Mr. Monk in Trouble is the 9th book in the Mr. Monk book series. It was released on December 01, 2009 by NAL.
Ever since a 1962 unsolved train robbery made it famous, people have flocked to the town of Trouble in California's gold country, searching for the booty that train robbers supposedly dumped off the Golden Rail Express in a botched heist. When the town's museum's watchman is murdered, Adrian Monk and his assistant, Natalie, are sent to investigate. But if Monk isn't careful, he'll learn that the town of Trouble can live up to its name.
The novel opens on Halloween, which couldn't be worse for Adrian Monk. He hates trick-or-treaters, and considers it a form of extortion. Nonetheless, he gets a bit of a reprieve when a man named Clarence Lenihan shows up at his door. Monk exposes him as a killer on the fact that he is wearing a confession - blood spatter one his clothes. Captain Stottlemeyer arrives and arrests Lenihan.
Two days later, Monk and Natalie Teeger are called to the police station, where Stottlemeyer informs them of a favor he would like them to do. It involves a retired SFPD beat cop named Manny Feikema, who retired a few years ago and moved to the tiny old mining town of Trouble, in central California. He took the job of security guard at their history museum after he got bored, and remained on that job until a few nights ago, when, while doing his rounds, he was bludgeoned to death. It wouldn't be any of the SFPD's business, but the Trouble police chief has contacted Stottlemeyer to see if someone Manny put away has been released recently. Stottlemeyer has Monk and Natalie go out to Trouble to assist the chief, which he can't do because he is out of vacation days.
Monk and Natalie make their way east towards Trouble, though they almost turn back when they drive through a big swarm of migrating butterflies that leave the windshield completely filthy. They introduce themselves to Harley Kelton, the local police chief and a former Boston cop, who takes them to the Gold Rush Museum, housed inside Trouble's old train station. Monk observes the scene, and learns that Manny Feikema had a routine - he had to walk the perimeter every hour and log in at sensors placed around to confirm that he wasn't sleeping at his desk. Kelton notes that the killer struck Manny over the head with a pick from a diorama and left at about 2:32 AM. Monk notes some interesting details: namely, why did the killer use the pick instead of using one of the closer weapons? And why does nothing appear to have been taken, more or less, even searched? Monk and Natalie take great interest in the steam locomotive on display in the museum, which is from the "famous" Golden Rail Express train.
According to the museum director, Ed Randisi, the locomotive was part of a train consist involved in a renowned holdup in 1963. It seems that the Golden Rail Express train was a private railroad built in the 19th century to run the wealthy barons from San Francisco and Sacremento up to their mining operations in Trouble. It was eventually made a public operation, and shortened to start in Sacramento. A high stakes poker game contrived by a developer proposing a housing tract in Trouble would mark the final run in 1963. During the game, the train was held up by three masked men, who robbed the gambling car of all of the loot. One security guard was shot and the conductor, Ralph DeRosso, fell off the train and died of his injuries. Two of the robbers, George Gilman and Jake Slocum, were eventually caught, but what happened the gold has always been a mystery. Several theories have come up since the robbery as to what happened - one of which is that the bags were thrown off the train, which seems unlikely since if the fall killed the conductor, the bags could have broken open, and the only things found trackside were the guns and masks used by the robbers.
Interested in learning more about the train robbery, Monk and Natalie visit the office of Doris Thurlo, Trouble's historian. She has a momentary panic attack when Monk introduces himself, and for a moment appears to be having a breakdown when she refers to Natalie as "Abby".
Monk and Natalie are both confused by Doris's unusual behavior, but she regains control of herself and admits that she mistook Adrian for Artemis Monk, the assayer in Trouble during the Gold Rush period. In fact, Doris Thurlo's office is Artemis's old cabin, called the Box House because of its perfectly square shape. According to Doris, Artemis Monk was a very important figure in Trouble, responsible for sampling and testing rock samples brought in by miners and then telling them how good their claim was. He also helped the sheriff solve the most puzzling of the little cases that came up year after year.
