Book review: The Fourth Monkey by J. D. Barker
A finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Debut Novel, J. D. Barker’s creepy, witchcraft extravaganza Forsaken won him worldwide acclaim and a contract to co-author a prequel to Dracula by the Stoker family.
The Fourth Monkey is only this remarkable new writer’s second novel but already his brilliant tale of a terrifying serial killer with a twisted vision and no mercy has been snapped up by CBS Films in a major deal.
Murderers come and go in crime fiction but Barker has created a monster… a slippery snake of a killer whose sadistic mind games border on genius and whose motives are revealed in a series of gruesome but fascinating flashbacks to his bizarre childhood.
‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil… do no evil.’ For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer – better known to the police as 4MK – has been terrorising the residents of Chicago. He kidnaps young women (usually from a family with a criminal history), cuts off their ears, eyes and tongues over a period of days, sends the body parts to their relatives and then kills his victim.
Detective Sam Porter has been on the case from the start and is understandably excited when the body of a man who would appear to be the killer is found under the wheels of a bus.
On his body was a white box, tied up with black string and containing an ear, the 4MK’s trademark delivery package. Sam and his police team quickly realise that he was probably on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.
But our experienced detective is wary; he knows that even in death, the killer is far from finished. And when he discovers a personal diary in the man’s jacket pocket, Sam becomes caught up in the mind of a psychopath, desperately trying to unravel his warped and gruesome personal history in the hope of finding one last girl.
It won’t be easy because Sam has demons of his own to battle and only a handful of clues. Meanwhile, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery, time is running out to find the missing girl and the 4MK continues his taunts from beyond the grave…
Barker brings breathtaking visual and mental energy, and a seductive, over-the-top sense of theatre, to this rollercoaster ride through the mind of a cunning killer who would give Hannibal Lecter a run for his money.
Fielding a canny cop with a brain almost as big as his quarry was always guaranteed to make this cat-and-mouse chase something special and when it comes to sheer entertainment value, The Fourth Monkey more than delivers.
With its frantic pace, graphic violence, white-knuckle suspense and an eclectic cast of characters led by the doggedly determined Sam, Barker’s electrifying thriller is a winner from the off… and the devilment in the denouement provides the perfect finishing touch.
Scary, stomach-churning and utterly addictive, this has to be one of 2017’s most exciting thrillers.
(HQ, hardback, Â£12.99)