A soccer injury brings Julie Teeger, Natalie, and Monk to the hospital, where Julie is cared for by none other than Monk's original assistant, Sharona Fleming. When Sharona left the TV series (a contract dispute with actress Bitty Schram), it was explained she suddenly reunited with her ex-husband and left San Francisco without further notice. Now Sharona's husband, Trevor, stands accused of murder, and even Sharona believes he's guilty. Monk wants him to be guilty, so Sharona can come back and share assistant duties with Natalie. Only Natalie, afraid for her job, shows an interest in clearing Trevor.
Author/screenwriter Lee Goldberg's fourth Monk novel shows a keen understanding of the relationship between page and screen, which has been on my mind lately. Any tie-in novel is expected to deliver the flavor of its source material. There were a few scenes where I thought, Monk would never do that. Then I realized Monk would never do that on TV, as played by the gentlemanly Tony Shalhoub; a novel really lets him loose.
Indeed this is Goldberg's most novel-suited premise yet. He adds just enough spice to bring out the assistants' differences for tension and character study. In the mind-blowing final third of the novel, Sharona and Natalie are accused of separate murders, and Monk seems even more aloof in their time of need. Readers know, of course, neither of them is a murderer. The fun is in seeing how, or in this case if, Monk proves it.