not a big case to anyone else in the room, except Natalie who wants to solve this one without the help of her boss.
“Like all of my Monk books, there are lots of little ‘standalone’ mysteries that he solves while investigating the major mystery of the novel,” says Lee. “But in this one, Natalie often leaves Monk in the dust, which is fine by him because it gives him something else to clean up.”
Lee says Mr. Monk on the Couch is pretty twisted. Though it’s not likely to scare you or make you flinch or run you through an emotional wringer. It is likely, however, to make you laugh out loud and make you work a few extra brain cells trying to unravel the perplexing mysteries that Lee has crafted. “This time that overarching mystery is less of a whodunit than a what the hell is going on?” Lee explains, “this novel has more of a thriller element than any previous MONK book… but it’s not exactly Reacher or Bosch. It’s still very much a MONK, but with a lot more going on mystery-wise.”
Natalie has a lot to do with that “lot more going on mystery-wise”. Lee flawlessly channels a woman’s thoughts. He says it’s through osmosis. “I’ve been married for 22 years to a dazzlingly intelligent and beautiful French woman and have a dazzlingly intelligent and beautiful 15 year old daughter. My dog is also dazzlingly intelligent and beautiful. The only one who isn’t dazzlingly intelligent and beautiful in my house is me.”
Is this tryst between Natalie and detecting the start of something big? Could this possibly be the first baby step away from her incredibly popular, every-ones-favorite, obsessive compulsive? Lee says, “No matter what happens, he will always be a part of her life, whether she is working for him or not.” Double hmmmmmm.
It may seem as though literary fame and fortune comes easy to Lee, but he has been pecking out novels and short stories since he was eleven. His first unpublished opus was, he says, “a futuristic tale about a cop born in an underwater sperm bank. I don’t know why the bank was underwater, or how deposits were made, but I thought it was very cool.” It makes you wonder what the hell he was reading at age eleven.
He was writing for newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area by the time he was seventeen. He paid his UCLA tuition by freelancing for Newsweek, Starlog, American Film, UPI and the Los Angeles Times syndicate, among others. His gigs included writing sexually explicit letters-to-the-editor at Playgirl magazine for $25 bucks a piece. He loves that story. His first novel, .357 Vigilante, was published when he was nineteen, under the pseudonym “Ian Ludlow,” and was an instant bestseller. He’s been in writing Nirvana ever since, churning out books and writing and/or producing TV shows like Diagnosis Murder, SeaQuest, Baywatch, Hunter, Martial Law, Monk, Nero Wolfe, and The Glades .
What’s next for Lee? Another Monk book, and perhaps even less sleep. He’s working on a feature adaptation of Victor Gischler’s Gun Monkeys, a crime novel called King City, and The Dead Man, a monthly series of original ebooks based on an unsold TV pilot that he wrote with William Rabkin. “The Dead Man” his ambitious attempt to revive the men’s action adventure genre for a new generation.
“Execs always seemed to love the pitch, but we were never able to clinch the sale, and gave up on it a few years back,” Lee confides. “But lately I’ve had some success reviving my out-of-print books on the Kindle – particularly The Walk – and it occurred to me that The Dead Man would make a kick-ass series of men’s action adventure novels, a virtually extinct genre that I loved as a kid… and that I owe my career to (my .357 Vigilante books were among the last of the genre)”. Lee also managed to cajole a bunch of other writers to pen future novels in the series. “Not just any writers… but some of the very best western, horror, mystery, and science fiction scribes out there, including Marcus Pelegrimas,Joel Goldman, David McAfee, Bill Crider, Mark Ellis (aka James Axler), Jude Hardin, James Reasoner, David McAfee, Matt Witten, Burl Barer, Harry Shannon, Mel Odom, and James Daniels.”
But there’s no need to wait for any of that. Mr. Monk on the Couch is out there now, freshly dusted, on a bookshelf in alphabetical order in a bookstore with an even numbered address near you. The book is a fast read, perfect for the airport or a visit to the doctor’s office. In fact, if you take his book along with you, you might find yourself wishing the wait was just a little bit longer…
To learn more about Lee, please visit his website.