Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants

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Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants
Monkassistants.jpg
1st edition 2007 hardback cover
Author Lee Goldberg
Country United States
Language English
Series Monk mystery novel series
Genre Mystery novel
Publisher Signet Books
Publication date
July 3, 2007 (hardcover)
January 2, 2008 (paperback)
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 279 pp
ISBN 0-451-22097-8
OCLC 77271229
813/.54 22
LC Class PS3557.O3577 M725 2007
Preceded by Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu
Followed by Mr. Monk in Outer Space

Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants is the fourth novel based on the television series Monk by Lee Goldberg. It is the first Monk novel to be published in hardcover, on July 3, 2007. The paperback edition was released on January 2, 2008.

Plot summary[edit]

Adrian Monk and Natalie Teeger take Julie to the hospital after she breaks her wrist during a soccer game, though before they leave, Monk gives the other parents the satisfaction of exposing the other team's coach as a murderer. At the hospital, Monk is stunned when he sees his old assistant Sharona Fleming working as a nurse. She explains that after leaving Monk's employ to remarry her ex-husband, Trevor Howe, and move to New Jersey, a friend of Trevor's from Los Angeles who owned a landscaping business sold his business to Trevor. They moved to Los Angeles and took over the business. However, recently, when one of his clients, a professor named Ellen Cole, was found bludgeoned to death with a lamp in her house, evidence turned up suggesting Trevor was the killer. Sharona has no trouble believing it, so she and Benjy have moved back up to San Francisco, with Benjy currently staying with Sharona's sister Gail.

Sharona doesn't hide the fact that she'd like her old job with Monk back, and before long there is open hostility between her and Natalie. To save her job, she works out a compromise: they will travel to Los Angeles so that Monk can see if Trevor is really guilty.

Monk, Natalie and Sharona drive to Los Angeles, arriving by nightfall. They meet Lieutenant Sam Dozier of the Los Angeles Police Department while he's investigating the shooting of a cashier killed in an antiques store robbery. Here, Monk (wearing a gas mask due to fear of the smog) exposes the owner's wife as the killer. They then travel to Ellen Cole's house. Monk examines the scene and concludes (somewhat to his own regret), that Trevor is innocent. He notices several clues that suggest that Ellen Cole's killer was waiting for her, meaning that the murder was premeditated. However, Dozier informs Monk that jewelry from Trevor's clients was found in his truck, and Sharona dismisses this as not being enough to arrest Trevor - after all, it's not too difficult to commit identity theft and open an account with someone else's name to fence stolen goods.

They go on to question some of the people closest to the victim, on the chance that one of them might be the real killer (with Monk also busting one of them for shoplifting). Later, Monk, Natalie and Sharona head down to a bookstore to question the person who found the evidence to "convict" Trevor, LAPD consultant Ian Ludlow. Ludlow is a household name everywhere, writing his Detective Marshak stories and publishing new ones at a rate of one book every three months. He mentions the damning evidence, although Monk refuses to believe it. While they are at the bookstore, Natalie buys a few of Ludlow's titles, including his latest, Death Is the Last Word. The saleswoman at the bookstore mentions that Ludlow has a compulsion - he can't pass a store without signing his own books, and today, unsigned Ludlow titles are more valuable than signed books.

Sharona remains behind in Los Angeles, intending to do some asking around about Ellen Cole, while Monk and Natalie head back to San Francisco. During the drive, Monk flips through the Ludlow titles and quickly solves the mysteries in the books after only reading the first few pages. Natalie berates him for ruining the plots, but Monk remarks that there's really no point to reading his books: after all, in San Francisco, he solves a lot of cases that are usually a lot more interesting and complicated than what Ludlow can conjure. Not to mention, Ludlow has a certain key aspect present throughout his titles - the killer is always the least likely suspect who is betrayed by a personality quirk.

While Monk and Natalie have been away, Julie has been staying with Benjy. She remarks that they seem to have way too many similarities (including having lost a father), and doesn't want to become identical to him at any point soon.

