The Fourth Monkey

Written by J. D. Barker

Review written by LJ Hurst

Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung


The Fourth Monkey
HarperCollins HQ
RRP: £12.99
Released: June 27 2017
HBK

The Fourth Monkey comes in at 475 pages: in one sense the book is only a quarter of that since it consists of four points of view, and chapters are labelled by their protagonist: ‘Porter’, the detective leading a hunt for a psychopathic serial killer; ‘Emory’, a girl who has been kidnapped and tortured; ‘Clair’, who is looking for Emory; and finally the unnamed author of a diary, which occupies about half the book, on and off.

The diary is the most extraordinary item in the book, as it appears to describe a rather ordinary life in the suburbs from a child’s point of view, which descends with almost no warning into more torture and murder. Some of this criminality is explained, but overall it is written in the style of US pornographic novels which used to try to escape the community standards rule set in Miller v California (1973) by providing a publisher’s introduction explaining that this was really a study of difference and not a book endorsing bestiality or rubber fetishism or whatever. In this case the subject is close to necrophilia, though it is used to explain, ultimately, the killer’s motives.

For all that, the first problem, where detectives think they have found the killer, but found him, unfortunately, where he has thrown himself under a bus; only to find that the dead man must have had a connection but was not the villain himself, is gripping. On the other hand – and I know this, because this review is late – no one seems to have noticed that the killer changes his modus operandi (in this case, the choice of victim), and by ‘no one’ I mean both the fictional detectives and other reviewers. Perhaps the killer, who has managed to reach a fabulous maturity, was using his apparent modus operandi as a red herring; otherwise it is a gaping hole in the plot.            

I think I read this in one sitting, but I am not sure I would recommend it. Not only do I not like what is in the killer’s head, I wished I had not been there when I found out where I was.



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