"'What he did was unforgivable,' Monk said. 'Luring you away to New Jersey with his smooth talk and false promises, forcing you to abandon the people who needed you most, plunging them into the impenetrable darkness and despair that lies in the pitiful depths of their tormented souls.'"
So the story goes...
Monk is trying to solve a case where his only clue is some crisscrossed bloody footprints. While puzzling over the mystery, Natalie takes him to Julie's soccer game, where he sees the coach doing an odd victory dance; the footprints of which are in the same crisscrossed pattern as those left in the blood. I guess the creep did a victory dance after killing a guy. So, one murder solved.
Next, Julie's wrist is broken during her soccer game. Monk and Natalie take her to get it set, only to find that Sharona is her nurse, and has moved back to San Fransisco. Oddly, Julie has her own complete sub-plot. Sharona's husband (Trevor) killed a woman and is now awaiting trial. Monk is thrilled that Sharona is back and determines to have two assistants (Wait, I'm getting a title idea) working on a shared salary.
Natalie isn't as thrilled about Sharona's unexpected return, and decides to get rid of her by proving Trevor's innocence. After visiting Trevor in jail, convincing Sharona to fight for her husband, and talking Monk into investigating the murder, Natalie is well on her way to getting her wish. On the way to L.A. Monk solves another mystery, but once he gets there his powers of observation are impaired by the smog.
He spends the next several days wearing an allergy mask. He meets an author, who works with the L.A police dept. in the same capacity as Monk. They are instant enemies. He also talks to all the people involved in the murder, sends one of them to jail for theft, but determines that none of them are 'the guy". He returns to San Fran at square one.
Upon his return, Monk is faced with yet another murder. This time it is a man killed by an alligator. Disher does him a favor and calls in the author from L.A. Eventually, we know that it is the author who killed the guy in L.A. and the alligator guy. Apparently he just isn't up to writing four books a year, so he kills his fans for story fodder.
As with the episodes, the point of a Monk novel is not about the mystery, but about how Monk solves it. Although, they don't tell you who the bad guy is until the end, his guilt couldn't be more obvious if he had scary music playing behind him. Having Monk in writing does make it more difficult to figure out the 'how' of the mystery on your own, because it takes out the visual cues. Mostly, this book is a comedy for those with a special place in their heart for an obsessive-compulsive detective.
I know a lot of people have been wanting to see "Sharona vs Natalie", but I didn't think it went over that well. Also, the story builds heavily from the show, so if you don't know the history of the characters, don't look here to find it. The book also had a couple of surprising sexual references, considering how clean the show is.
Basically, if you like the show, you will like the book. It is easy to read, fun, and fulfills the need for a "Monk fix".