Mr. Monk in Outer Space
1st edition 2007 hardback cover
|Series||Monk mystery novel series|
|October 30, 2007|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|LC Class||PS3557.O3577 M77 2007|
|Preceded by||Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants|
|Followed by||Mr. Monk Goes to Germany|
- 1 Plot summary
- 2 Plot synopsis
- 3 Allusions to real-life events, places, or people
- 4 Continuity nod
- 5 Characters
- 6 Footnotes
- 7 External links
When Conrad Stipe, creator of the popular science fiction TV series Beyond Earth, is gunned down outside a Beyond Earth convention, Monk and Natalie are called in, and Monk soon finds that there is more going on behind the scenes than is visible to the naked eye, and also learns that his brother Ambrose is a big expert on the show.
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Early one morning, Natalie Teeger shows up for work only to find her boss, Adrian Monk, in a state of nervous collapse because of a near-invisible coffee stain on his carpet. Monk begs to stay with Natalie for a few days while he is having his carpet replaced. Natalie is trying to think of a tactful way to refuse, when they get a call about a corpse.
Monk and Natalie head down to the headquarters of Burgerville, a national fast-food chain. After taking a bit of trouble to get Monk through the building's revolving door, Captain Stottlemeyer introduces them to an old friend, an ex-cop named Archie Applebaum, who now works as a security guard, and who found the body. It is revealed that Archie and Stottlemeyer were close friends at the police academy.
They are taken up to the fifth floor. Stottlemeyer explains that the victim is Brandon Lorber, Burgerville's CEO. Lorber was found in his office, shot three times à la the Mozambique Drill – e.g. twice in the chest and once in the head, plus a through-and-through bullet hole in his right hand. When Monk, Natalie, and Stottlemeyer arrive in Lorber's office, Lieutenant Disher tells them that the M.O. indicates a professional killer. As Archie said he never heard anything, the killer probably used a silencer. Stottlemeyer notes that the killer, despite being seen on security cameras, obscured his face so that they couldn't get a good look at him.
Monk says that despite all the evidence to the contrary, Brandon Lorber was not murdered: he died of a heart attack. He points out that Lorber's shirt is wrinkled, from when Lorber grabbed at his chest. He probably flailed around and tried to get to his ticker pills, but he never made it (in the process of flailing around, he also knocked a box of cigars off his desk and onto the floor). Monk reveals that Lorber had been dead for several minutes when he was shot - there isn't enough blood from the bullet holes, and there would have been more blood present if his heart was still functioning when he was shot. Since it's not technically a homicide, Stottlemeyer halts the investigation and, at Monk's suggestion, he appoints Disher as the head of a "Special Desecration Unit" to take over the case.
The next morning, Monk and Natalie arrive at a crime scene outside the San Francisco Airporter Motor Inn. The victim is Conrad Stipe, the creator of the cult science fiction TV series Beyond Earth (a parody of the real-life Star Trek), shot and killed climbing out of a taxi while arriving at a Beyond Earth convention. Four surveillance cameras around the parking lot have caught the shooter, dressed as Mr. Snork, one of the protagonists of the show. They watch the tape, in which Stipe climbs out of the cab that has delivered him to the airport, at which point the killer emerges from a hiding spot behind a dumpster, shoots him once in the chest, and runs into the neighboring convention center. Stottlemeyer says he needs Monk's eye for detail to spot the "needle in a stack of needles." While they are examining the scene, Stottlemeyer also informs Monk that the medical examiner has found that Lorber had been dead for ten minutes when he was shot.
Investigating the convention, Adrian is appalled at the fans' loony devotion to a bad TV show, and even more appalled to learn that Ambrose is a devoted "Earther". Nonetheless, he learns that there are a large number of suspects, and finds that the producers are planning to revamp Beyond Earth, making it possible that Stipe was killed by a fan who was angry at him for "selling out" to Hollywood and allowing a less-than-faithful adaptation of the show to be made.
Monk and Natalie learn that Stipe had just arrived from the Belmont Hotel in Union Square when he was killed. When they head there, they find Stottlemeyer and Disher investigating the murder of a man in another hotel room. Monk quickly figures that the man was a diamond dealer and was killed in another room, and exposes the maid who discovered the body as the killer's accomplice.
While waiting for Stottlemeyer and Disher (as they arrest the exposed killer), Monk and Natalie interview Kingston Mills, the new executive producer of Beyond Earth, and the new show's star, Judson Beck. It seems possible that Mills killed Stipe to avoid paying him his cut from the show's profits, but Mills denies having any involvement with the murder, and admits that he and Stipe never actually talked to each other about anything. Stottlemeyer and Disher meet them in the hotel lobby, and Randy takes off to check out some leads involving the desecration of Brandon Lorber. He brings up some new details he's discovered and some likely suspects, though Monk wonders why any of them would desecrate a corpse with the precision of an assassin.
