Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse

Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse
Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse  
Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse by Lee Goldberg
1st edition 2006 paperback cover
Author(s) Lee Goldberg
Country United States
Language English
Series Monk mystery novel series
Genre(s) Mystery novel
Publisher Signet Books
Publication date January 3, 2006
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 304 pp
ISBN 0-451-21729-2
OCLC Number 62760915
Followed by Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii

Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse (2006) is a mystery novel by Lee Goldberg, based on the popular TV series Monk.


Plot introduction

Adrian Monk temporarily moves in with his reluctant assistant, Natalie Teeger, while his home is being fumigated. Following this, her teenage daughter Julie "hires" him to investigate the death of Sparky, a popular firehouse guard dog who was struck with an axe on the same night that a suspicious house inferno was occupying its owners. Meanwhile, Natalie begins dating the animal's chief guardian, hunky fireman Joseph Cochran.

Plot synopsis

Adrian Monk, the obsessive-compulsive modern-day Sherlock Holmes, is forced to move in with his assistant Natalie Teeger, who is the narrator of the novel, while his apartment is being fumigated. After laying down certain laws (namely, turning away the moving men bringing Monk’s refrigerator and bed into her house) Natalie finds her daughter Julie crying in her room. Julie tells her that Sparky, a firehouse dalmatian who visited her school during Fire Safety Week, was found murdered the previous night. Monk can’t bear to see Julie cry, and promises to check in to the matter.

Monk and Natalie head down to Sparky's firehouse to speak with Captain Mantooth, the Brigade Commander of the fire company. Monk has a boyish fascination with firefighting – that is, with the rules requiring everything in the firehouse to be spotlessly clean and in perfect order. While he is lovingly polishing the already shining ladder truck, Natalie questions Mantooth, who tells her that Sparky belonged to one of their best fighters, Joseph Cochran, and always slept in the firehouse while Joe was on duty.

Mantooth tells them about the circumstances of the previous night. They were called away to a multiple alarm house fire about four blocks away. In the fire, a 64 year old woman named Esther Stoval was killed - she'd fallen asleep while smoking a cigarette in front of her television set. When they came back, they found Sparky on the floor. He'd been bludgeoned to death with a pick axe. Monk examines the crime scene, and he explains what he believe happened – the intruder came into the firehouse, probably looking for something to steal (although oddly, for a burglary, nothing seems to be missing), and grabbed a pickaxe off the rack when Sparky ran at him. Since the killer didn’t bring the weapon, Monk guesses that the attack was probably spur-of-the-moment. The only question is who, or why would someone kill a firehouse dog, and what was it the killer might have been looking for. When Monk asks Mantooth if anything was missing or disturbed when they got back, Mantooth says the only thing he noticed were two towels missing; he doesn’t think it’s important, but Monk is impressed to meet someone else who would notice that kind of detail.

Monk and Natalie walk from the firehouse the five blocks to the scene of the previous night's fire, intending to look for Joe Cochran. However, they instead have a chance run-in with Captain Stottlemeyer. He explains to them that he is here because the police have to treat the house as a crime scene until the arson investigator makes her decision. Stottlemeyer and the arson investigator believe that the death was an accident - Esther Stoval, the victim, was a chain smoker. They believe that she was smoking a cigarette, which fell onto a pile of newspapers, igniting them. The fire spread from the newspapers to the rest of the room, and then to the rest of the house. However, Monk finds some clues that seem to suggest otherwise: from the victim's position on the couch, she couldn't see the TV, and was looking at an empty chair, making it obvious that someone else was here the night before. Also, Monk asks, if Esther was watching TV when she died, then why is the remote on the other end of the coffee table from where her head was? Knowing that Monk is never wrong when it comes to such matters as murder, Stottlemeyer quickly calls Lieutenant Disher and tells him to order the medical examiner to move Esther Stoval's autopsy to the fast track.

Later that day, Monk and Natalie find Joe Cochran feeding the neighborhood’s stray cats while the investigations wrap up. Monk refuses to approach the cats (due to allergies), so Natalie goes to talk with Joe, and sparks immediately fly – Joe is not only ruggedly handsome, but big-hearted and courteous. When Natalie explains why they are there, Joe, a little choked up, says that everyone loved Sparky, and the only person with a motive he can think of would be Gregorio Dumas, a stuck-up dog breeder who lives across the street from the firehouse. Recently, Gregorio Dumas threatened the fire company with a lawsuit after Sparky impregnated his prize show poodle Letitia.

Monk and Natalie talk to Dumas, who cuts a ludicrous figure with his palatial accommodations for his poodle, and his descriptions of Sparky as a common mutt. When Monk asks where he was the previous night, Dumas says he was at home on Friday night, watching the firehouse to make sure Sparky didn’t try anything again. While watching, he saw a lone firefighter come out of the firehouse. When Natalie brings this up on a date with Joe later, Joe says that this is impossible - all of the on-duty firemen were at Esther Stoval's house that night and they never sent anyone back. Monk figures that perhaps Dumas saw the killer. In questioning Dumas, Monk also notices a strange detail: Dumas is so overprotective of his poodle that he keeps her in a locked kennel surrounded by barbed wire – so how could Sparky have impregnated her?

