Book Report: Mr. Monk Is Miserable by Lee Goldberg (2008)

Book coverWell, the 2022 Winter Reading Challenge has a category Character/Author With A Disability category. I guess, were I a noble man, I would have maybe tried again The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, but instead of buying the university textbook store offering of it, I bought a Barnes and Noble or Waldenbooks omnibus copy that included that book amongst four in the volume, so I would not have counted it as a book in my reading. I also know I have The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time somewhere with an autistic narrator, but that’s in a Reader’s Digest omnibus (not a condensed book, although, you know, you don’t see them much in the wild anymore). So it, too, would not count as a book in my annual total, and I’m not sure whether I would count it as a complete book for the winter reading challenge. Wait a minute, Brian J., you say. Didn’t you count your own book in the challenge? Well, gentle reader, I didn’t actually think you read these book reports and would hold me to account! But I selected this book because I have enjoyed previous Monk novels (Mr. Monk Goes To The Firehouse and Mr. Monk Goes To Hawaii which I read last year), and I’d count his OCD and various phobias as a disability.

So this book takes place several books after Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii, so we miss the set-up and activitites that get Mr. Monk somewhere over the sea again–this time, apparently, he goes to Germany because he absolutely needs to talk to his analyst immediately. But after he solves the murders in that missing book (Mr. Monk Goes to Germany), his assistant Natalie, the first person narrator of the books, Watson to Monk’s Sherlock, she manipulates/compells him to visit Paris on the way back.

Of course, he becomes a pest on the short flight to Paris, but solves a murder on the flight, which leads to introductions with the local police, which comes in handy when Monk, on a tour of the sewers of Paris, he discovers the skeleton of a recently dead man amongst a pile of other bones. The skull belongs to a wealthy American man reported dead by suicide after prosecution who, apparently, fled to Paris and joined a dumpster-diving, living off the grid movement with a charismatic leader with whom he might have fallen into conflict.

So we get a bunch of humorous set pieces playing fun on Monk’s, erm, habits, including one where he takes a sidewalk cleaner for a ride, and the city employee lets him ‘borrow’ the vehicle for the duration of the stay as long as he cleans the sidewalks with it twice a day. And then, Monk solves the crime.

So a fun book to read. I don’t think I have any more Monk titles by Goldberg in my library, but I do have several in the Diagnosis: Murder series that I will get to before too long (but I am more likely to finish other series/sets that I’ve started recently). And I’ll continue to watch for other Monk titles in the wild.

I am probably going to call a lid on the 2022 Winter Reading Challenge, though. I’ve read enough–six books, which is five if you discount my own, and the categories are just not leading me into the next book like they did with the 2021 Winter Reading Challenge, where I read 16 books in the 15 categories. I probably won’t turn the form in until the end of the month just in case I slip another one in, but I’m going to focus on other books for the nonce.

Also, as I look at the hardback copy of Mr. Monk Is Miserable, I see I have flagged some things for individual comment. What did I flag?

Taking The Scenic Route

After solving the murder on the flight, Monk relaxes:

I knew he that he was right, but it was painful for Gertrude and awkward for everyone else to have a corpse in the aisle for the last hour of the flight.

Our heroes are flying from Frankfurt to Paris; the total flight time is one hour and twenty minutes. Americans can often forget the scale of Europe, where those countries are tiny, and our flights from the middle of the country to the coast are four or five hours.

This Requires A Footnote in 2022

I didn’t bother translating that for Monk. Besides, it really didn’t apply to him. His idea of the gateway to Hell was the front door of Hometown Buffet.

In the intervening 14 years since this book’s publication, the buffet chains have gone bankrupt or scaled way back. Even our local pizzerias have removed their buffets even though their gas-pump-top commercials continue to taunt us with the false promise of all you can eat taco, barbecue chicken, and normal pizzas.

A Motto

In the catacombs, Natalie surveys some of the inscriptions:

Où est-elle? La morte toudjours future au pasée à peine est-elle present que déjà elle n’est plus.

Which, translated, goes something like this: “Where is death? Always in the future or in the past. As soon as she is present, she is no more.”

Monk Mirrors Real Life

At a restaurant that serves the food in complete blackness, Monk finds a flaw in his plate:

“My plate is chipped,” Monk said, “On the rim.”

“That happens,” she [the blind waitress] said. “But I can assure you the plates are clean.”

“That doesn’t matter. You can’t expect people to eat off of a chipped plate. It has to be thrown out.” Monk reached out and touched my plate. I only know because he brushed my hand by mistake. “Her plate is chipped on the rim, too.”

I read this passage on Friday night after my beautiful wife and I got back from dinner at a fine Italian restaurant where my wife discovered an invisible chip on the rim of her plate. She did not reject it, though, perhaps because if you refuse to eat from chipped tableware at Nogglestead, you’re probably going hungry.

Not a Horse Person

Talking to the charming leader of the underground scamps (who might be the killer), he explains to Natalie a little about their underground mushroom farms:

“There weren’t enough horses in Paris to meet our needs. We use two thousand tons of manure for our mushroom beds, and it has to be pure and chemical free. So we buy our manure directly from farms outside of Paris, where the horses are more likely to be worked hard, kept with other animals, and fed a steady diet of good, dry straw.”

Generally you feed hay to the horses, or they graze fresh grass. You use straw for the bedding, so if your horse is eating its bedding, you’re malnourishing it. Take it from a recent country boy who does not have horses, but reads Ozarks Farm & Neighbor.

So a little nitpicking, and I draw them out here just to show how clever I am. They don’t really detract from the book, which I imagine the author cranked out with some alacrity–and skill for all that.

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