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Review: "The Fourth Monkey," by J.D. Barker

August 4, 2017

Hell of a book! Lived up to my expectations. 

I have been looking forward to reading this book for months, and was happy when I could finally get my hands on a copy. The Fourth Monkey could sit right up there with some of the best mystery/crime novels, alongside the likes of Connelly and Coben. 

The Fourth Monkey reminded me a bit of The Bone Collector. It is at once a crime mystery novel, with elements of a thriller, and even a splash of horror. The daughter of a wealthy man has gone missing, and it is discovered to be the work of the infamous 4MK (Fourth Monkey Killer). The desperate search is on by Detective Sam Porter to find the missing girl, who may only have a few days to survive without food and water. Spliced throughout the search for the young girl are diary entries from the 4MK, which serve to provide us with a background understanding of how he came to be so twisted and murderous. The 4MK likes to play games with law enforcement, so he leaves clues - gory, bloody clues. So it's up to Porter and his team to piece together the clues before it's too late for the victim.

I'll start by saying that J.D. Barker is a gifted writer and storyteller. He really understands pace, and gets his readers on the edge of there seats throughout the entire book. Barker used diary entries written by the killer, sprinkled every couple of chapters or so, to tell us about the killer's twisted upbringing, and these chapters were both gruesome and tragic. But more than that, they added a great flavour to the book. These diary entries tore you away from the mystery and crime-solving parts of the story, and gave you some psychological horror to keep you salivating. 

I think Barker did well to keep the gore and horror reigned in. It isn't overdone. It's just enough to make you wince and want a little more. For all you sick and twisted folks out there, you'll enjoy this book. The killers childhood family is good and fucked up, yet you can't help but feel bad for the young, soon-to-become serial killer. Such is the mark of a good story teller that they can make you empathise with a serial killer. 

And we have Porter, our protagonist, who is still reeling from his own personal tragedy when he is thrust back into the world of the 4MK string of murders. Like any good thriller, we have a main character who is trying to overcome his own demons while trying to remain sane and together for the sake of appearances. I am curious to see how his character evolves into the next 4MK novel. 

Barker also gave us some decent secondary characters, namely Nash and Clair. They have wit and sarcastic sense of humour, which is nice. The genre can often offer up dry secondary characters who have nothing much to offer other than being mouth pieces to deliver information. But I get the sense that Nash and Clair have bigger roles to play, especially as the series moves along. 

This book differs from a lot of thrillers in that we know the killer from the beginning. We are introduced to his voice right at the start. Normally we are given numerous suspects and left trying to guess, and second-guess, who the killer is, which is a fun game for the reader. And while this sort of happens in this novel, it really isn't what becomes the main focus for the reader. The main focus, rather, becomes the psychological aspects of the book - i.e. seeing what created a monster in 4MK and what has caused such inner emotional strife for Porter. Finding out the true identity of our killer was nice, but I was mostly concerned with what happened to the actual people. 

And at last, I loved the cliffhanger ending. Barker gave us an ending that struck a beautiful balance between suspense and poignancy. Can't say much more other than: you'll just have to read it to find out for yourself!

This is one of the books of the year, and one of my favourite reads of 2017.

 

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