Mr. Monk Is Open For Business by Hy Conrad (4 out of 5)
This is the second Hy Conrad Monk novel. The last one, which was read back in February, did not ring any bells of wonder. At that time, the character of Monk seemed more emotionally needy than before, and the semi- assassination of the character for a plot that seemed tepid at best (murders on a cruise ship) was disheartening. Those who enjoyed the USA show still have that show and its characters locked away into a box of memories of what was versus what now is, and that novel did no favors to the characters that are much beloved and missed (by its many fans). I’m sure those who watched Veronica Mars and now have novels following up the Kickstater movie, would not rejoice if the characters were sacrificed, for anything less than an original storyline. That’s what Conrad’s last book felt like. Happily, that has changed with this one.
Monk and Natalie have just officially opened their private detective agency. Their first case is the murder of three coworkers at an office, by a disgruntled hack employee that no one seems to know. The only survivor, a seemingly pleasant wallflower named Sarabeth, isn’t able to offer much in the way of help. Monk, reeling from his and Ellen(his ex who cast him off in the last book)’s breakup, develops a case on the lone survivor and offers her personal protection (in addition to the police protection, in case the perp comes after her to finish the job), spending days with her. Natalie and Devlin (who was assigned the case and whose ass is now on the line, due to her indecisiveness with the crime scene and investigation)are instantly suspicious and voice their concerns to Monk, who’s having none of it. Tie in another case that may or may not have to do with the triple murder, and you have quite a cast of viable suspects. The plot keeps on, the pace doesn’t lag at all, the characters keep throwing curve balls, and the end not only made perfect sense, but it was completely unexpected and all ends tied up.
You pick this up, and before you know it, hours have gone by and you’re still reading it and enjoying it.
The main reason this was so enjoyable is that the move and groove seems to be back to the character. That definitely wasn’t the case with the first novel Conrad did for the character. The characters are all back with a vengeance, and there are twists from the first chapter onward. More than a few different possible scenarios and suspects, and all of them made sense with their motives. Also enjoyable was the re-emergence of Yuki and Ambrose, largely absent in the previous book. Amy Devlin is a great character and woven in well with the plot unfurling throughout the book; I hope she’s front and center again in the next novel.
My only complaint was that Natalie’s daughter Julie deciding she was sick of her major in college and wanting to be Natalie and Monk’s “unpaid intern”, was seeming to be a big occurrence, and then it was dropped as quickly as it was brought up. The same can be said of Randy Disher’s police career not going well in Summit. It’s mentioned, and then it’s gone. The last occurrence of the hide and seek is with Adam Morse, Ellen’s brother, who is suspected of murder (by Monk, no less. Talk about awkward.) at the beginning of the book. You get brief resolution and a mention toward the end, but not the whole story, nor is Ellen and Monk’s dissolution discussed at great length. The way the book starts off, you almost believe it will be. Those few small ends are probably the only thing sticking in the craw. Overall, a highly enjoyable read in the Monk series.