Monk, Natalie, and Stottlemeyer meanwhile question Arianna Stipe, Conrad Stipe's ex-wife, and Howard Egger, Arianna's divorce lawyer. Arianna mentions that she is suing her ex-husband's estate for half of the profits from the new show, and also reveals that she was in flight when Conrad was killed. While they are there, Monk also exposes Arianna and Egger as lovers.
Adrian and Natalie receive a copy of the surveillance tape depicting the shooting, and take it back to Ambrose's house. Examining the surveillance video, Ambrose notes that the killer's costume is inaccurate in several key details: the Mr. Snork ears the killer is wearing are a pair of ears from the pilot, yet he is also wearing a second season nasal appendage (which can be told apart from a pilot appendage because the pilot version was much harrier). Adrian scornfully dismisses these as insignificant. Natalie is appalled, since Adrian normally solves cases based on things which other detectives dismiss. Adrian is paying attention to other interesting details:
- If the killer was a disgruntled fan, why does he show almost no emotion as he pulls the trigger?
- Why does the shooter show such a professional aim, like he's a sharpshooter?
- Why did the killer choreograph things so that he would be captured killing Stipe by not one, but four cameras, like he wanted everyone to see exactly who he was?
- Why does the killer not even blink, like an inexperienced shooter would?
Ambrose quickly figures that the shooter's uniform is brand-new and was purchased less than 48 hours before Stipe was shot. Adrian and Natalie meet Stottlemeyer and Disher at the Filbert Steps to tell them about their lead. When they arrive, Stottlemeyer and Disher are examining the murder of Phil Bisson, a cab driver who was shot and killed during a robbery gone very wrong. Disher notes that the medical examiner figures Bisson was killed at around 1:00 AM the night before.
It is believed that Bisson was flagged down by a gunman, who forced him out of his cab at gunpoint, led him over to a deserted lot out of sight from the street, shot him in the head, took his money, and fled. But Monk is convinced the scene was staged: for one thing, Bisson never told his dispatcher that he was picking someone up, plus the cab appears to have made a U-turn to face the street. Monk then blows up and pops a plastic bag, emitting a loud gunshot-like bang, and wonders, why did none of the residents nearby hear a gunshot during the night? It indicates that the killer used a silencer, which is not something that would be carried around by the types of people most likely to carry out these kinds of robberies.
As Natalie tells Stottlemeyer and Disher everything they have learned on the Stipe case thanks to Ambrose, Monk looks inside the cab, and when he next looks out, he declares to all that the cabbie was killed by the same man who desecrated Brandon Lorber. When Stottlemeyer asks him who is responsible, Monk then declares that both crimes were the work of the man who killed Stipe.
To prove his point, Monk produces a piece of gum in the backseat of the cab. He notes that it appears two days old, proving that Conrad Stipe was in this cab recently - the piece of chewing gum in Bisson's cab is identical to a piece of gum that Monk noticed in the cab Stipe took from his hotel to the convention on the morning he was killed. To prove that Lorber's death is connected to them, Monk produces a candy wrapper and reveals that it came from a bowl of coffee candies in Lorber's office. Recalling that Randy and Stottlemeyer helped themselves to coffee candies from this bowl, Monk figures the shooter must have taken one for himself.
While the taxicab is towed back to the lab to be analyzed by the crime lab, Monk and Natalie examine a shredded document found on Lorber's desk. Monk notes that the document was planted – the document had a regular paper clip, but Lorber had a unique color-coded system of organizing his files. It also is badly streaked, meaning it was a document shredded and then somehow put back together.
They talk to the forensics accountant, who tells them about some of Burgerville's financial irregularities and reveals that the company is on the verge of collapse (the accountant likens it to a repeat of the Enron scandal). Returning upstairs, Monk says he's solved the case.
Here's what happened
Someone close to Lorber hired a hit man to kill him, but when the hit man arrived, Lorber had been dead for at least 10 minutes. The hit man shot Lorber's body to make it look like he'd done his job, so he could collect the rest of his fee. Afterwards, the hit man caught a taxi to the airport, a taxi driven by Phil Bisson. After Bisson dropped the assassin off, he picked up Conrad Stipe, and took Stipe from the airport back to his hotel. The hit man must have dropped something incriminating in the cab, and had to kill both Stipe and the cabbie because they would have figured out what the object meant.