In regards to the train robbery, Monk and Natalie learn from Doris that Slocum and Gilman, the arrested robbers, were caught because they carried distinctive gold coins in their pockets and were caught carrying them when they got off. Gilman was the one who shot the guard, and interestingly, both of them claimed to have been hired by Ralph DeRosso to pull off the robbery. They also learn more about the other important players on the train that night - Gilman died in prison, but Slocum made parole in the early 1990s. The engineer, Leonard McElroy, and the boilerman, Clifford Adams, also didn't hear anything. The train also was kept running for twenty years after the heist due to the resulting fame. Though McElroy died of lung cancer six months before the train was terminated, Adams worked until the very last day and now lives in a shack near an old mine outside of Trouble. The locomotive is the only part of the train to have survived the scrapping of the train's cars, which were torn apart and searched for hidden compartments.
During the next part of the story, there are small breaks away from the modern story where Natalie reads from The Amazing Mr. Monk, a diary written by Artemis's assistant Abigail Guthrie about Artemis's exploit. During their first night in Trouble, Natalie first reads a story called "The Case of Piss-Poor Gold," about an incident where Artemis proves a cowhand named Bud Lolly guilty of smashing in a miner's skull and stealing his gold simply by the splinters and tar on his clothing before even seeing the body. Later, after having dinner with Kelton, Natalie reads "The Case of the Snake in the Grass," where Artemis proves that a placer miner is trying to salt his mine to cheat the buyer he is planning to sell to out of his money.
The next day, Monk and Natalie visit Dorothy's Chuckwagon, the local diner, and talk to Crystal, Ralph DeRosso's daughter, about the robbery. She mentions that McElroy and Adams both gave portions of their paychecks to the DeRosso family, which they probably did if they knew that DeRosso was one of the robbers. While they are eating, they also encounter Bob Gorman, the local auto mechanic and now the museum's volunteering security guard, who has information about the Manny Feikema case - he tells them that a few days before the killing, a man driving a 1964 Thunderbird stopped by his garage and asked him some questions about Manny, apparently wanting to see him.
With some consulting from Kelton, Monk and Natalie locate and track down Clifford Adams at his old shack. He mentions that the train never stopped during the robbery because the robbers threatened to kill anyone who tried to stop the train before they reached Trouble. He also gives several theories about what happened to the gold, but they don't turn out to be useful at all.
Thanks to a call to Stottlemeyer, they have managed to also track down Jake Slocum to a retirement home in Angels Camp. They interview him, and Slocum tells them his story in detail:
Some time before the robbery, he and Gilman supported themselves by committing muggings and burglaries. While contemplating their next move at a bar in Placerville, they saw Ralph DeRosso and decided that they had an easy mark. As they were about to mug him, he suddenly turned around and recruited them into helping him carry out the robbery of the train. There were several twists: Slocum and Gilman only would know what they were supposed to do. DeRosso drew them a sketch of the train's consist - the locomotive, tender, a freight car, the gambling car, the dining car, and then two passenger cars.
Had things gone according to plan, this is what would have happened: Slocum and Gilman would meet on the platform outside the gambling car at a prearranged point, put on their masks, and then burst into the gambling car, overpower the guard, and start loading the money into burlap sacks brought in by a robber entering from the front end of the train. This third man would then take the bags with him, Slocum and Gilman would then toss their stuff off the train, and then rejoin the party in the dining car, without ever being missed.
However, when the actual job was carried out, things went south for two reasons: one, Gilman shot the guard instead of overpowering him, probably because he didn't want the guy doing anything heroic, and two, DeRosso also fell off the train.
During the interview, Kelton arrives and informs Monk and Natalie that they've tracked down the possible killer, an enforcer Manny put away named Gator Dunsen, who is living at his place in Jackson. As they follow Kelton to Gator's house, Natalie tries running some other theories about the robbery, but Monk shoots them all down, since her theories don't explain where the secret compartment in question is. When they reach Gator's house, a shootout ensues between Gator and Kelton, who eventually kills him. Monk and Natalie are ejected from the scene by Detective Lydia Wilder of the local police, who also berates Kelton for pursuing Gator without contacting them. The evidence hinting that Gator is the killer is overwhelming - Gorman's statement from the restaurant, and photos of the museum's diorama that suggest that Gator was casing the place.