Before Monk can delve further on the firehouse dog case, he and Natalie are called back to the police station, where Stottlemeyer and Disher have received the autopsy report from the medical examiner on Esther Stoval. Disher notes that the coroner found no traces of smoke or soot particles in Esther's lungs or nasal passages, confirming Monk's suspicion that she was dead before the fire was started. He also notes that the coroner found fabric in the victim's windpipe, and petichial hemorrhaging in the conjuntivae of her eyes. In short, the victim was asphyxiated - probably with a pillow. They have what Stottlemeyer calls a perfect murder: by staging the fire, the killer was able to destroy all forensic evidence that would have otherwise existed, including usable fingerprints and DNA. On top of all that, there is not a single witness to the crime.

Monk and Natalie ask around the neighborhood and they are dismayed to find that all of Esther’s neighbors despised her: she was a stereotypical “mean old lady,” who spied on the neighbors, complained loudly about their habits, and kept everyone up all night with the mewling of her innumerable cats. Worse, she was the lone holdout against a development plan by Lucas Breen, a local real estate tycoon, to demolish the houses on Esther's side of the street, and build an upscale condominium block. Now that she’s dead, the other residents are delighted to take their buyout from Breen and vacate the neighborhood. Neighbors on both sides of Esther's street show similar stories - one of her next-door neighbors, who works at a local think tank, claims he had to research every new cat that Esther bought, and also mentions that Esther bought a type of cat known as a Turkish Van a few days before she was killed. He also notes that her house was like an enormous litterbox (as the dander would blow when it was windy out. When Monk and Natalie talk to a neighbor who lived across the street from Esther, the neighbor mentions an incident where Esther ratted him out to the cable company for hijacking their signal with an illegal converter box. He notes that he also sells antique cars to make some money (as he is unemployed), and when Esther saw people buying restored antique vehicles from him, she filed a complaint with the city clerk, who fined him for operating a business out of his house without first getting a license.

Joe asks Natalie out on a date, and she accepts gladly; while picking her up, Joe also wins over Julie by giving her Sparky’s firehouse badge and thanking her for caring enough about his dog to hire Monk.

The next day, Monk, Natalie, and Stottlemeyer go to interview Lucas Breen, who is both rich and influential (he holds a seat on the police commission), and CEO of the Breen Development Corporation. Breen admits he didn’t have a motive to kill Esther Stoval; for the record, if push ever came to shove, he could've always rewritten the zoning regulations on the block to evict her, or, if the worst came to happen, he could build his condo project around her house (Breen notes that it was only thanks to creativity that he was able to advance to the position he is currently at in the real estate industry). When Monk asks Breen to supply an alibi for the night Esther was killed, Breen claims he was at a fundraiser at the Excelsior Tower Hotel with his wife, the mayor, the Governor and the governor's wife, and at least 500 other people. Leaving Breen's office, Monk takes the stairs while Natalie and Stottlemeyer take the elevator.

When Monk arrives down in the lobby, he tells Natalie and Stottlemeyer that without a doubt Breen is "the guy" who killed Esther: the flower shop in Breen's building sells a distinctive, handmade bouquet identical to one that Monk saw in the house of Lizzie Draper, one of the neighbors who lived across the street from Esther Stoval. Monk has learned that Breen bought a flower bouquet from the shop for Lizzie just a few days before Esther was killed. He's figured that Lizzie is Breen’s mistress. Remembering what Esther's other neighbors said about Esther's spying habits, Monk figures that Esther had incriminating photos of Breen with Lizzie Draper, and she must have been blackmailing Breen, threatening to tell his wife, and he killed her to keep her quiet.

Back at the police station, Disher confirms that Breen's alibi for that night is rock solid. When Stottlemeyer asks about the alibi, Monk dismisses it: the fundraiser was crowded enough that Breen could have slipped out and reappeared several hours later without anyone noticing he had gone. Moreover, Breen's company happens to have designed and built the Excelsior, so he would know how to slip out without being seen by the security cameras. However, the flowers aren't enough proof for them to arrest Breen - with no witnesses who can confirm that Breen was in the house that night, plus the fact that Breen burned down the house to get rid of all traces of himself, they also won't be able to get an indictment.

Monk and Natalie park at the Excelsior Hotel and try to recreate Breen's timetable for that night. As they are passing one office building, a homeless man asks for spare change, and Monk gives him several packages of wipes instead. The man is not pleased. They happen to pass by Joe's firehouse while doing so, and stop by. They reason that Breen would have had to stop here to rest his legs for a few minutes while on his way to Esther Stoval's house, and note that if it took them close to 40 minutes to get from the hotel to the firehouse, that would be the approximate amount of time that Breen would have taken to get to Esther's house, given that the house is only four blocks further.

Natalie asks Joe some more questions about Sparky's habits, and Joe says that Sparky was allowed to run loose around the neighborhood when they were out responding to 9-1-1 calls. He doesn’t know where Sparky went while they were gone, but in the last few weeks, he always smelled like crap. Monk solves a piece of the case, and he and Natalie head across the street to confront Gregorio Dumas: it seems that Dumas has been tunneling into the basement of the firehouse, using the sewer line. He deliberately used his poodle to distract Sparky so he wouldn’t bark, while Dumas searched the basement, which historical records show is where a famous 19th-century train robber stashed his hidden treasure. That’s why Sparky always came back smelly.

