The first thing I’m going to say refers to the The Fourth Monkey Trilogy: I haven’t read anything so good in years. Whenever a novel shocks me, from time to time, I think of John Verdon’s “The Scarred Woman”, the first in the Department Q series, and “Think of a number”.
I really like the last two series and they are the ones from which I read everything that comes out without fail, but the trilogy of The Fourth Monkey , as a whole, surpasses them both.
When I read this first book, in 2019, specifically I finished it on October 9, I rated it with 4 stars. I didn’t really know it was the first of a trilogy. And I didn’t review it even though I really liked it. Sometimes one isn’t up to reviewing anything even if one reads a lot. In fact, I think that’s my problem. I read an average of a hundred books a year and I don’t have time to review them all.
I had “The Fifth to Die” pending to read until a week ago and I couldn’t have done anything better, because shortly after “The Sixth Wicked Child” came out and so I was able read them back to back. In fact, between one and the other I read The Fourth Monkey again (a quick read), because I had forgotten some things that I needed to refresh. All this in two days, that is, without sleep (I’m on vacation) and charging the Kindle twice a day. This served to raise my rating from four to five stars.
As I write, I think it’s best to review the trilogy as a whole and not every book in particular.
The Fourth Monkeys
I’ve known about the monkey thing since I was a little girl because my parents had a little bronze? (I never knew what it was, but it was metal and brown) figure representing the three monkeys: covered ears, covered eyes, covered mouth.
In this trilogy I’ve learned that there’s a fourth monkey, I don’t know how it’s represented, but which, it appears, means “do not do evil”.
All this is to explain the title of the first installment and the trilogy.
I’m not going to tell you the plot because that’s already taken care of by publishers. Just a brief summary, and no spoilers.
A serial killer, who’s called the Fourth Monkey for the characteristics of his murders (cut ear, eyes taken out and tongue cut off) has been killing in Chicago for five years. The officer in charge of the case is Sam Porter, who just lost his wife who was killed in a robbery in one of those convenience stores that open 24 h.
Throughout the story, due to Porter’s lapse of memory, the result of a gunshot when he was a rookie in Charleston, he even starts to doubt himself about being guilty of the crimes.
The Fourth Monkey
It introduces the beginning of the story, with an element that is extended throughout the three installments: the killer’s diary.
It’s a first book that holds the interest to the end, like the other two, with good characters and twists, action, intrigue… and everything that a good novel of the genre has to have.
The ending, though clearly open to a continuation, could be the end of a single novel. Keep in mind that I read it without knowing it was a trilogy.
The Fifth to Die
The second one improves from the first one.
Although it has been a few months since the action of The Fourth Monkey , and the plot is becoming more and more complicated, it’s not too difficult to follow, because it sums up what happened in the first one. Though my advice, to get all the juice out of it, is to read all three in a row with nothing in between.
As I said, the plot is complicated by another setting, Charleston, in South Carolina, where the beginning of the whole mess seems to be.
Here we see an increasingly insecure Sam Porter, but at the same time convinced that he couldn’t have done anything that the “fourth monkey”, Anson Bishop, is accusing him of.
A new character, Special Agent Poole of the FBI, comes on the scene, who’s so baffled by Porter’s attitude that he also becomes suspicious of him.
The action is much more fast-paced, unfolding between Charleston and Chicago, and confuses the reader as to who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.
The ending is not really an ending as in the first installment. Here it leaves you in suspense with a revelation you need to clarify. Hence my advice to read them all in a row.
The Sixth Wicked Child
In this latest installment we go trying to keep track of everything that’s going on, including a threat to launch a SARS virus (unfortunately so current right now) to infect the entire city of Chicago.
Just like in the first and second installments, the killer’s diary is critical to understanding everything that’s going on.
Sam Porter is now clearly suspicious, even among his peers (for some more than others).
And the best thing is the end.
Throughout the trilogy you begin to understand the motivations of the fourth monkey (I’m not going to say who it is, whether Porter or Bishop). But as you understand more and more, you realize who it really is.
This doesn’t take away from any emotion in the end, which is really what it has to be, albeit sad. On the one hand you’re glad everything goes the way it goes, but on the other hand…
It’s one of those novels, in this case three, that you’re sorry to finish.
What I liked the least
It takes things that I had already known for many years (the bowl with the mouse or rat inside) and some others that seem copied from some television series (specifically Criminal Minds) such as drownings and CPR or eidetic memory.
To sum up
Great trilogy, very interesting, hooks you from the beginning to the last page of the last installment.
Excellent, J. D. Barker.