Natalie realizes that it would explain why someone would shoot Stipe and make sure to be seen on not one but four security cameras - he wanted to be sure the police would look the wrong way. It also explains why Stipe's killer looked so relaxed when he aimed. And it also explains the costume's inaccuracies that Ambrose noted when observing the tape - the hit man didn't know anything about the little details of the show. Stottlemeyer is skeptical, but Monk continues to search for the person who wanted Lorber dead.
Monk and Natalie head down to Burgerville's building to question Andrew Cahill, the company's CFO and acting CEO. He admits that he has been cooperating with a Justice Department investigation into Burgerville's financial practices, and has been granted immunity from prosecution while testifying about the financial misdeeds Lorber committed. When asked if Lorber had any enemies, Cahill tells them to check out Lorber's wife Veronica. On their way down, Monk tests a shredder in Lorber's office, and determines that the shredded document found on Lorber's desk came from Cahill's shredder, indicating that Cahill is lying and also is part of the embezzlement scheme.
When Monk and Natalie talk to Veronica Lorber, their interview goes awry since Monk is too distracted by the animal trophy heads on one of the walls in their house. Nonetheless, Veronica contradicts Cahill, and says that Lorber was not involved with the financial scandal and Cahill was responsible. Monk uses this and a few other things that he's noticed to figure that Andrew Cahill and Veronica are secret lovers, something that causes Natalie to note the number of similarities between Veronica Lorber and Arianna Stipe. Stottlemeyer later reprimands Monk for the offending things he told Veronica, though Monk defends himself, stating that Veronica's and Cahill's complaints about him don't matter, given that the former commits adultery and the latter is an embezzler.
The next morning, Monk's theory about Lorber and Stipe getting shot by the same person is thrown into question. Monk and Natalie head back to the San Francisco Airporter, where they are once again at a crime scene outside the convention center and Disher is once again talking to a frantic witness. This time, however, the victim is Kingston Mills. Stottlemeyer and Disher try to coax Judson Beck into getting out of his car, but Beck refuses, forcing Randy to drag him from the scene. It appears that Mills arrived at the convention in his chauffeured car, and as soon as he got out, a gunman dressed as Mr. Snork shot him in the shoulder. Mills tried to run, but the shooter shot him in the leg and blew him off his feet, then stepped up to the victim and shot him in the back, fatally.
Monk has only two theories: A) the hit man is trying to lead them astray or B) this is a copycat killing committed by someone taking advantage of the publicity caused by Stipe's murder, although Stottlemeyer insists that both shootings are connected, as this shooter wore a Beyond Earth costume identical to the first shooter's one. Monk however, notices a crucial clue: Mills was shot three times, and only the last bullet was fatal, but Conrad Stipe was shot only once (in the heart). Also, whereas in the Stipe shooting, the killer made sure to be seen, the Mills shooting had the killer sometimes get obscured by other objects.
Adrian and Natalie head home to show Ambrose the tape from shooting #2. Watching the tape, Ambrose adds that the second gunman's Mr. Snork uniform is accurate in every detail, and also, this shooter carried his handgun like a Beyond Earth weapon, and not like an ordinary handgun. Adrian congratulates Ambrose, and mentions that he's revealed the killer to be a man named Ernest Pinchuk, the leader of the "Galactic Uprising," a fan group protesting the new Beyond Earth show. Ambrose also notes that Ernest is speaking a fictional Beyond Earth constructed language called Dratch, and provides them an English translation of what the shooter says on the tape.
With some help from the Berkeley Police Department, Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher arrest Ernest. They notice that Ernest is so devoted to Beyond Earth that he's even converted his own living room into a control room modeled off one of the sets from the show.
As Ernest Pinchuk is interrogated, Monk continues to insist that the second killing was a copycat killing, and Ernest didn't kill Conrad Stipe. When Stottlemeyer insists that the M.O.'s are identical, Adrian has an epiphany: he, Ambrose, and Ernest are all the same – they live by a set of rules which, incomprehensible though they may be to others, make perfect sense to them and which they will not break. In other words, Ernest wouldn't be caught dead wearing an inaccurate Beyond Earth uniform. Natalie is touched, both by Adrian giving credit to his brother's observations, and showing a new empathy with the other Earthers. But Stottlemeyer is not convinced, and tells Monk that he's misread the clues.
Monk, however, insists that they need to get the hit man hired to kill Lorber, and wants to find the item responsible for the deaths of Conrad Stipe and the cab driver. He and Natalie return to Burgerville's headquarters and inform Archie Applebaum that Lorber had a heart attack before he was shot, and pass the information to both Cahill and Lorber's widow. Monk and Natalie proceed to stake out the building. When Cahill is leaving the building, Natalie prepares to follow him, but Monk tells her that it wasn't Cahill, but Archie, who hired the hit man.