Dumas admits that he was in the firehouse on the night of the murder – and that he used the two missing towels to wipe the sewage off his shoes – but swears he didn’t kill Sparky, as it would have broken his poodle’s heart. He still mentions having seen the lone fireman leaving the garage, and in a way witnessed the crime. Monk believes him, and tells Natalie that Dumas saw Breen, who was posing as a fireman.

Here's What Happened

On Friday night, Breen left the Excelsior and walked to Esther Stoval's house, having decided that he would try one more time to reason with her. He walked because that was the only way he could have made it there without being noticed (he couldn't drive himself because the valet and press would have seen him leave, and he couldn't take a taxi because the driver would have recognized him). When he got to Esther's house, she threatened to expose his affair with Lizzie Draper. He panicked, and quickly killed her, and then staged an "accidental" fire. He was running back to the hotel when he realized he had left something behind which would place him at her house that night. He couldn’t take the chance that it would be destroyed in the fire or could be traced to him, but by the time he realized it, the engines from Joe's firehouse had already passed him and he couldn't go back inside. He snuck into the firehouse, but Sparky came at him and Breen was forced to use a pickaxe to defend himself. He stole a helmet and turnout coat, and when he got back to the crime scene, he slipped on the gear. He was able to then retrieve the incriminating item without ever being noticed, and then returned the stolen gear to the firehouse before returning to the fundraiser.

As Monk and Natalie make their way back to the hotel, Monk explains to Natalie that he figured Breen had stolen a fireman's coat because when they first arrived at the firehouse, there was a coat facing the wrong way. The fire captain happens to have a system. As Natalie is asking Monk how they can prove that Breen was in Esther's house the night she was killed, she is almost mugged by a man with a knife, but she gets the better of him and Monk asks him whether he mugged anyone else in that area on the night of the fire. The mugger admits that he mugged Lucas Breen on the night in question and took Breen's wallet, and mentions that Breen reeked of smoke like he'd just fled a burning builing.

Monk, Natalie, and Stottlemeyer confront Breen at his office, but he denies everything. They inform him about how they know he was mugged as he was making his way back from the fire. They also point out that Breen did report his stolen credit cards to his bank, but suspiciously, he never reported the mugging to the police. Breen claims he was mugged while he was out having a cigarette, and claims that he was smoking a cigar to explain what the mugger said about how Breen reeked of smoke.

The next day, Monk quickly checks the weather patterns for that night and also examines “before” and “after” pictures of Breen at the fundraiser. He notices that in the "before" photo, Breen is wearing his monogrammed, tailor-made overcoat, but when in the "after" photo showing him leaving at midnight, the overcoat is gone.

Monk explains what he thinks happened: according to one weather chart, it stopped raining at around 9:30 PM. Joe's fire company was dispatched at 10:00 PM. If it took 40 minutes for Breen to walk from the hotel to Esther's house, Breen's time of departure could be placed at around 9:15 PM, so it would have still been raining when he first left. As a result, he wore his overcoat to stay dry. Monk figures that when he got to Esther's house, Breen must have hung his overcoat up and tried to reason with Esther, who threatened him with her incriminating images, and this provoked Breen in to killing her. He then staged the fire and ran out of the house. With it no longer raining, Breen must have not realized he'd left his coat behind until he'd travelled a few blocks, and was practically in front of the empty firehouse. He had to get that overcoat back, as - if it were like the rest of his wardrobe - it had monogrammed buttons with Breen's initials on them, and the buttons and scorched coat could have easily been traced back to him. He killed Sparky in self-defense while stealing a turnout coat and helmet, returned to the burning house, retrieved the overcoat, then returned the stolen firefighting gear to the firehouse. Breen thought he was home free, only he got mugged on the way back to the hotel.

Monk and Natalie go back to the firehouse. Natalie claims that they're going back to find where Breen may have ditched his overcoat, but Monk quickly figures that Natalie also wants to check on Joe, and points out the things about her behavior that he noticed (she never stopped reading past a newspaper article on a warehouse fire the night before that hospitalized two firemen, and she kept checking the clock to see if it was a good time to call). They try to figure places where the coat could have been ditched. While Natalie suspects that perhaps Breen ditched it at Lizzie Draper's house, Monk points out that that would have been very risky, and he theorizes that Breen probably disposed of the coat somewhere between the firehouse and the hotel. During their search, Disher calls Natalie to tell them that the mugger has confirmed that Breen was wearing his overcoat when he was mugged. Monk and Natalie search several dumpsters on the route, but when all of the dumpsters turn up empty, Monk sadly concludes that it must have already been collected – so the only way to find it is to root through the recently collected trash at the city dump.

Monk and Natalie go to the garbage dump and talk to Chad Grimsley, the manager, requesting him to hold the trash from the Excelsior Hotel for a few days so they can search it. They plan to go to Stottlemeyer to get their search warrants, but are forced to meet him at a homicide investigation near Sutro Tower. Monk quickly solves the homicide Stottlemeyer is working on the spot, but Stottlemeyer informs Monk that getting a search warrant for all that garbage isn't something that a judge will be likely to issue.

