THE FOURTH MONKEY by J.D. Barker
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; On sale 6/27/17
CBTB Rating: 4/5
The Verdict: a twisted, movie-worthy serial killer thriller
Sometimes you just need a seriously twisted and totally engaging serial killer thriller—and THE FOURTH MONKEY is that book. Gripping, violent, and inventive, this book pits a dutiful police officer against a truly sick killer who has crafted a game just for the police—a game that ends in the chance to save the life of the killer’s next victim. Author J.D. Barker serves up a twisty and original take on the classic cop vs. serial killer thriller in THE FOURTH MONKEY. Fans of Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs: listen up, this one’s for you.
For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.
As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.
With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.
I don’t know what it is about serial killer thrillers, but I just love them. From the classics (hello, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) to newer additions like M.J. Arlidge’s EENY MEENY and Daniel Cole’s RAGDOLL, there’s just something so addictive about this kind of read. I love the mind games, the tension, and the twisted plotting, and THE FOURTH MONKEY has it all. Above and beyond the many qualities that make this such a fun read, I was most impressed with its originality: this book actually starts with the death of the serial killer at its core, the Four Monkey Killer. Author J.D. Barker puts a truly unique spin on the typical cop vs. killer chase, and his originality pays off.
Before you get concerned: the fact that the killer dies at the beginning of this book doesn’t at all take away from the tension or urgency of this story. When the police show up at the scene of the killer’s death, they find a diary on his body - a diary that details every step in his evolution from young child to twisted killer. Our main police officer delves into the diary as part of his investigation, and the result is a totally gripping and enjoyably over-the-top dive into what exactly makes someone evil.
I will warn you: the Four Monkey Killer’s backstory really is twisted. It’s graphically violent and quite dramatic, but I enjoyed every cinematic detail that the author provides. I didn't necessarily buy the killer's backstory—it's far from realistic, but I actually don't believe that the author intended for it to be grounded in reality. If you read the book, you'll see exactly what I mean—I think this overly dramatic backstory for the killer might actually be another one of the killer's mind games, and I loved every minute of it. Whether or not you take these diary entries to be true, I can guarantee that they'll keep you equal parts hooked and horrified. These diary entries also serve to keep the killer “alive” throughout the story, even if only on paper, adding an element of tension and darkness that I loved.
No serial killer thriller would be complete without a case to solve (obviously!), and Barker ensures that readers still have a puzzle to unravel, even with the killer deceased. Before his death, the Four Monkey Killer left behind a series of clues for the police which seem to indicate that he has already kidnapped his next victim, and is holding her in an undisclosed location where she might still be alive—for now. This leads the police down a chilling rabbit hole, following in the footsteps of a vicious killer... but the clock is ticking, and a young woman's life is on the line.
J.D. Barker’s writing really is just pure fun. (Fun in a really dark, twisted, horrific way.) This book isn’t pretentious or serious—it's just a gory, dark, thrilling, wholly entertaining ride. It's worth noting that I did guess the book's final plot twist, but it didn't bother me much to discover that I had seen this reveal coming. I was too swept up in all the twisted fun to give it a second thought. Please be warned, this book is graphically violent—it won’t suit all readers for that reason. But if you love thrillers that center around high-stakes police investigations, and want to be drawn into the mind and backstory of a truly disturbed killer, you will love THE FOURTH MONKEY.
Book Details: THE FOURTH MONKEY by J.D. Barker
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (June 27, 2017)
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that links to amazon.com.