However, as Monk and Natalie return to Trouble, Monk casts some doubts on Gator's guilt - for one thing, his car was squeaky clean, yet it would have gotten dirty going into or out of Trouble since you have to pass through the swarm of migrating butterflies. Also, how come the pick used as the murder weapon is not present in the diorama photos? Monk believes that someone planted those photos to lure them astray and suspects that Gorman is lying about them. When they do reach Trouble, they notice Clifford Adams leaving the museum in his pickup truck. Monk wonders what Adams might be up to. They also notice Gorman watching Adams with very keen interest.
That night, Natalie reads from Abigail Guthrie's diary "The Case of the Cutthroat Trail," where Artemis solves a miner's murder just based on how the killer slit the guy's throat. The next morning, she gets a call that seems to be coming from Clifford Adams, who says "I want to live," like he is in danger. Monk and Natalie race out to Adams's compound, but they find him dead. As they are observing, Monk accidentally falls into an old mine shaft. Natalie ends up dislocating her shoulder and ripping some of her fingernails out when she is pulling him up. Once he's safely up, Monk confirms that Adams is dead by noting that vultures are now eating at him. He also believes that the killer called Natalie and was intending for them to fall into one of the abandoned mine shafts that are located all over the area.
Monk is forced to drive the car back to the main road where they are able to get a signal to call for help. Natalie is taken to the hospital, and her arm is put into a sling after Kelton pops her shoulder back into place. While at the hospital, Natalie asks Monk to read a story from the diary. Monk reads "The Case of the Golden Rail Express," which shows that the Golden Rail Express train was held up many times before the 1960s holdup. The earlier robbery discussed is one where two local men from Trouble held up the train, killed three people and shot two others, and then made off with their money, which was later used in an attempt to salt their mine so they could con the businessman they were selling out to.
Natalie spends much of the day in a stupor, finally coming around in the evening. She also finds that Monk has gone out, but he has apparently been making calls to Stottlemeyer, Lieutenant Disher, Doris Thurlo, and the voicemail for the museum. Desperate, she tracks down Kelton, and tries to see if he knows where Monk is.
As they head towards the museum, Kelton confirms Monk's suspicion that Clifford Adams's killer tried to lure them onto the booby-trap field. He also notes that Adams was struck over the head at around midnight and the body was moved out on the rocks, the "bait". Natalie suspects Gorman of killing Manny Feikema and then somehow leading them astray, meaning he could be involved with Gator Dunsen's death. She also briefly wonders if Gorman killed Adams, but then realizes that that is impossible: the distance from town to Adams' compound is great enough that unless he had an accomplice, Gorman would have had to miss one of his rounds in the time it would take to drive out to Adams' place, kill Adams, then drive back.
When Natalie and Kelton enter the museum, they find Gorman looking inside the locomotive's furnace. Kelton draws a gun on him, and Monk comes out of the diorama, revealing that he has solved the robbery of the Golden Rail Express.
Here's What Happened (1)
Monk remembered Clifford Adams mentioning that he had been trying for years to find gold in his mining operation. He figured out what happened to the gold after reading the journal entry about the train holdup
It turns out that the Golden Rail Express loot has never been taken off the train. Jake Slocum was right - Ralph DeRosso was the robber who entered the gambling car from in front. Plus, from the beginning, Slocum and Gilman were always skeptical about DeRosso's ability to keep a promise about delivering their share of the loot (which would have happened six months after the robbery if things went as planned) and running off with it and his other men. Slocum and Gilman did not know that Leonard McElroy and Clifford Adams in the locomotive were also in on the job as well. After they loaded the money into DeRosso's burlap sacks, DeRosso delivered them to Adams and McElroy up in the locomotive (which is likely, given that he knew how to travel along the roof of the train cars). He fell off the train after delivering the sacks to the crew.