Monk reasons that Archie must have discovered that Lorber had pillaged the company's pension plan and he wanted to exact revenge. He notes that all of the evidence points to an inside man - the fact that hit man used a security card to gain access to the building, and Archie has access to the security system. The hit man also knew where every security camera was, as Archie told him ahead of time.
A few hours later, Archie calls the hit man for a meeting, angrily demanding the other half of his money back. Monk and Natalie race into the building, but they are too late: they see the hit man shoot Archie with the efficiency he shot Stipe with. He also shows his face to the camera, showing his intention to steal the videotapes. Monk tells Natalie to run while he stays behind to stall the hit man, telling her she has a daughter that needs her, and Monk has no one. But Natalie says she needs Monk, and runs outside, gets in her car, and crashes it into the building just as Archie (who was wearing a bulletproof vest) saves them both by killing the hit man.
Stottlemeyer and Disher arrive and talk to Archie, learning his reasons for hiring the hit man: he had never given up being a cop, and late at night, he often searched his employees' offices and desks. He discovered the report and realized that Lorber had pillaged the pension fund, and knowing that Lorber was not likely going to get hard time, had to do something about it.
Meanwhile, Monk tells them all that he got the hit man to tell him what it was he dropped in the cab: on his way to the airport, the hit man dropped his BlackBerry. This was bad for him because his phone had emails between him and Archie, plus photos of Lorber and a diagram of the building. When he realized that he'd left his cell phone behind in the cab, the hit man panicked and called it from a payphone at the airport, and Conrad Stipe answered, explaining how the hit man knew that Stipe had picked up his PDA. Stipe had to be killed because the hit man couldn't risk that either he or the cabbie would scroll through the hit man's messages, or possibly turn the phone in to the police. After he killed Stipe, the hit man arranged to have the cabbie deliver the phone to him. He shot Bisson after he got his phone back.
As they head home that night, Monk tells Natalie that he's touched by her devotion.
Allusions to real-life events, places, or people
- Whether unintentional or not, the Burgerville corporation shown in the novel is not to be confused with the fast food chain of the same name in the Vancouver, Washington metro area.
- The Belmont Hotel that Monk and Natalie talk to Kingston Mills at does not exist. The Hotel itself is a recurring location throughout the novel series. As described in Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii, it has two towers - one built in the 1920s and the other being built in the 1970s. Based on its description, the hotel appears to be a stand-in for the Westin St. Francis on Powell Street in Union Square, with an alternate name to avoid trademark issues. The actual hotel's exterior was used in "Mr. Monk Goes to a Fashion Show", where it was supposed to be the place where Julian Hodge's fashion show is performed.
- When discussing possible motives with Monk, Natalie and Stottlemeyer, Randy mentions how a consumers group revealed that Burgerville secretly added beef extract to add flavor to their fries, outraging vegans who'd been eating these fries for years. In 2000, McDonald's had come under fire from consumers after it was revealed that their fries that supposedly had no meat products in them had been flavored with beef extract.
- In the same conversation, Randy also brings up an incident at another Burgerville in Pleasanton, California, where a guy spilled a cup of coffee at a drive-thru and burned his crotch, and unsuccessfully tried to sue the company. This appears to be a take on Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants, aka the "Hot Coffee Case", in which a woman in Albuquerque, New Mexico spilled her cup of coffee while in her car and suffered extensive third degree burns to her crotch. Unlike the fictitious example in the book, the plaintiff in the real case actually won (she had sued only because McDonald's did not contribute much to her medical bills).
- When Monk and Natalie are talking to the forensics accountant, the forensics accountant describes the Burgerville financial scandal as being a repeat of the Enron scandal from 2000 to 2005, as she explains that the company is on the verge of complete collapse due to an assortment of shady business practices, like the CEO convincing the company to buy out seven restaurants of a franchise run by his own brother-in-law, overcharging franchisees for supplies and misappropriating money contributed to a marketing fund, as well as pillaged money from the pension fund, among others.
To Star Trek
Much of the information on Beyond Earth gleaned from the book appears to render it as a parody of Star Trek:
- According to one of the special events listed in the Beyond Earth fan convention guide, the statement: "When will Trekkies and Trekkers finally give Earthies and Earthers the respect we deserve?" suggests that in the established story of the novel, a certain degree of rivalry exists between Star Trek and Beyond Earth fans.
