The Fourth Monkey - A.J. Barker


Chicago homicide detective Sam Porter has spent much of the last 5 years hunting for the “Fourth Monkey Killer” (4MK). Seven victims, twenty-one little white boxes…..each containing first an ear, then the eyes & last, the tongue. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. But it’s the fourth monkey that is the clue to the killer’s motive. Do no evil.


Each victim is related to someone guilty of crimes that went unpunished & 4MK stepped up to act as judge & executioner. Now Sam & his partner Nash have reason to believe he’s been stopped. Literally.


They’re called to the scene of an accident, a case of man vs. bus. The bus won. And on the pavement beside the dead man’s body is a small white box. The good news is their search for 4MK is over. The bad news: somewhere out there is a new victim with one ear.


They realize they’ve only got 2 or 3 days to find her & the old 4MK task force is quickly reassembled. The dead man had no ID but was carrying a journal that turns out to be his memoir. It begins with descriptions of his childhood & ends by taunting police to decipher the cryptic clues he’s left behind.


This is a fast paced thriller with a sea of red herrings to keep you guessing. There are many side stories that run parallel. Secrets, old crimes, hidden agendas & historical connections are just a few of the threads the task force has to unravel before they can figure out 4MK’s master plan. Chapters alternate between their investigation, the victim’s ordeal & entries from the killer’s journal.


Despite the publicity blurb, this doesn’t have the pervasive menace of Se7en or Silence of the Lambs. Descriptions of crime scenes are graphic (should answer all your burning questions about maggots) but it’s offset by the characters we spend most time with. Sam, Nash & their crew work well together & their dialogue is full of lame jokes & gentle ribbing. These are cops who actually wouldn’t be out of place in a cozy & they provide a marked contrast to the actions of the killer. There’s a refreshing lack of the plethora of personal issues & office politics that seem to afflict so many fictional detectives.


The crimes are brutal but I actually found the chapters detailing 4MK’s childhood to be the creepiest part of the whole thing. From idyllic to surreal, his story contains all the clues needed to understand his motivation.


It’s a pacey read with a whack of twists to keep you turning the pages. Sam & his posse are a likeable bunch & judging by the final pages, we’ll be hearing from them again.