The Fifth to Die (4MK Thriller #2), by J.D. Barker

Eight stars

After his stunning series debut, talk about J.D. Barker and his 4MK thriller has many eager to get their hands on the next novel. Sam Porter is still trying to come to terms with the Four Monkey Killer, a.k.a. Anson Bishop, who rocked Chicago before he slipped through the fingers of authorities. With his own wife also dead, Porter had the case wrestled from him by the FBI without even a consultation with the seasoned detective. Now, in the dead of a Chicago winter, Ella Reynolds has gone missing. Missing Children is alerted and works alongside Chicago Metro until a body is found under the ice. The biggest problem? The water’s been solid for months and the body went missing only a few weeks ago. The buzz says that Bishop is back, but Porter cannot be sure, thinking that the killings are too different, particularly when the teen’s body is soaked in salt water. While Porter goes on a manhunt to find Bishop, he is left to follow a single lead and a hint that Bishop’s mother might hold the key to it all. When more teenage girls go missing, Metro rush to piece it all together, seeing some parallels to the previous 4MK deaths, though the oddity of the bodies leaves them baffled. Within the killer’s lair, the reader learns about an odd fascination with visions, which could be the key the authorities need to bring things together. As Barker pushes an interesting subplot with an old Bishop journal, the story takes on a new and bone-chilling perspective, while the bodies continue to mount. Barker does a sensational job of luring the reader in and finding new ways to create a stellar thriller. Perfect for those who loved the debut novel and readers who enjoy dark crime thrillers.

Barker’s return has been much anticipated and the wait can said to be justified. In a story equally as thrilling, the reader is taken on another journey down to the depths of a killer’s psyche and through some of the triggers that might have helped shape the man Anson Bishop became. The cast of characters is large, which can cause confusion, though those who are able to keep names and plots straight will revel in the detail used throughout the piece. Detective Same Porter definitely makes his mark in this book, though the dilution of storylines has him serving on but a part of the larger narrative. Bishop’s presence, both in the current story and through a detailed backstory in the form of journal entries, enriches the narrative and adds a dark flavour that Barker developed in the opening novel. The reader can better understand the man, while also being baffled by this new killer who has a penchant for teenage girls. The story is longer, but has also been broken into scores of chapters, making the narrative move at a clipped pace. Barker effectively breaks down not only the perspective, but a short timeline, to give the reader a true bang for their buck. Events flow wonderfully, though there is always a sense of panic, even over the short time period needed from first discovery until gruesome finale. Barker is an author not to be missed, as he haunts the reader with his style and skill, a sense that lingers long after the final paragraph.

Kudos, Mr. Barker, for another wonderful piece of work. I am eager to read more of your work, both in this series and in a collaborative effort with the distant relative of the author who honed thrill writing as a genre.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: