Mr. Monk is Miserable is the seventh novel in the Monk mystery book series by Lee Goldberg. It was published on December 2, 2008.
Having agreed (or rather, been blackmailed) to stop over in Paris, France at the conclusion of their last case in Germany, Adrian Monk accompanies Natalie for a few days in the City of Lights. The trip gets off to rough start with a murder happening on the flight, which Adrian quickly solves. Despite that, Natalie is full of plans for things she wants to see, but Monk surprises her with his own desire: visiting the Paris Sewer Museum. She always thought that Monk would rather die than go down a sewer, but Monk says that the Paris sewers were the first of their kind, and helped make the city a pioneer of sanitation in Europe - an achievement worth paying tribute to.
While traveling the mazes of the sewers, the duo wander into a tour of the Catacombs of Paris, a massive ossuary for the city's long-dead residents. But among them, Monk spots a skull that is not so old, and concludes that it belongs to a recently murdered person.
At first, Natalie refuses to perform her assistant duties, and demands that Monk let her enjoy her vacation; but when she drags him to dinner in a novelty restaurant called Toujours Nuit ("Always Night") - because the dining room is always kept in total blackness, and all the waiters are blind - a young woman appears mysteriously beside Monk and says she can tell him who the murdered man was. Before she can go further, there are sounds of a scuffle, and the lights come up to show the woman murdered. Natalie cannot help it - they are smack in the middle of the investigation.
Monk does a session with Dr. Kroger over the phone that night. When he is done, Dr. Kroger berates Natalie for refusing to help Monk with these homicides, reminding her that she is using emotional blackmail in an attempt to make Monk someone he is not. Monk's detective abilities are what help him identify himself in the world. His need to detect is not something that Natalie is going to be able to change. She can't blame Monk for being the person he always has been. She'll have to find some form of compromise between them or they'll both have a very long day.
When Monk and Natalie go to the police station later that night, they are surprised to see Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher waiting for them. The skull has been identified as belonging to Nathan Chalmers, a notorious con artist back in the States - the architect of a massive Ponzi scheme whose victims included many of California's wealthiest and brightest. The man was presumed dead of suicide ten years ago, but the skull proves that he faked his death and escaped to Europe - a case embarrassing enough to send the two American detectives to Paris on the Commissioner's orders, so as to do damage control.
The dead woman is identified as Aimee Dupon. From what the Inspectors have learned from Natalie's and Monk's statements, they have found video surveillance tapes showing that Aimee followed them for several hours before she was killed. The detectives question her former employer, a publishing company, who says that Aimee quit in protest after the company rejected a graphic novel submitted by her lover, Antoine Bisson, a freelance artist. Bisson enjoys exploring Paris's underground community, and his novel featured a romanticized portrait of a Freegan community that occupies many condemned buildings and the underground tunnels. As part of their stand against consumerism, they do not hold jobs and instead subsist on food and other wares salvaged from other people's garbage. Bisson, disgusted, said that Aimee was carried away by the romance and decided to join the community, ignoring its grittier reality.
Their next person of interest is Lucien Barlier, the charismatic leader of the underground Freegans. He said that Chalmers, under the assumed name of "Bob Smith," joined the Freegan community, and encouraged several of Barlier's followers to "break away" and follow him in actively punishing consumerists instead of just living off their refuse (Stottlemeyer later discovers that, for "Smith," this meant committing identity theft with salvaged papers, and stealing thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars). Aimee left Bisson to go with Chalmers.
It seems obvious that whoever killed Chalmers also killed Aimee, to prevent her from talking. Barlier said he didn't do either, but Monk is sure that any man who lives in a sewer and eats other people's garbage has to be insane, not to mention guilty. Natalie, however, is charmed into accepting a dinner date with him.
In the middle of their date, in Barlier's underground "lair," Monk and the detectives burst in, led there by Bisson, and arrest him for the murder of Aimee's murder. Evidence found in the restaurant connects Barlier's home with the crime scene.
Natalie protests, remembering that they have all overlooked one important point, but Monk is one step ahead of her, as always. It turns out that Barlier's arrest is just a trap to catch Antoine Bisson, the real killer.
Here's What Happened
Bisson killed Chalmers for taking Aimee away from him, and later killed her to stop her from confessing. By leading Monk and the other detectives to Lucien's home in the labyrinth of the sewers, Bisson has confirmed that he knew the way there, and thus that he planted the evidence there and at the crime scene to frame Barlier.
The proof? Whoever killed Aimee in the restaurant had to be able to see in the dark, and Bisson owns a set of night vision goggles for his sojourns into the sewers, which Barlier does not.
Bisson confesses, and then, in true Gallic fashion, chooses to jump to his death out of guilt for killing the woman he loved.
Barlier is exonerated, and he and Natalie spend a romantic day aboveground around the city.
Between solving two murders, and getting to drive a motocrotte (a motorcycle retrofitted to clean dog droppings off the streets) during his off-time, Monk is a happy man, and admits that their enforced French vacation has had its points of success.
Characters from the television show
- Adrian Monk
- Natalie Teeger
- Dr. Charles Kroger
- Captain Leland Stottlemeyer
- Lieutenant Randy Disher
- Julie Teeger: (mentioned only)
- Mitch Teeger: (mentioned only)
- Le Roux
- Chief Inspector Phillipe Le Roux
- Inspector Guy Gadois
- Aimee Dupon
- Laura Boucher
- Antoine Bisson
- Lucien Barlier
- Pierre: motocrotte driver;
- Heinrich Wilke: A German businessman. Has an affair with flight attendant Marice Lambert during his business trips, and is swiftly murdered when she finds out.
- Marice Lambert: A French flight attendant. Begins a romance with German businessman Heinrich Wilke during his business trips. When she finds out he is actually married, she kills him by putting triggering a peanut allergy by getting peanut dust on his sandwich.
Background Information and Notes
- The book makes a passing reference to a scene from the episode "Mr. Monk and the Paperboy," in which Monk solved a murder in Paris, from San Francisco, after reading an article in the newspaper.
- Monk, Natalie, and Stottlemeyer are all horrified to discover that Randy has a small cult following in France, based on his one-and-only single, "Don't Need A Badge," that appeared in "Mr. Monk Goes to the Dentist" and "Mr. Monk and the Really, Really Dead Guy", a copy of which somehow made its way to France.
- The book is strangely prophetic, being that it was released in print just five months before the exposure of Bernard Madoff, who bears a marked resemblance to Nathan Chalmers: the architect of a massive pyramid scheme whose victims included several of California's wealthiest and most sophisticated persons, much like the equivalent in the novel. By coincidence, the character of Bob Sebes in the 2010 novel Mr. Monk Is Cleaned Out was based off of Bernard Madoff.
- There is a scene with someone urinating in the sewer, where Monk uses the same quote, "You're going down, Mr. Pee," that he said to the subway urinator in "Mr. Monk Takes Manhattan."