Monk and Natalie head back to the police station, where they converse with Randy. When Stottlemeyer comes back, he isn't very happy, and tells them that the chief refused to give him a search warrant, and has ordered him to stop harassing Breen with malicious accusations and start looking for other possible suspects. Stottlemeyer, however, still has faith in Monk's abilities as a detective, and as such knows that if Monk believes Breen is responsible for killing an old lady and a dog, he's probably right, and decides to do the next-best thing he can do that will not get himself in trouble. Acting on Monk's theory that Breen stole a fireman's coat to get back into Esther's house to retrieve his overcoat, Stottlemeyer has Randy send a forensics team to the firehouse to recover the firefighting gear that Breen might have utilized, as he believes that there is a chance that perhaps Breen left some fingerprints or DNA behind when he returned it. Randy points out that they don't know exactly which pieces of firefighting gear Breen wore that night, but Stottlemeyer mentions that it's the only leverage they have.

Joe and several recruited off-duty firefighters pitch in to help Monk and Natalie root through the garbage, but without finding the overcoat. That night, Natalie goes on a second date with Joe, and they get even closer, though Natalie is disturbed by how nonchalantly Joe takes the dangerous aspects of his job.

Their date is interrupted, however, when Stottlemeyer calls Monk and Natalie in to a new homicide. A homeless man has been found bludgeoned to death with a brick in his encampment. According to the coroner, the man had been dead for two hours when he was discovered. Stottlemeyer notes that the cops are very lucky - a patrol car happened to be passing by and the officers saw the mass commotion that coincided with the body's discovery. Monk has a sneezing fit, noting that the man seems to have slept with cats. When he asks why he is here, Stottlemeyer shows him several packets of wipes in the dead man’s pockets, and asks if they knew each other. Natalie recognizes the dead man as one of the homeless men that Monk handed wipes to while they were recreating Breen's timetable for the night of the fire.

Monk realizes that, despite the freezing cold night, the dead man has no coat, and when he ran into the man on the street, he was wearing a dirty and tattered overcoat. He immediately announces that Breen also killed the homeless man. Stottlemeyer is skeptical, noting that Monk is making Breen into a type of serial killer, but Monk thinks that Breen is just a man who has to keep killing just to get away with murdering Esther Stoval. He explains what happened: after Breen killed Esther Stoval and realized that he'd left his overcoat in the burning house, he went to the firehouse to steal a fireman's coat to get back into the fire, and he killed Sparky in the process. After recovering the overcoat and returning the stolen firefighting gear to the firehouse, Breen walked back to the hotel, during which time he was mugged. At some point in time between when Breen was mugged and when he finally returned to the hotel, he must have ditched the overcoat in one of the Excelsior's dumpsters (probably because it had been partially scorched in the fire, and hence was ruined; also, he would have had to explain to his wife and others how he was able to scorch his overcoat during the fundraiser). Later that night, the now-deceased homeless man picked it up. He didn't know about its origins, but when Monk, Natalie and Stottlemeyer were confronting Breen with their murder accusations, Breen saw the homeless man walking down the street, and recognized the coat. Seeing the one piece of evidence that could send him to death row passing his building, Breen tracked the homeless man down, killed him, and then stole his overcoat.

They race to Breen's house to try and recover the coat, but they are too late: Breen has incinerated the overcoat in his fireplace, and (while sniffling due to a bad cold) smugly informs them that they have no evidence left to connect him with any crime.

Monk trudges back to Natalie’s house, feeling defeated. He is made more frustrated by the fact that Stottlemeyer risks losing his badge because of this case, and this is a case where Stottlemeyer got dragged into the investigation. Monk flips through his favorite book of Marmaduke cartoons, and when he spots a Marmaduke cartoon in which Marmaduke chases a cat up a tree, he realizes that they still have a chance to arrest Breen. He explains his theory to Stottlemeyer, who is willing to bet on it, even though he knows that this is risky. He points out that the chief just reprimanded him that morning for what he has done, and he risks losing his badge or possibly even demotion. Randy offers to come along, but Stottlemeyer says he won’t risk Randy’s badge along with his own.

Stottlemeyer and Natalie confront Breen in his penthouse office, while Monk remains in the lobby. Monk calls up on a cell phone, and on cue, Natalie produces a white cat called a Turkish Van. Breen starts to sneeze, and Monk reveals that Breen was sneezing explosively on the night they confronted him at his house. He claimed to have a cold, but Monk has just proven that he and Breen have one thing in common - they're both allergic to cats! He reveals that the cat they've brought in was one that Esther Stoval purchased just a few days before she was killed. Monk explains that during the fire, dander from Esther's cats collected on Breen's overcoat. Monk also remembers that he had a sneezing fit when he first met the homeless man who was later killed, and later had a similar fit when he was at the dead man's encampment. He initially thought that the man lived with cats, but there were no cat litters anywhere near the encampment. Stottlemeyer reveals that they're already searching Breen's car and house they are going to match the danders they find to Esther's cats.

Breen cracks and makes a run for it, escaping the office in a private elevator. Stottlemeyer curses, knowing that if Breen manages to get out of the building he will disappear forever. However, Monk has a plan. As Breen races out of the parking garage in his Bentley Continental, Monk grabs two bowls of clam chowder from the lobby restaurant and throws them at Breen’s windshield, blinding him, and causing him to lose control and crash into a row of parked cars. Breen, severely injured, and having lost several of his teeth in the crash, stumbles out of his car carrying a gun, wanting nothing more than to kill Monk before he goes to prison. Before Breen can pull the trigger, there is a gunshot, and Breen goes down. Randy appears, handcuffs Breen, and calls for paramedics. When Stottlemeyer and Natalie arrive downstairs, Randy tells them that he followed them because he thought they would need backup, though Stottlemeyer points out to him that he also violated a direct order.