- The fictional Beyond Earth character Mr. Snork provides the disguise the hitman uses when he shoots Conrad Stipe, and is also the disguise used by Ernie Pinchuk when he shoots Kingston Mills two days later. He appears to be an oblique parody of Star Trek character Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy in the original series and then by Zachary Quinto in the 2009 reboot.
- The name of Mr. Snork's species and fictional language, "Dratch," is taken from Monk series writer and producer Daniel Dratch, as a series in-joke, but the language's creation and use by Pinchuk is a reference to the Klingon constructed language.
- Conrad Stipe's ex-wife Arianna is said to be suing her dead husband's estate for a share of his profits from the new Beyond Earth series, even though it is being produced after they divorced. Similarly, Eileen Roddenberry, the first wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, sued her ex-husband's estate after his death, claiming rights to a share of his profits from the making of the original Star Trek series, and the subsequent spin-off series and films.
- Although this book was released approximately two years before J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot of Star Trek, it is possible for many Star Trek fans today who read this book to see a striking parallel in Conrad Stipe and Kingston Mills' visionary conflict of Beyond Earth, and its subsequent effect on fans, with the many creative differences between Gene Roddenberry and J.J. Abrams' own visions of Star Trek; pitting the Original Motion Picture Collection (Star Trek I-VI) against J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot.
- Stottlemeyer says "Beam me up, Scotty," when he notices the gun in Ernie Pinchuk's house, the interior of which has been authentically replicated to look like the interior of the U.S.S. Discovery, from the Beyond Earth series. The Discovery is supposed to be an equivalent to the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Several references are made to the events of this story in later novels. In Mr. Monk Gets Even, it is noted that computer magnate Cleve Dobbs lives a few doors down from the Lorbers' house. It is also noted that Dobbs's first murder victim, Bruce Grossman, was a CEO-for-hire who took over and briefly ran Burgerville in the wake of the Brandon Lorber investigation.
Characters from the television show
- Adrian Monk: the titular detective, played on the television series by Tony Shalhoub;
- Ambrose Monk: Adrian's elder brother, an agoraphobe who never leaves his and Adrian's childhood home, and a devoted Beyond Earth fan; played on the series by John Turturro;
- Natalie Teeger: Monk's loyal assistant, and the narrator of the book; played on the series by Traylor Howard;
- Dr. Charles Kroger: Monk's psychiatrist; played on the series by Stanley Kamel;
- Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Captain of the San Francisco Police Department's Homicide Division; Monk's oldest friend and former partner; played on the series by Ted Levine;
- Lieutenant Randy Disher: Stottlemeyer's right-hand man, played on the series by Jason Gray-Stanford;
- Julie Teeger: Natalie's teenaged daughter; played on the series by Emmy Clarke
Characters associated with Beyond Earth
- Conrad Stipe: Creator of the original version of Beyond Earth;
- Morris Hibler: Organizer of the Beyond Earth conventions;
- Willis Goldkin: One of the writers for the original Beyond Earth TV series;
- Ernest "Ernie" Pinchuk: leader of the "Galactic Uprising" protesting the revamp of Beyond Earth, who has sworn to speak only in the fictional Dratch language until the writers make a new version of the show that is true to the original or they cancel the new show;
- Aimee Gilberman: Ernie Pinchuk's girlfriend, a devoted Beyond Earth fan and co-leader of the Uprising;
- Kingston Mills: producer of the new Beyond Earth;
- Judson Beck: actor, cast for the lead role in the new Beyond Earth show, and who has worked with Kingston Mills for years;
- Arianna Stipe: Conrad Stipe's ex-wife;
- Howard Egger: Arianna's divorce lawyer and secret lover;
- Hidalgo Rhinehart: A police detective with the Berkeley Police Department;
Characters associated with Burgerville
- Archie Applebaum: a former beat cop and friend of Stottlemeyer, currently a security guard at Burgerville's head office;
- Brandon Lorber: CEO of Burgerville;
- Lieutenant Sylvia Chase: head of the San Francisco Police Department's Forensic Accounting Unit;
- Andrew Cahill: Burgerville's CFO;
- Veronica Lorber: Brandon Lorber's wife and Andrew Cahill's secret mistress;
- Maxwell: Lorber's assistant and butler;
- Phil Bisson: ill-fated cab driver; driver of both Lorber's shooter and Conrad Stipe
- Joe Cochran: Natalie's sometime-lover, a firefighter with the San Francisco Fire Department. Natalie likes him and he kind of likes her back. Previously appeared in Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse and Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants.
- George Clooney: Professional real-life actor; near the end of the novel, Natalie has a dream that she is out on the ocean in a luxury yacht with George Clooney. Had this story been adapted into a screenplay for the Monk series, George Clooney most likely would have made a brief cameo in the episode.