The next few days go by with no incidents, as Monk recuperates from the smog in Los Angeles. Natalie briefly has a run in with Joseph Cochran, a firefighter she dated briefly during a different homicide investigation. Cochran informs Natalie that he needs Monk's help again - this time, on a property theft. It seems that someone has stolen his fire company's hydraulic rescue equipment.

That Friday, when Natalie is leaving the house, her car starts leaking oil and she is forced to rent a Toyota Corolla while her Jeep Grand Cherokee goes into the shop for repairs.

Baker Beach, where Ronald Webster's body was dumped

Later that day, Monk and Natalie are called by Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher to a crime scene on Baker Beach. Monk has to face his issues with nudists as he is led to the crime scene. They are shown the crime scene, which Stottlemeyer mentions as possibly being a crime scene but at the same time is possibly not one: a 37-year-old shoe salesman by the name of Ronald Webster has been found brutally mauled to death, and his midsection has been ripped open. The medical examiner has determined the approximate time of death to be some time the night before, but they can't be more precise, given the body's immersion in the water.

Monk learns that this was probably not a robbery, as Webster's wallet is still in his pocket, as are his car and house keys. He also learns that the victim's car is not in the nearby parking lot. Randy theorizes that Webster came out skinny dipping with a special friend, who may have been washed away, however, this turns out to be an unlikely lead.

At Monk's request, the medical examiner turns Webster's body over, and he mentions that drowning is the likely cause of death. The wounds on his body, while still extremely painful, are not fatal, and they appear to have been made by a creature of some sort. After Randy makes several wild guesses about what kind of animal could make a bite like the one on the body, (his guesses getting more bizarre until he guessses that a clam is responsible) Monk dismisses him and tells all that the animal that did this was an alligator. He points out that all of the teeth marks are identical, as alligators have teeth that are all perfectly identical. The medical examiner points out to Monk that alligators are not indigenous to San Francisco, but an alligator may have been responsible - after all, alligators kill their prey by grabbing them with their mouths, and then holding them underwater until they drown, and the pattern of injuries is consistent with this theory. Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher are all convinced that this is a rather cleverly committed homicide.

With Stottlemeyer unable to mobilize a homicide task force with the San Francisco Police Department until the medical examiner completes his autopsy, Monk and Natalie ask around to see if there might be anything that would explain why Ronald Webster was killed in a rather bizarre fashion. They go to the shoe store where Webster worked, and question some of his fellow employees. Coincidentally, it seems that the store is in Natalie's neighborhood. They talk to one of his fellow employees, who tells them that Webster lived a very dull life, and also mentions that his priest is the only person who'd know more about him.

Leaving the store, Monk mentions to Natalie that as Ronald Webster lived a rather quiet life, the theory that the alligator attack was premeditated homicide looks more compelling - for one thing, skinny dipping wasn't something that fit his personality. Also, his car was never found near the crime scene, and Monk figures that they'll find Webster's Buick Lucerne either near his house or near the store. Monk deduces that the crime scene at the beach was entirely staged, and Webster had to have been killed somewhere else.

The next day, Monk and Natalie head to Mission Dolores, a few blocks away, and speak to Father Bowen, Webster's priest. In questioning, he tells them that Webster attended mass every day. Monk figures that Webster had done something worth feeling very guilty about that caused him to attend daily mass. Bowen mentions that a few years ago, Webster hit a woman with his car and he fled the scene. He felt so guilty about the incident that he started attending church to pay for what he did. Natalie quickly calls Disher to ask for a check on the victim that Ronald Webster hit.

Their next stop is the office of Dr. Paula Dalmas, a dentist in Walnut Creek, and the woman that Webster had hit with his car. Questioning Dr. Dalmas, they learn that Webster has been sending money to her anonymously for a while, and had been following her for years. She mentions that she had to undergo quite a lot of surgery after the hit-and-run, including hip surgery and facial surgery, and has lost the ability to reproduce. Monk quickly figures that Dr. Dalmas is a dead end - she was left with permanent injuries after the hit-and-run, and as such has made it her job to fix other peoples' teeth. Also, she has an alibi for the night of the murder.