Returning to the police station, Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher learn that the preliminary on the hairs found in both Breen's house and car have matched with Esther's cats. Stottlemeyer mentions that his review hearing has been suspended and has been replaced with a commendation event for Randy. Stottlemeyer points out to Randy that he defused a very risky hostage situation single-handedly without causing serious harm to anyone. Satisfied, Monk and Natalie return to the firehouse to inform the crews that they’ve caught Sparky's killer. Joe is ecstatic and wants to take Natalie out to celebrate, but Natalie says she’s come to a difficult decision: she is falling for Joe, but can’t get involved with another man in a dangerous job; she and Julie already lost Mitch, and she can’t go through that again. Joe is crestfallen, but accepts her decision.

Julie is so grateful to Monk for finding Sparky's killer that she organizes her bedroom just as he would like it. While Monk is preparing to move back home, Stottlemeyer drops by to tell them that the Breen case has been clinched by the amount of incriminating evidence they've been able to locate. They don't only have him just with the cat dander, but forensics has found Breen's fingerprints in a firefighter's glove. Before Stottlemeyer leaves, Monk casually asks him to arrest Mrs. Throphamner, Natalie's elderly next door neighbor who has been babysitting Julie. He says that she murdered her husband – she’s been wearing his dentures in place of her own, and constantly planting and re-planting her roses to conceal his decaying corpse buried in her garden. To Natalie’s astonishment, the neighbor confesses. Furious that Monk would let her leave Julie in the care of a murderess, on the assumption that she wouldn’t kill anyone else, Natalie stalks off, not trusting herself near Monk for a good week.

List of main characters

Characters from the television series

Original characters

  • Sparky, a murdered firehouse dog
  • Captain Mantooth, Fire Captain
  • Joseph "Joe" Cochran, a senior firefighter
  • Esther Stoval, an elderly woman and Lucas Breen's first murder victim
  • Gregorio Dumas, a man who has held a grudge against Sparky
  • Mrs. Throphamner, Natalie's next-door neighbor
  • Aubrey Brudnick, Esther Stoval's next-door neighbor, and a worker at a think tank
  • Neal and Kate Finney, some of Esther's other neighbors
  • Burton Joyner, an antique car restorer who lived across the street from Esther
  • Lucas Breen, CEO of the Breen Development Corporation
  • Lizzie Draper, Breen's mistress and a stripper at a nightclub
  • Marlon Tolliver, a mugger
  • A Homeless Man


  • The fire captain is named Captain Mantooth, an homage to the character of Randy Mantooth from Emergency!.
  • Sparky, the firehouse dog, is probably named for the mascot of the National Fire Protection Association, who also happens to be a dalmation.
  • While Joe Cochran's firehouse is never given a company number, it seems very likely that he works on SFFD Engine Company 28. The novel mentions that Joe's firehouse is in the North Beach neighborhood, and the novel Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants notes that the firehouse's location is a few blocks from Washington Square, both of which describe Company 28's location (on Stockton Street, a few blocks north of Washington Square). Also, Company 28's firehouse is at the top of a hill, and that description also applies to Joe's firehouse. Further supporting this is the fact that in walking from Fire Company 28 to Esther Stoval's house, Monk and Natalie walk downhill. This would place Esther's house on Stockton Street at the base of the hill.

Episode adaption

"Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing"
Monk episode
Episode no. Season 5
Episode 4
Directed by Stephen Surjik
Written by Lee Goldberg
William Rabkin
Original air date July 28, 2006
Guest stars

Stanley Kamel as Dr. Charles Kroger
Jamie Kaler as Peter Breen
Sandra Nelson as Dr. Jackman
Drew Powell as Eddie Murdoch
Art Evans as Rusty
Jim Piddock as Jake Colbert
Rocky McMurray as Captain Stockton
Lauren Mary Kim as Stefanie Preston
Christopher Hoffman as First Detective
Eddie Goines as First Fireman
Shana Stein as Shana
Chris Krauser as Fireman with Dalmatian

Season 5 episodes
July 2006 – March 2007
  1. "Mr. Monk and the Actor"
  2. "Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike"
  3. "Mr. Monk and the Big Game"
  4. "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing"
  5. "Mr. Monk, Private Eye"
  6. "Mr. Monk and the Class Reunion"
  7. "Mr. Monk Gets a New Shrink"
  8. "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert"
  9. "Mr. Monk Meets His Dad"
  10. "Mr. Monk and the Leper"
  11. "Mr. Monk Makes a Friend"
  12. "Mr. Monk Is At Your Service"
  13. "Mr. Monk Is on the Air"
  14. "Mr. Monk Visits a Farm"
  15. "Mr. Monk and the Really, Really Dead Guy"
  16. "Mr. Monk Goes to the Hospital"
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Mr. Monk and the Big Game"
Next →
"Mr. Monk, Private Eye"
Monk (season 5)
List of Monk episodes

"Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing" is the fourth episode of the fifth season of Monk, and the 65th episode overall. It was based on the novel Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse.

This episode was listed as one of Ted Levine's favorites during the Monk Cast Favorites Marathon.[1]

Plot summary

A woman falls asleep while watching TV and a lit cigarette sets her house on fire. Minutes later, at a nearby firehouse, a firefighter is killed and Monk is blinded in a bizarre attack. Monk must use his other senses to find the killer.

