Featured Review: ‘The Fifth to Die’ by J.D. Barker


the fourth to die.jpgFollowing the success of his last novel, The Fourth Monkey, J.D. Barker is back with another heart-stopping crime thriller that once again follows Detective Sam Porter as he pursues a dangerous, larger-than-life killer. 

Anson Bishop, the deranged killer who tormented the people of Chicago, earning himself the nickname the Four Monkey killer, is still at large. Porter, a veteran detective, knows the man better than anyone after narrowly surviving his own bloody encounter with the 4MK, a moment that is still haunting him when readers catch back up with Sam four months after the events of the last book.

No longer his case, the FBI has relieved Porter of his duties and taken over. Too bad they can’t also take the nightmares plaguing the detective, who cannot help but obsess over Anson and his whereabouts. In the meantime, though, two girls — Lili Davies and Ella Reynolds — are missing, and Porter leads the crusade to find them. 

Sadly, Reynolds is found dead, her body perfectly preserved in a frozen lake. Upon examining the scene, Porter makes two important observations: First, Ella isn’t wearing the clothes she was wearing the last time she was seen alive. Instead, she appears to be wearing Lili’s outfit. Secondly, Porter realizes that someone went to great lengths to make sure that her body was preserved and frozen just below the surface of the ice, ensuring she’d be seen. The question is, why

As Porter searches for answers that’ll lead to Lili, he finds himself again being pulled towards Anson, who continues cutting off victims’ body parts and mailing them in neat little packages to their family members. Eventually, an FBI agent goes against the orders of his superiors and asks Porter for his help catching Anson, leaving Sam stretched thin between both cases. Barker upends the narrative, landing a magnificent twist that changes the course of the book before delving into the underworld Bishop rules by exploring the dark universe of sociopaths and serial killers the way John Wick took moviegoers into the world of hitmen. It’s a stunning and disturbing look into the mind of an evil character who continues to be the most cunning villain in print today. 

Edwin “Kloz” Klozowski, Brian Nash, and Claire Norton are all back too, each proving a key ingredient in Barker’s winning recipe. Those who read The Fourth Monkey know what kind of trickery Barker is capable of, but there’s nothing that could possibly prepare readers for his latest jaw-dropping ending that features a killer cliffhanger quite unlike anything else currently sitting on bookstore shelves. 

While the opening moves a tad slow, Barker expertly goes about setting up the rest of the story, increasing the speed and suspense as the plot unfolds. The character development here is phenomenal, and Barker’s stimulating descriptions put readers shoulder-to-shoulder with Porter, which at times is absolutely terrifying. The story does bounce around a bit, but the exceptional use of third-person close narrative creates an intimacy between readers and whatever character they’re shadowing.

Well-written, haunting, and insanely addictive. . . Bottom line, this is what a crime thriller is supposed to look like. Think Stephen King meets Michael Connelly — J.D. Barker was born to write crime thrillers, and The Fifth to Die is his latest masterpiece. 

Book Details

Author: J.D. Barker
Series: 4MK #2
Pages: 526 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0544973976
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: July 10, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.5/10



Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.


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