As Monk and Natalie return to San Francisco, Stottlemeyer calls to inform them that the medical examiner has completed his report and wants them down at the morgue. When they arrive at the morgue, they find Stottlemeyer and Disher waiting for them, as well as Ian Ludlow himself. Ludlow admits that Randy called him in, and that Randy was one of his top students when he was teaching a class on mystery writing at Berkeley, during the 2007 SFPD police strike. Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer, Disher, Ludlow and the medical examiner all look at Webster's body. The bite does appear to have been made by an alligator, judging by the amount of force per square inch applied. At the same time though, the medical examiner mentions that there are traces of bath water and bath salts in the body, suggesting he drowned in his bathtub, which only makes things more complicated. Natalie asks if it is easy to fake an alligator bite, and learns that it is actually more difficult than one thinks: you have to get the right amount of force per square inch, and if there are no signs of a struggle, it's a dead giveaway. Ludlow mentions that one of his characters in Death Is the Last Word actually tried faking an alligator bite with a bear trap with no success.

For obvious reasons, Monk is unhappy with Ludlow's presence, and dismisses some of the crucial clues Ludlow has found, such as the fact that Webster had his last meal (a few slices of pizza) less than an hour before he was killed. They decide to check out Ronald Webster's loft apartment. As they arrive, Stottlemeyer points out that the building he lived in was recently converted from an old warehouse, and Webster was the only occupant the building - so if he was killed here, no one would have heard anything like the sounds of a struggle.

Monk examines the scene and notices streaks on the floor, some hydraulic fluid, and a drop of blood in the bathtub - clues that suggest that this is where Webster was killed. He also notices that their killer apparently was very messy and left behind basically everything except a name and a phone number, and is somewhat confused - why would someone who'd killed a guy in a very clever way suddenly become so messy? Monk also notices that the victim was a fan of Ludlow's books, judging by the fact that he has all but the latest title on his bookshelf. They also find a pizza box from Sorrento's with a receipt dated to Thursday night, and Natalie begins to wonder if she and Julie came very close to encountering Webster or spotted him and never recognized him.

While they are investigating the apartment, Natalie gets a call from Joe Cochran. Monk quickly figures out who the caller is, and learning about the theft that happened at Joe's firehouse, he insists on checking it out.

Monk and Natalie head down to Joe's firehouse where they meet Joe and Fire Captain Mantooth, who is pleased to meet Monk again. They explain to Monk that on Wednesday night, earlier in the week, at around 9:00 PM, their crew was called away to a car fire in Washington Square. Someone had blown up a painter's van (the arson investigators have ruled it arson, having discovered that someone stuffed rags into the van's fuel tank). Monk quickly figures that the arsonist who did it wanted to get a lot of attention. It took Joe's crew at least two hours to fight the fire and clean up the rubble, and when they got back to their firehouse, they did their standard unloading procedure - cleaning the rig and doing an inventory check - and that's when they found that someone had stolen one of their Jaws of Life kits (the Jaws themselves are designed as a spreader to help extricate people who are trapped in their cars in accidents). Monk learns that the power unit stolen is powered by gasoline, and the Jaws also have a cutting force of 18,000 pounds per square inch. With this, Monk not only has figured out how Ronald Webster was killed, but he's also solved the case - and figured that Webster's killer is the same person as Ellen Cole's killer, even though both crimes have different M.Os (with Ellen being bludgeoned and Webster being mauled). Unfortunately, he doesn't believe he can recover the gear that was stolen, and reluctantly tells Joe and Mantooth that the thief probably dumped the gear in the Bay after he killed Ronald Webster.