As for what happened to the gold, it was put into the locomotive's furnace. Monk notes that in the earlier robbery, the robbers hammered the gold into black flakes used as blasting powder in their scheme to salt a mine. In the 1960s robbery, Adams and McElroy tossed the money bags into the furnace of the locomotive. This turns out to be the reason why burlap sacks were used - they would burn more easily. They then melted down the gold and used it to line the furnace. The plan was for the furnace to be recovered after the locomotive was scrapped, but this never happened. The resulting fame of the train caused the service to continue for 20 more years. After the train was taken out of service in 1982, another attempt was made at recovering the furnace, but the locomotive was snatched up by the museum and there was no way the furnace could be recovered and the gold dug out.
Monk reveals that Gorman killed Manny Feikema for the job of night watchman and has been spending his nights digging the gold out of the furnace. However, he needed to have Kelton present to prove it. It turns out that Kelton is actually holding his gun on Natalie, not on Gorman.
Here's What Happened (2)
A few weeks before Manny was killed, Kelton read Abigail Guthrie's diary, including the story about the 19th century train robbery. Being a good detective when sober, he figured out what happened, and decided to try recovering the gold, but he knew Manny would not help him out. Kelton instead hired Gorman, who killed Manny for the job. It was because he was digging out the furnace that explain why his hands are covered in a fine layer of soot.
Then Monk reveals that, although Kelton hired Gorman to kill Manny and dig out the furnace, he is also a killer: he is responsible for killing Clifford Adams and Gator Dunsen. Monk reveals that when they were meeting the paramedics at the turnoff for the road leading to Adams' place, he found a pebble in a pothole at that spot. It had gotten itself lodged in Kelton's tires when he parked in Gator Dunsen's driveway, and got knocked loose when he passed over the pothole on his way out to the compound. Kelton admits that after Monk and Natalie talked to Adams, he must have also figured what was happening to his gold, and went back to the museum, where he had found that Gorman had started removing the gold. Kelton killed him to prevent him from doing anything dangerous.
It wasn't hard for the chief to kill Adams, because he had just killed Gator and tried framing him for Manny's murder. Gorman had helped him with that: before Monk, Natalie, and Kelton arrived at the house, Gorman showed up at Gator's house, and forced Gator at gunpoint to drink himself into a stupor. He then tied Gator up and gagged him with duct tape, and planted the photos of the diorama to make it look like Gator was casing the museum. When Monk, Natalie and Kelton arrived outside, Kelton pretended to be Gator, then shot up the front door, though he wasn't trying to kill any of them. Once Monk and Natalie had taken cover and Kelton had entered the house, all of the shots that they heard were for show, except the fatal one Kelton inflicted on Gator. Kelton spent the extra time staging the scene, undoing any evidence that Gator was gagged, and then covering Gorman's escape out the back door. That Gator had been gagged with duct-tape came from the fact that his lips were chapped and bleeding.
Kelton prepares to kill the two of them, but then Stottlemeyer, Disher and several police officers burst out of hiding and arrest Gorman and Kelton for their crimes.
Natalie is unhappy that Monk used her as part of the trap to catch Kelton, but while at the Chuckwagon, Stottlemeyer admits to her that Monk cared more about catching Kelton than about her feelings.
On their last day, they return Abby Guthrie's journal back to Doris Thurlo, who mentions that at some point, Artemis Monk might have married his assistant.
- Clarence Lenihan
- Manny Feikema
- Bob Gorman
- Doris Thurlo
- Crystal DeRosso
- Jake Slocum
- Gator Dunsen
- Detective Lydia Wilder
- Clifford Adams
- Ed Randisi
- Leonard McElroy
- George Gilman
- Ralph DeRosso
- In the foreword, Lee Goldberg places the events of the novel between its predecessor Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop and the series finale Mr. Monk and the End.
- In 19th century Trouble, the town's doctor was named Dr. Sloan. This is likely a reference to Dr. Mark Sloan, the protagonist of Diagnosis, Murder. Goldberg has written several novels based around Diagnosis Murder as well.