Monk's house is being fumigated, and he has nowhere to go. Fortunately, his assistant Natalie and her daughter are kind enough to welcome him into their home. Unfortunately, their home is not quite up to Monk's standards of cleanliness and order.
But while Monk attempts to arrange his surroundings just so, something else needs to be put straight. The death of a dog at the local firehouse-on the same night as a fatal house fire-has led Monk into a puzzling mystery. And much to his horror, he's going to have to dig through a lot of dirt to find the answer.
Donald and I chose to read this on a whim-- mainly because we fairly recently (within the last six months or so?) finished watching the Monk series and both enjoyed it. I would happily watch another season of the show, if it existed. As for the rest of the Monk books-- I believe the whole series consists of twelve novels-- I'm somewhat ambivalent.
If you absolutely love the show and would do anything to spend a little more time with its characters, this is for you. I don't say that you're guaranteed to love it without any reservations, but it's worth a read. However, if you've never seen the show or don't feel a special fondness for it, I'd be more cautious in my recommendation...
While I certainly wouldn't say it was bad, neither was it a stand-out, unfortunately, and if I hadn't already been very familiar with Monk and the other characters, I'm afraid I would have found them to be a little bit dry and uninteresting. Well, to be fair, I guess we do get insight into Natalie's mind and character-- more so than in the TV series, maybe-- but honestly, the parts that focused too much on Natalie (her dates, for instance) were my least favorite parts of the book. I liked the dialogues with Monk best, but even those were a pale shadow next to seeing "Monk" (aka Tony Shalhoub) perform them. (On the other hand, I've seen at least two reviews on Amazon claiming that the books are better than the TV show or do a better job of characterization. Maybe it depends on which you're exposed to first.)
So, this isn't exactly a glowing review-- but again, I don't think it's a bad book. I'd say it's pretty much standard fare, not much different than what you can find in dozens (okay, thousands) of niche mysteries.
One interesting tidbit--
If you've seen the whole series of the TV program, you may find this story familiar. Even I, with my ability to re-read things and find them almost new again, found myself thinking that there might have been an episode based on the novel (which was written while the show was still being filmed). Sure enough, now that we're done, a little googling reveals that there was an episode based on the book. (Not surprising, since apparently the author wrote for the TV show!) I wonder how many of the other books were turned into episodes...