Here's What Happened[edit]

Ronald Webster's killer started the car fire to lure Joe's fire company out of the firehouse for a long enough period of time that he could steal the Jaws of Life package. The killer then attached a set of alligator jaws to the inside of the spreader to make the alligator bite look authentic and also enable him to replicate the biting force of an alligator. The following night, the killer broke into Webster's house, and knocked Webster out. After stripping him of his clothes, he put the body in the bathtub and filled it up with water (which he then laced with table sea-salts). Then the killer clamped the Jaws down on Webster, who must have regained consciousness and tried to fight back against his attacker, which explains the streaks Monk found on the floor near the bathtub when he investigated the apartment. After Webster was dead, the killer lugged the Jaws of Life and Webster's body down to his car. After dumping Webster's body and neatly folded clothes at Baker Beach, the killer drove somewhere else and threw the Jaws into the water.

The next morning, Sharona shows up at Monk's apartment, Monk having called her the night before. Stottlemeyer also shows up, and Monk explains that he believes Ludlow himself killed both Ronald Webster and Ellen Cole. He remembers how Ludlow said to him that he hangs around with Lieutenant Dozier for a few days as he waits for an unusual murder to come along, but Monk doesn't believe Ludlow waits - he believes that Ludlow befriends a random person he meets at a book signing, follows them for a while, kills them, finds out who is in their life, and then frames the least likely person for the crime.

Stottlemeyer, however, is not convinced, and believes that Monk is personally jealous at the fact that Ludlow is helping consult on the Webster case. To further press the issue, Monk tells Stottlemeyer that Ludlow confessed to them three times (inadvertently, that is): The first time was in the bookstore, where he told Monk that he couldn't make up the stuff he used for his latest Detective Marshak novel, the second being when Ludlow was huddled with the others around a table in the morgue, where Monk noticed Ludlow shaking his head and musing to himself "I couldn't make this stuff up.", and the third being when Ludlow entered the upper makeshift warehouse room and, after listening to the others, says smoothly "I am always amazed at what you find when you scratch the surface of any ordinary person's life. Who would ever thought that this shoe salesman could have so many secrets?". Stottlemeyer becomes furious with Monk, telling him that he must really feel threatened by Ludlow's sleuthing skills for him to be finding connections where none exist. He dismisses what Monk believes happened, apart from the M.O. for the fake alligator attack, and tells him that he has no plans to arrest Ian Ludlow. After Stottlemeyer leaves the apartment, Sharona gets mad at Monk for 'not being able to see past his own selfishness', but Monk pleads with her and Natalie to believe him. Despite all of Monk's previous triumphs and comebacks in the past, they don't.

However, minutes later Stottlemeyer comes back and informs Natalie and Sharona that there has been some bad news. When they reach the street, they find that Natalie's car has been towed, though Natalie insists that she didn't park the car illegally. Stottlemeyer points out that it wasn't his call, and he has Monk, Natalie and Sharona accompany him to Natalie's house.