Plot synopsis

Early one afternoon at Fire Company #53 of the San Francisco Fire Department, Rusty (Art Evans), a veteran firefighter, delivers lunch to his colleagues and then criticizes a man who cracks a dry joke. The fire captain, Stockton (Rocky McMurray), reassures Rusty that they all admire him, but is interrupted when Adrian Monk arrives carrying a container full of smoke detectors. Stockton tells Monk that he could test the alarms on his own, but Monk states that he would be better if a professional did so.

Barely has Monk arrived when the station's two-tone call alarm goes off. The crew is being called to a three alarm house fire just five blocks away from the firehouse. Despite Monk's protests, the crew gear up on their engines, and Monk and Rusty can only watch as the truck pulls out of the garage, activates its sirens, and speeds away. Rusty tests Monk's smoke detectors, and is surprised to find that Monk is overly cautious, having 30 smoke detectors for the five rooms, two hallways, and vestibule that make up his apartment.

They are interrupted when they hear a squeaking noise. Monk and Rusty look up and see a construction worker, Eddie Murdoch (Drew Powell), walk into the firehouse. Acting like he is trying not to be noticed, Murdoch walks around the front of the station's heavy rescue vehicle. Rusty walks around the back of the truck to confront him. Murdoch quickly grabs a shovel from the tool rack and promptly bludgeons Rusty to death. Monk hears the loud clanging sound, runs around the back of the truck, and confronts Murdoch, who attacks him. After a short struggle, Monk manages to grab the shovel. But before he can swing and knock Murdoch out, Murdoch grabs a container of cleaning solvent off the workbench and throws the solvent at Monk's face. Monk staggers back against the truck, and then slides down to rest by the rear wheels, while Murdoch makes his getaway.

A short time later, Natalie Teeger walks into the firehouse looking for Monk. She walks around the front of the truck and finds the crime scene. As Natalie calls for help, she instructs Monk to find a chair, but it becomes apparent that Monk has lost his eyesight.

Monk is taken to the hospital to have his eyes examined. The doctor tells Captain Stottlemeyer that the solvent that the attacker threw into Monk's face was composed of detergent and muriatic acid. She notes that both of his corneas have been scarred and there is damage to Monk's nerves. She notes that it might take a while for the tissue to grow back. Lieutenant Disher reassures Monk that he and Stottlemeyer are doing everything they can to find the killer, but Stottlemeyer cuts him off when he realizes that Randy is only making the crisis worse. Monk is very crippled at the loss of his vision, despite Natalie telling him that there's always hope.

At the police station, a teacher from the School for the Blind puts Stottlemeyer and Disher through an empathy exercise. Wearing blindfolds, they are told to travel from the Captain's office to the water cooler and pour a cup of water. Randy does this rather clumsily, bumping into detectives' desks twice and knocking things over, while Stottlemeyer feels around with the palms of his hands and tries to explain what is going on to a startled detective. Stottlemeyer confides to the teacher they've been given that she doesn't know Monk very well, and it's very unlikely that he'll be able to function at all. The teacher tells him that it's up to him to make him function.

At his apartment, Monk has become quite upset at the fact that he might never see his pictures of Trudy again. Natalie convinces Monk to continue investigating, since Monk may not have sight but he does have the senses of smell, sound, touch and taste to rely upon. She tries to use examples of people who did great things while blind, like Mr. Magoo and blind singer Ray Charles, as role models that Monk can try to follow. Stottlemeyer shows up and asks Monk to accompany him down to the firehouse. Monk is unwilling to come along, pointing out that he gave Randy a detailed statement, but Stottlemeyer informs Monk that he is the sole eyewitness in a major homicide investigation. He also points out the importance of the investigation - Rusty was a standup guy and he had been with the engine company for 35 years, and it's his personal wish that he catch the killer with Monk's help.

Monk is brought to the firehouse. After making a few mistakes with trying to locate items in the room, Natalie suggests to Monk that he use his photographic memory to recreate the room as it was on the day of the murder. After they sit Monk down at the chair he was in, it becomes easier for them to go back through Monk's statement. Disher notes that Monk said that the killer was 6'1", heavyset, with sandy hair, and he was wearing a leather jacket, and he also smelled of rum, like he had been drinking. After Monk gets tangled up in the crime scene tape stretched between the wall and the truck, Natalie walks him back towards the street. As he is leaving, Monk brushes his shoulder against the rack of turnout coats, and immediately stops. He turns and realizes that a coat is missing. He figures that the killer came in to steal a fireman's coat and was willing to kill for it.

Some days later, Monk is later being assisted by a walking cane. He and Natalie arrive at the police station, where Stottlemeyer and Disher have brought in a drifter named Jake Colbert. According to Stottlemeyer, Colbert has no alibi, is the height of the person who attacked Monk, and was wearing the missing coat. As Monk has no eyesight, he cannot identify Colbert as the guy. Furthermore, Colbert swears that he found the coat in a dumpster in an alleyway behind a restaurant in the Tenderloin. Monk is told that he must feel Colbert's face to identify him, and he does so reluctantly. When Monk does so, he finds a wart on Colbert's chin, and he is certain that Colbert is not the killer, even though he was found wearing the fireman's coat when he was picked up.

