Question: What could be worse than taking a trip with Adrian Monk? Answer: Taking a trip with Adrian Monk and his brother Ambrose. Nuclear Neuroses Overload.
Yet the comely Natalie Teeger not only goes along for the ride, she's one of the instigators. Because Ambrose Monk suffers from agoraphobia Natalie and Monk decide--wait for it--to rent a motor home, drug Ambrose and install Ambrose in said RV so that he wakes up while they are in motion. Natalie has the whole trip planned. How can he complain? He's inside a sort of house, isn't?
Lee Goldberg has cast the new and extremely enjoyable Monk book as a picaresque adventure. First of all it's fun to watch Natalie, who is not up for taking any grief from either brother, run the show while listening to Adrian bitch and whine his way through the entire book. My favorite moment is when Adrian learns that people who go through burger drive-ins frequently sit in the parking lot with the food on their laps. Food resting on your crotch? "It's like eating your food off a toilet seat." Who wouldn't want to travel with Adrian?
Lee cleverly ties a few of their adventures into murders. Adrian wants to linger and solve them but Sgt. Natalie won't have it. They keep moving. Parts of the book are given over to Lee's descriptions of and commentaries about various places in Southern California. Some very nice writing. He also shows how how life can vary in different RV camps. Some are pretty nice; some send both the Monk brothers into existential dread.
Of all the characters we meet along the way the most vivid to me are Dub (an aging reporter dying of lung cancer determined to learn the identity of a serial killer he's been searching for) and some older whacky women traveling together in an RV and devoutly wishing they were twenty again.
I've given up trying to rank the Monk books. I've read them all and think they each have different pleasures to offer, which is a tribute to Lee's savvy as a writer. But I have to say that putting both the Monks in a RV with Natalie-take-no-crap-Teeger has got to be the funniest premise yet. A truly hilarious read with a surprise shout-out to the movie "Duel" coming out of nowhere. Among many other surprises.