Fans of the TV show Monk will be thrilled to read another of his adventures in Hy Conrad’s latest novel, Mr. Monk Helps Himself. In this one, Monk’s assistant, Natalie, has decided its time to make a name for herself. She is about to take the private investigator’s exam and when she gets her license, she and Monk will form a partnership where they will be peers instead of him always calling the shots.
But events get in the way. One of Natalie’s heroes, self-help guru Miranda Bigley, commits suicide publicly in front of her audience. Natalie is sure it can’t really be suicide, since that is opposed to everything Miranda taught, but everyone else thinks Natalie just can’t face the truth. Monk won’t help her as he is involved in a case with the police. A clown has been killed. Clowns are high on Monk’s list of his top one hundred phobias, so he is determined not to engage, but the police are adamant. Monk determines the clown was involved in some dirty dealings that probably led to his death, but continues to try to avoid the scene or anything having to do with the victim.
Hy Conrad has written an engaging, lively mystery that falls on the cozy end of the mystery genre, one of the reasons the TV show enjoyed its huge success. Monk’s obsessions and foibles are front and center, and readers will enjoy the interplay in the relationship between him and Natalie. The mysteries are satisfactorily solved, with the logic so plain to Monk and so hidden from others. Hy Conrad was one of the original writers on the TV series, staying all eight years of the show’s run and serving as coexecutive producer for the last two. No one could write a more valid Monk mystery than Conrad. This book is recommended for mystery readers and fans of the TV show.