Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse is Lee Goldberg's first Monk novel. Told from former San Francisco Police Department detective Adrian Monk's assistant Natalie Teeger's point of view, the opening narration gives us a good overview of who she and her obsessive-compulsive boss are.
In this episode, Sparky, a North Beach firehouse Dalmatian, has been murdered, struck on the head with a pickax while the men were out fighting a fire. Additionally, Esther Stovall, 64, a miserable, disliked old lady, dies in a fire believed to have been caused by her cigarette while she sits on her couch.
Monk and Natalie become involved in both cases when Natalie’s daughter, Julia, “hires” Monk to find the dog’s killer, and they later investigate the fire-death scene with Police Capt. Leland Stottlemeyer and Lt. Randy Disher. Monk is sure she was murdered.
The two cases begin to intertwine as Monk does his magic, interviewing Mrs. Stovall’s neighbors and investigating both scenes. As often happens in Monk movies and books, a number of funny sequences develop: Selecting a hotel room for Monk to stay in while his apartment building is being fumigated, Monk trying to lip read and getting it all wrong, Monk trying to find evidence by plowing through trash at the waste disposal warehouse, and Monk doing the”Coyote Ugly” thing at a bar.
Monk is the master, solving another murder by just walking into an apartment, looking around for a few minutes while seemingly occupied with other obsessive thoughts, then announcing he knows who killed the victim, why s/he was murdered, and how the murder went down.
As far as the Sparky and Mrs. Stovall killings are concerned, the murderer finally exposes himself when he gets his dander up ... literally.
Goldberg captured the flavor and essence of the hit television show perfectly. And since I'm a fan of his Monk books and the TV series, the mental images his words evoke make my heart sing. References to previous cases loosened bits of recollections, reminding me that I'd seen them on TV, further expanding my frame of reference.
New American Library, reissue edition (Paperback, $7.99 list)