When they get to Natalie's house, there is a heavy police presence outside. In the house, as the police search all through the rooms in compliance with an authorized search warrant, Ludlow greets Captain Stottlemeyer and proudly declares that he's gotten to the 'truth' of the case. He then accuses Natalie and Sharona of committing the murders, accusing Sharona of the Ellen Cole murder and Natalie to Ronald Webster. With smugness (as Natalie explicitly points out to the reader as the narrator), Ludlow presents his evidence through a series of false summations that clearly mock Adrian Monk's famous "Here's What Happened" summations: He explains their motive as, on Sharona's part, a desire to rid herself of her husband, and on Natalie's part, a desire to get Sharona out of the way and keep her job as Monk's assistant. Ludlow's first summation is against Sharona, saying that the one person who could set up an eBay account in Trevor's name and plant the stolen goods in his truck was her. Ludlow arrogantly declares that Sharona had 'unfettered access', and that in her 'most brazen act' she told Lieutenant Dozier how she did it. Next, he sardonically inquires why Sharona never called Adrian Monk in to investigate the homicide, and immediately concludes by saying that it's because Monk is so brilliant a detective, he would have pieced together the clues that Sharona killed Ellen Cole, then, Ludlow focuses on Natalie. By this point, Natalie is able to see that Ludlow is indeed the killer, just as Monk had said. In an attempt to counter Ludlow's accusations, she tells him "Maybe you killed Ellen Cole.", but Ludlow ignores her. In Ludlow's second summation, he accuses the two women of making a pact that Sharona would 'stay out of Monk's life forever' if Natalie agreed to help her keep Trevor behind bars, then he arrogantly declares that Natalie 'concocted a brilliant scheme' by deliberately committing the murder of Webster in such a bizarre way, that Monk would be immediately called in to investigate, and that part of the 'scheme' was to distract Adrian from learning that Sharona killed Ellen Cole. Ludlow even interjects to Natalie that the reason she wanted to keep her job as Monk's assistant is because she was secretly in love with him. Natalie desperately tries to refute all of Ludlow's wild accusations, but her efforts are futile. Next, Ludlow accuses Natalie of ordering an alligator jaw online the day before the firehouse theft, adding that she read his book 'Death is the Last Word' (Natalie tries to tell him that she really didn't), which inspired the 'fiendish plot', and that she drugged her daughter, Julie, before sneaking off to the firehouse to steal the Jaws of Life. Natalie points out that someone could have stolen her credit card number, ordered the jaws, then swiped them off her porch, and snuck out of her house on the night of the theft to the firehouse to steal the Jaws of Life, but Ludlow ignores her. "I bet you even had a key to the building." he sneers, though Natalie protests this claim, saying that she doesn't have a key to the firehouse. Additionally, forensics has found evidence matching Natalie's car to clues found in Webster's apartment, making it clear that Natalie's car was towed because forensics wanted to give it an analysis. As impossible as it sounds, the evidence is arranged in a compelling enough way that Stottlemeyer has no choice but to arrest both women, much to Ludlow's satisfaction. To their horror, Monk has nothing to add.

The two women spend a night together in a holding cell, where they finally bond. Sharona recognizes that Natalie is a good fit for Monk - which is no small validation, when Natalie has been working in Sharona's shadow for years. At the same time, Sharona sadly advises her that Natalie will never have a chance for her own life, or her own happiness, unless she can bring herself to abandon Monk.

The next day, the two women are brought in for interrogation. Stottlemeyer asks the prison guards to release Natalie and Sharona from their handcuffs. Sharona asks Stottlemeyer if he's brought them in because he wants to apologize to them, but Stottlemeyer points out that Monk has caught a big break in the investigation and has found evidence that exonerates them. When they see Monk, he is carrying a big grocery bag. He quickly mentions that Ludlow killed Ellen Cole and Ronald Webster for little more reason than to create plot lines for his books, as Ludlow can't create stories in time to meet his deadlines. The way Ludlow works is like this: he befriends someone he meets at a book signing, then kills them, observes how events unfold, and then frames the least likely suspect for the crime. Monk goes back through how Ludlow committed the crimes, and then explains that the murder of Ronald Webster was about framing Natalie and expanding his next book.

He explains that the events leading up to Webster's death began when Natalie bought several of Ludlow's titles in Los Angeles. Monk figures that Ludlow must have stolen Natalie's credit card receipt and used the number on the receipt to order the alligator head and ship it to her house in San Francisco with overnight shipping, and then he swiped the jaws off Natalie's porch before Natalie got home so that she never knew about the theft. Monk also figures out that Ludlow must have done some online research on Adrian Monk's various cases throughout the years (such as the 'Golden Gate Strangler' case), which explains his extensive knowledge of Monk and both of his assistants, Sharona and Natalie.

Ludlow mentions that there isn't any proof, but Monk points out that Ludlow, like most bad mystery writers, has his killers drop clues everywhere so that his detective can wrap everything up nice and tight. He added a few clues too many when he framed Natalie. Monk also reveals that Natalie's relationship with Joe Cochran was one of the little surprises Ludlow likes to discover when he commits these seemingly random killings.

