How good are you at your job? Could you handle the pressure and the responsibility of finding someone in two days time before they meet their untimely death?
Sam Porter is a homicide detective of twenty plus years and still receives phone calls that make his stomach drop. His homicide partner, Nash, calls Porter warning him that an “old friend” has left a calling card. What Porter is unable to piece together is why a homicide detective is being called to a suicide case, of man versus machine.
With the victim’s face destroyed, the only identifying marker is a little white box with a neatly tied black bow. That little box brings memories spanning five years, 21 similar boxes, and 7 victims. No leads, no clues, until today.
This time was different; everything meticulously placed. An immediate hidden identity makes the investigators hone in on the other clues deliberately left behind- most revealing, a diary detailing an event in the killer’s childhood that made him turn into a killer. The only disconcerting clue was the contents of the white box; a human ear- which marks the first of three identical packages followed by the inevitable body drop.
The three white boxes and body crudely mimics the ancient teachings of Confucius depicting man’s life cycle. One including monkeys; hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, with the lesser known do no evil. The killer adopted this mantra for life, taking his victims ear, eyes, tongue, and finally the final kill to parallel the original text. With the killer presumed dead, a fresh ear in the box, and two days to find the victim, the pressure is on to find what could be the last victim of The Fourth Monkey Killer.
I can’t tell you the last time I read a psychological thriller. Especially one I read as fast as this. Not since “The Roanoke Girls” have a read such a train wreck that I was unable to look away for fear of missing something. Don’t know what I mean? There’s an old Dane Cook joke that sums it up perfectly.
Arguably, one of the key components to keep readers interested and the story moving along is the diary. Whether to serve as a distraction or assistance is purely up to the reader. The diary reflects on a traumatic incident that happened during the killer’s childhood.
When was the last time you tried remembering something from your childhood? Most of the time you get a few details mixed up (usually something your parents correct you on) but the meat of the story is there. So it begs to question whether or not reflecting on a traumatic even as an adult is it 100% truth? Or has the child mind blocked out certain things and the adult mind filled in the holes?
Another thing I noticed, and quite liked, is that the chapters are short. I was anxious to get through certain chapters JUST to read the Diary chapters, because I just HAD to know what went on in this child’s life that brought him to severing people’s ears and leaving them in little boxes! P.S I wouldn’t mind at all if this book turned into a (well done) movie.
I also enjoyed (tremendously) the dry humor:
“What’s your name, kid?”
“Paul Watson, sir.”
Porter couldn’t help but grin. “You’ll make an excellent detective one day, Dr. Watson.”
“I’m not a doctor, sir. I’m working on my thesis, but I’ve got at least two more years to go.”
Porter chuckled. “Doesn’t anyone read anymore?”
From page one, Barker’s slight of literary hand is absolute genius. He builds tension and then rips the rug right out from under you, just to do it all over again. He will have you guessing at this well written who-done-it, all the way to the end, and you will be so unsatisfied that the book is over that you’ll read it all over again.
“The Fourth Monkey” by J.D. Barker is available now! I was chosen to receive an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review. Given that fact, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all. If you enjoyed this book, keep an eye out for the continuation, “The Fifth to Die” availble July 10th!