Later, Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher travel to the alley where Colbert found the jacket. Reading from his notebook, Randy mentions that Colbert's story checks out. At 5:00 PM on that Sunday afternoon, he was in the alley collecting bottles and cans and found the missing coat in a dumpster. He also found a fireman's helmet which he gave to a couple of passing children. This does not make any sense to Monk: Rusty was killed earlier that afternoon, at around 2:00 PM. Why would someone kill a person for a fireman's coat and helmet, only to throw it away just three hours later? While they are in the alleyway, he is happy to find that he can't see the alley's low-life inhabitants, including the rats scrounging around in the garbage cans, the cockroaches, or even a dead cat.

Stottlemeyer puts the lid on a garbage can to hide a pair of scrounging rats, and he admits that he hates this neighborhood, as he was stuck here for three hours on Sunday afternoon. He mentions that the house that burned down was just around the corner from where they are. He notes that the young woman who lived there was killed in the fire, and had fallen asleep smoking a cigarette in front of the TV. Monk, however, believe that the fire and Rusty's murder are connected and insists on checking it out.

They travel to the burned out remains of the house. Monk feels his way around the bathroom (not caring about the fact that he is getting soot on his hands), and then goes into the living room. Stottlemeyer mentions that the victim was on the couch, watching TV, smoking and drinking. She fell asleep, a cigarette fell onto a pile of lit newspapers, and the whole place burned down. The victim was a 27 year old woman named Stefanie Preston, and she'd been working as a temp for Peter Breen Construction, a local construction company, for the past eight weeks. Although the file says that Stefanie lived alone, Monk finds some men's cologne in the bathroom, two toothbrushes, and two types of toothpaste, clues which suggest that she had a boyfriend. In the living room, Monk picks up a scorched bottle on a table and notes that it smells of rum, and he remembers how the man who attacked him at the firehouse five blocks away smelled of rum. He also finds the impression of a rearing horse etched into the glass on the coffee table, next to a gob of melted plastic that was once the TV remote, and realizes that something doesn't make sense: if the victim was "watching" TV, then why is the remote at the opposite end of the table from where she was? With this, he solves the case.

Here's What Happened

Monk explains that Stefanie Preston was probably murdered, strangulation being the likely cause of death. Murdoch made it look like she'd fallen asleep on the couch and he staged an "accidental" fire by flicking a lit cigarette onto a pile of newspapers. As he was fleeing the scene, he must have stopped and realized he forgot something in the house, probably a metal object that could survive the fire and be traced back to him. Murdoch could not simply go back to the crime scene to retrieve the object, however: after all, the house was on fire, trucks were already on the scene, and the police had cordoned the area off. To gain access to the scene, he needed a fireman's coat, so Murdoch went to the firehouse. After killing Rusty and blinding Monk, Murdoch grabbed a coat and helmet and escaped. When he got back to the house (by now fully engulfed in flames), Murdoch looked like one of the real firemen, so nobody noticed him or questioned him as he slipped right past the real men, walked right into the house, and retrieved the incriminating object.

Monk is elated, realizing that, even without his sight, he's still a great detective. In session with Dr. Kroger, Monk tells him that he feels liberated - losing his sight has halved the number of his fears, and he has a whole new life to "look" forward to. Troubled, Dr. Kroger thinks he's still in denial over his loss.

Sometime later, Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher visit the construction site where Stefanie Preston worked to interview Peter Breen (Jamie Kaler), her boss. Breen suggests that Monk wait in the construction trailer, but Monk insists on being treated like everyone else. As Natalie guides Monk along, she has to stop him from touching some sharp barbed wire as she leads him up to Breen.

Although busy issuing instructions to workers, Breen admits that he knew Stefanie intermittently, and he hired her because his regular girl was on maternity leave. He also claims that he's never been to Stefanie Preston's house. When asked to supply an alibi for the approximate time of both the fire and Rusty's murder, Breen claims he was at the construction site talking to the architect and construction manager. Randy notices and takes an interest in Breen's Ferrari sports car. During their conversation, Eddie Murdoch comes up to Breen, and reassures Breen that he still has Breen's keys. Breen tells Murdoch that they'll take care of that matter later. Monk hears a squeaky noise in Murdoch's shoes, and he recognizes the squeak as being the same consistency as that of the one he heard when Rusty was killed.

Monk takes off after Murdoch, but Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher do not see him leaving. Monk catches up to Murdoch in another room, and quickly feels Murdoch's face, identifying him as the killer. Murdoch prepares to kill Monk to eliminate the sole witness to Rusty's death, but Monk whips him several times with his cane and then hurls several objects at him, overpowering Murdoch long enough for Monk to steal his nametag and escape. Murdoch recovers, and chases after Monk, but by hiding behind a wall, Monk is narrowly able to throw Murdoch off course. Murdoch goes running up the stairs, thinking that he'll find Monk up there. After briefly getting lost and stumbling into an out-of-order construction elevator, Monk is found by the rest of the party. He hands Murdoch's identification card over. Just then, they hear Murdoch screaming as he falls down a shaft to his death. Disher identifies Murdoch, and says that he thinks Murdoch was looking for Breen.

Back at the hospital, Monk is examined again, and the doctor is cautiously optimistic, saying that Monk's eyesight is returning gradually. Monk, however, has lost all his former optimism after the humiliation of standing on a steel beam ten inches off the ground, and believes that there might be a chance that his eyesight might not return. Disher tells Monk that indeed, Eddie Murdoch is the person who killed Stefanie Preston and Rusty. He just got back from Murdoch's house and found the clothes he had been wearing when he started the fire covered with soot and sitting in a laundry hamper.

