Hello! It's Heather, apologies for being a day late with posting this, my laptop had a breakdown and deleted my first draft of the review. This book is being released later this year, so let me know if you want to read it in the comments.
Author: J.D. Barker
Published: June 27th 2017
Publisher: Harper Collins
Length: 416 pages
Rating (all out of five)
Writing Quality: ★★★★★
I have read very few thrillers, but I love crime fiction so was delighted to be afforded the opportunity by Harper Collins to read this in exchange for a review (thank you to them!). The Fourth Monkey is a book based around the ideology of ‘hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, do no evil’ as the elusive murderer first sends the ear of a daughter of one corrupt individual in a neatly wrapped box, then her eyes, then her tongue, then leaves her corpse to be found. This strangely reminded me of the MAGIC! song, no evil. Having been in action for five years prior to the book, the killer has just taken a new victim so the reader follows detective Sam Porter as he tries to save her and unravel the man nicknamed #4MK’s true identity using clues from his diary, which is left in the jacket of a man that’s just stepped in front of a bus. The reader is treated with a range of perspectives including Porter's narrative, extracts from the diary and occasional glimpses into how the victim herself is fending.
Anyone that is deterred by gore may want to avoid this one; Barker has carved (sorry, bad pun, don’t kill me) intensely vivid imagery of the horrors that both the killer and the victims experience… honestly… I had a nightmare about knives plunging into my flesh after having read a particularly graphic scene before retreating to bed. Any book that, even days after reading it, can make you shudder and tremble and tense at every faint noise in case you get kidnapped and tortured should be commended. The writing is truly excellent and conjures up disturbingly strong images in your mind that will haunt you. As someone squeamish about the whole let’s-cut-off-some-limbs-oh-look-a-stream-of-blood-and-tissue-that-you-don’t-blow-you’re-nose-on, this book was a challenge to get through without vomiting, so I’m proud to have succeeded in that. The diary part was especially sinister, but really fascinating to uncover what turned #4MK to his psychopathic antics.
Like I said earlier, generally I’ll indulge in standard crime and detective fiction, be it some Agatha Christie, M.C. Beaton, Alexander McCall Smith or a radio-play of Paul Temple and various television crime shows, so this was quite different. At first, I clung to Porter’s familiar detective narratives, being reluctant but intrigued to read the diary parts. Porter is pretty standard in terms of crime fiction, he loves his wife and job and is very fond of his colleagues. The way his police team tease each other makes his narrative entertaining to read, I particularly enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes based quips they had for Watson. Porter is also undergoing some personal issues that become clearer as the book progresses, so overall, he’s a very effective character. I’d have liked to have seen more interaction with his co-workers as they had an amusing relationship that left me craving for more.
The perspective of the victim of #4MK was probably the most distressing as the reader is exposed to her astonishment of waking to find her ear extracted, trapped within a dark room with music blaring aggressively and no exit… oh and the knowledge that her tongue and eyes will probably be removed too. Each glimpse into her head reveals madness feasting upon her through the voice of her deceased mother, comfortingly scolding her. The reader really develops a sympathetic bond with her character and finds themselves turning the pages frantically in the hope that she’ll survive this without endearing too much more pain.
My aim since co-creating this book blog has been to explore different genres and thriller/horror is one that I rarely venture to, being reluctant to read gory description, so I’m really glad I’ve read The Fourth Monkey for overcoming this. The plot is delicately constructed with several plot twists diverging, especially at the end, a few of them I could predict but that didn’t make the read any less enjoyable and one of them was so spectacular, I’m not complaining. I’d really recommend this to any fanatics of the genre, or anyone like myself who wants to conquer more variety in literature. Of course, I’d highly dissuade anyone from reading some parts of this before eating or to relax, be warned of the risks, it’s creepy and it’s startling, but it’s also addictive to read.