Monk is starting to build a case, but Ludlow points out to Monk that all of the events described happened before he arrived in San Francisco on that Friday. At this, Monk asks Randy and confirms that he called Ludlow's cell phone, so he couldn't know where Ludlow actually was when he was contacted. Ludlow claims he was in Los Angeles, but Monk says he can prove Ludlow was actually in San Francisco. He presents a copy of a receipt from a pizza box he found in Ronald Webster's kitchen. It comes from Sorrento's, the pizzeria in Natalie's neighborhood.

Ludlow claims that the receipt can prove Webster was in the restaurant at the same time that Natalie was in there with Julie, a few nights before the murder, and that he knows this because he is thorough in his investigation. Monk tries to get Ludlow to explain how he knows this, and Ludlow claims that he knows Webster, Natalie and Julie were all in Sorrento's at the same time because Webster saw the 10% discount advertised on Julie's cast. However, Monk points out that Ludlow isn't explaining how he can know about the discount when he's never met Julie, and reveals that Ludlow actually had been in San Francisco. Additionally, Monk explains that Ludlow, like the killers of his own books, has been betrayed by a very hidden personality quirk.

Monk reveals that there is a bookstore across the street from Sorrento's. After admitting that he had to wait until this morning to get the evidence (due to the store being closed on Sundays), he pulls out a copy of Death Is the Last Word that he bought at that bookstore. Ludlow asks if he should sign it, but Monk shows the title page, which shows that he actually signed this copy of the book two days before Webster was killed, several days before he claimed to have arrived in San Francisco.

Monk mentions that that is Ludlow's personality quirk: he can't pass a bookstore without signing his own books. He watched Natalie and looked for just the right person to kill. Ronald Webster served to be the perfect victim. Ludlow befriended him, killed him by clamping the stolen Jaws of Life on him, and then dumped his body at the beach.

Ludlow is arrested, and Trevor - along with several other "murderers" in Los Angeles that were caught with Ludlow's assistance - are set free. As they leave, Monk admits to Natalie and Sharona that he would have arrested Ludlow earlier if he hadn't been so ashamed of himself for his mistakes. He also apologizes for letting them down the day before, and Monk points out that he was afraid of speaking up because he knew he would have tipped Ludlow off to the fact that he was being considered a suspect, and if Ludlow realized that Monk had caught on to him, he'd go back and buy up his signed books, then destroy them. He reveals that Ludlow also signed his stock at two other bookstores in San Francisco - one in Washington Square and one out at Baker Beach.

Exonerated, Sharona and Natalie reunite with their families, and Sharona prepares to return to Los Angeles with Trevor and Benjy, leaving Monk in Natalie's hands, and giving Monk the loving goodbye she never said the last time.

Characters[edit]

Characters from the television show[edit]

Original characters[edit]

  • Ian Ludlow: a prolific mystery author, in the same vein as J.B. Fletcher. He consults for the LAPD in the same way that Monk consults for the San Francisco Police Department.
  • Lieutenant Sam Dozier: LAPD detective, and Ludlow's biggest supporter;
  • Ellen Cole: Professor of Gender Studies at UCLA, and Trevor's supposed victim;
  • Sally Jenkins: Ellen Cole's ex-girlfriend
  • Joe Cochran: Natalie's sometime-lover, a firefighter with the San Francisco Fire Department.
  • Ronald Webster: A shoe salesman in San Francisco
  • Dr. Daniel Hetzer: an SFPD Medical Examiner
  • Maurice: One of Ronald Webster's colleagues
  • Father Bowen: Ronald Webster's priest at Mission Dolores
  • Dr. Paula Dalmas: A woman who was seriously injured by Webster in a hit-and-run; now works as a dentist in Walnut Creek
  • Captain Mantooth: Joe Cochran's fire captain

References[edit]

External links[edit]