Goldberg is relishing the freedom, the end of the TV series has afforded him. That's obvious. It's odd to refer to this book being Natalie-centric, when in fact, she narrates every book and it's her voice in your head all the time. But in the previous 11 books in the series, that voice was talking about Monk most of the time.
[…]As they say in the late-night infomercials, but wait, there's more. While Natalie's doing her P.I. with training wheels thing, there are other murders for Adrian Monk to solve. And solve them he does. Only to have a suit from upstairs at the Police Department invalidate his solutions because he doesn't have proof he's right. Knowing who and how a bunch of murders happened turns out frustratingly inconclusive, a "Here's what happened" moment without the payoff/conviction.
Until Natalie and Detective Amy Devlin rescue the case by thinking, and working, outside the box. We see Natalie working 'undercover' for the first time. And I bet you it won't be the last time.
The question posed in the book is, what would happen to Natalie if something happened to Monk? She might go back to her rich family. But not now. We know the answer.
He's right, I have been having a lot of fun with the last few MONK books. Since the TV series ended, I've been taking a few more chances with the characters and it's keep the series fresh…though I think if you've read all the books, you'll see the changes as natural steps in their evolution (particularly with Natalie, playing out an arc that began with MR. MONK AND THE DIRTY COP).
MR. MONK ON PATROL, coming in January, definitely builds on the themes and events in MR. MONK ON THE COUCH. And the one I am writing now, MR. MONK IS A MESS, is a direct sequel to PATROL (in much the same way that MR. MONK IS MISERABLE was a direct sequel to MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY).
I have only a vague idea where the next book may go…but it has been nice to be able to let the characters evolve in ways that I couldn't while I had to stick to the continuity of the TV show.