Mr Monk is miserable : my favourite Monk spin-off so far.

I’m really pleased with Mr Monk is miserable. It’s set in Paris, as Monk and Natalie are returning from the case described in Mr Monk goes to Germany. You don’t need to have read the first one to enjoy the second, but for no good reason I can see, the author tells you who the murderer was in his precis of the plot of the first book, to explain why Monk and Natalie are in Europe. As an added level of weirdness, the plot of Mr Monk goes to Germany is out of continuity with the TV series. This initial bit of oddness aside, it’s the best of the Monk novels.

Onto the plot! Monk and Natalie are in Paris. Monk takes Natalie to see the sewers, which he sees as a mark of genius. They also decide to check out the catacombs, and Monk discovers that one of the skulls is far too white, and modern, to be buried there. The solution leads Monk into contact with a terrifying (well, for him) subculture that scrounges food and materials from the dumpsters of Paris.

I enjoyed this far more than …Two assistants or …Goes to Germany, because Goldberg isn’t trying to work on the metanarrative of the series: he’s just telling his story and using his research. No boyfriend for Natalie, no clues to Trudy’s killer, no reconciliations with Sharona, just a story that stands on its own, and has the right mix of pathos, humour and mystery for a good Monk episode.