Back in the mid-1800s, in a California town named Trouble, Artemus Monk was the gold boom town’s assayer, the only clean-shaven man in town, who also solves crimes. He hires Abigail Guthrie, whose husband Hank died from overworking himself panning for gold, as his assistant.
In present day San Francisco, Adrian Monk is a murder consultant for the San Francisco Police Department. He has obsessive-compulsive disorder and suffers from a wide variety of phobias. He’s weird; he gives “Wet Ones” towelettes to Trick or Treaters on Halloween Night. Is he a descendent of Artemus Monk?
Told from Abigail’s and Natalie’s points of view, Mr. Monk in Trouble jumps back and forth 150 years between the two eras as Adrian tries to solve two mysteries.
The first is to find out who killed Manny Feikema, a retired policeman who moved to Trouble 5 years ago, became a security guard at the Gold Rush Museum, and was killed on the job.
He also is obsessed with solving Golden Rail Express train robbery of 50 years ago during its final, commemorative run between Sacramento and Trouble. Somebody hijacked a high-stakes poker game on board with a first prize of $100,000 in gold coins to the winner. But nobody knows where the gold has been hidden.
Monk arrives in Trouble and immediately manifests his deathly fear of burros. That’s not unusual for him, because Monk has an extensive list of phobias. He and Natalie also run into a horde of Monarch butterflies on their way into Trouble. The beautiful migrating Lepidoptera collide and gloop on the windshield like tiny egg yolks. This actually becomes relevant later in the story.
Once Monk gets all his observations and logic in place, he has no trouble solving the mysteries, but only after we are treated to some interesting characters and suspects. Present-day Monk deals with Trouble’s police chief, Harley Kenton; historical Monk deals with 1850’s lawman, Sheriff Wheeler.
Abbie’s story in her historical journal describing how Artemus Monk solved the “Express” case helps Adrian Monk as he formulates HIS end game.
Mr. Monk in Trouble had me chuckling throughout, sometimes laughing out loud, especially regarding the Monarch butterflies, which are resurrected over and over again. This is actually my first real exposure to the character, although I had a very faint knowledge of what he is all about, having seen some of USA’s promo spots through the years.
Having been suitably impressed, I think I’ll have to … (1) read more of Goldberg’s Monk stories, and (2) get the DVDs of the Monk TV series. I’m hooked.
NAL Hardcover ($22.95 list)