Natalie and Randy then leave the hospital, leaving Stottlemeyer with Monk. Monk is having second thoughts about the case: Eddie Murdoch did kill Stefanie Preston, but what was his motive? At least it is clear what his motive for killing Rusty was. Monk remembers how when they were talking to Peter Breen, Murdoch walked up and he said to Breen, "I still have those keys." He figures that Murdoch must have been talking about the keys to Breen's Ferrari. Monk asks Stottlemeyer what the keychains to Ferraris like Breen's look like, and Stottlemeyer confirms that they are shaped like a rearing horse. They suddenly realize that the rearing-horse impression left on the coffee table at Stefanie Preston's house during the fire came from Peter Breen's keys.

Monk and Stottlemeyer rush down to the morgue in search of the keys. Monk explains his theory. He explains that while Eddie Murdoch killed Stefanie Preston and Rusty, and he was the man that attacked Monk at Fire Company 53, none of it was his idea: his boss had actually paid him to do it. Peter Breen was the one having the affair; he had keys to Stefanie's house, which he loaned to Eddie Murdoch so that Murdoch could sneak in and kill her. He'd left the keys behind, and Murdoch panicked, realizing that the police would have been able to trace the impression to Breen's keys (which Breen would have had a hard time explaining). However, by that time, the first engine companies had arrived on the scene. He went to the firehouse to steal a fireman's coat. After killing Rusty and blinding Monk, he stole the gear needed, went back to the house, retrieved the keys, and ditched the turnout gear in a dumpster.

Monk and Stottlemeyer eventually locate Murdoch's body. They find the keys they are looking for in a plastic bag containing Murdoch's personal effects. Just as Stottlemeyer grabs the keys and tells Monk that they've found Exhibit A, one of the "corpses" rises from its gurney and casts off the sheet. It is Peter Breen, who has followed Eddie Murdoch's body to the morgue to recover his keys and destroy the one remaining piece of evidence against him. Breen knocks Stottlemeyer out with a mallet, and then handcuffs him to a gurney, then grabs a knife to prepare to kill Monk. He also manages to take Monk's cane. Monk grabs Stottlemeyer’s gun, and with his eyesight beginning to return just in the nick of time, shoots Breen in the chest, then leans down to check on Stottlemeyer, who realizes that Monk can see him.

A few nights later, Monk, having made a full recovery, is reading in his armchair, glancing up to admire his many pictures of Trudy on the wall. He smiles - and all is well. The events of his blindness period are now long behind him.

Additional facts

  • During the scene where Natalie is trying to keep Monk's hopes up at his apartment, she mentions that there have been a lot of blind people who have done amazing things. To prove her point, Natalie mentions Mr. Magoo, an animated cartoon character, and an amazing blind inventor, who appeared in a series of short films. She also makes a mention to American musician Ray Charles, who was blind by the time he was seven years old due to glaucoma.
  • When Monk is getting soot on his hands while searching Stefanie Preston's house, Stottlemeyer asks him if he wants some gloves, but Monk declines, saying, "No, don't need them. Out of sight, out of mind." By coincidence, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" was an episode of the TV series M*A*S*H in which Hawkeye Pierce was temporarily blinded. The plots of both "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing" and "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" are very similar. In both, the main character is initially despondent at the chance that their loss of eyesight might be permanent, and in both, the protagonist becomes fascinated with his other senses due to sensory deprivation. And in both, the sense of smell to find clues proves to be crucial. There are, however, a number of differences (Hawkeye loses his eyesight when a malfunctioning stove explodes, whereas Monk loses his when he is attacked during a robbery).
  • The alarm at Fire Company 53 (two short tones followed by a buzzer) is the same alarm that is used at LACFD Fire Company 51 in Emergency!.
  • The original version of "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing" had scenes in which actor Ron Roggé would have portrayed a welder. His scenes were deleted from the final version.[2]
  • When Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer, and Disher are in the alleyway where Jake Colbert said he found the fireman's coat stolen from Fire Company 53, a prostitute can be seen standing in the background behind Monk (not that she is bothering Monk, because he can't see her, nor can he see the cockroaches and dead cat in the alley).
  • At least two characters in "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing" got their names from actual people on the production staff for Monk. The teacher from the School for the Blind is named Shana, and is portrayed by Shana Stein, and fire victim Stefanie Preston gets her name from a person of the same name on the production staff.

Similarities and differences between the book and episode

  • Most of the characters in "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing" are adapted from characters in Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse:
Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse character "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing" character
Esther Stoval Stefanie Preston
Sparky Rusty
Lucas Breen Peter Breen
Captain Mantooth Captain Stockton
  • There are a few characters in Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse that do not have episode equivalents.
    • Esther Stoval's next door neighbors do not appear in the episode, although they could as well be the people who are standing behind the police line during the summation shot, watching the firefighters putting out the fire at Stefanie Preston's house.
    • Lizzie Draper does not have a direct equivalent in the episode. However, the character of Stefanie Preston was probably designed as a cross between both Esther Stoval (in that she is murdered and her death is disguised as an accidental fire) and Lizzie Draper (she has an affair with Breen).
    • Eddie Murdoch, the construction worker that Peter Breen pays to kill Stefanie Preston, does not have a novel equivalent.


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