Welcome back to the table everyone! This week, I’ll be featuring a review from The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker. Last week I came to you with a science fiction review (per the request of my husband, Colin) – well I’ll let you guys know that apparently my group reading on Goodreads has ruined me for reading alone. So this week, my husband read The Fourth Monkey with me! Long story short: his wee little heart couldn’t stomach the hard hitter that was this book. While he didn’t dislike the story, the writing or any of the meat of the book – crime just doesn’t seem like it’s going to be our overlap.
I’d like to also start this off with some honesty: you probably aren’t going to want to eat while you read this book. Nevertheless, here we are and I’ve got a knock-out slow cooker recipe for you that you can make on a Sunday or prep and throw in the crock pot on the way to work. This Korean Beef Stew is Paleo, Whole30 and gluten-free – at only 380 calories per serving it’s hearty, healthy and a #trendy take on an old classic. Plus, while it’s still 100 degrees here in Texas – I can dream of cooler weather and fall, right?
The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker
As the great Philosopher Gweneth Stefanious once said: This shit, is bananas.
Ok, ok, in all seriousness – we’re coming to you live from Queasy City with our newly elected mayor The Fourth Monkey! Set in the small midwestern fishing village known to some as Chi-City (aka Chicago, Illinois) we enter our story with one Detective Sam Porter – head of the 4MK task force. Porter and his squad have been tirelessly hunting The Four Monkey killer for the past 6 years. The four monkeys represent the proverbial principle of “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, do no evil” and they’re integral to 4MKs life and killings.
We’re going to have such fun, you and I.
Spoiler alert – when a serial killer tells you that you’re going to have fun, in all likelihood, fun is the opposite of what you’ll be having. This gritty tale begins simply with a man getting hit by a bus (much like we the reader will feel when this thing is over). While on the outside, it looks like a fairly regular, if not gruesome traffic accident, upon closer inspection the pieces are not fitting together. This man appeared to be on his way to drop a pristinely wrapped white package tied with black string in the mailbox. This is 4MKs signature and inside the box is the ear of one 15-year-old Emory Connors. Thus begins a 2-day hunt for an innocent missing girl, to discover the identity of 4MK and his seeming last hurrah.
Darkness. It swirled around her like the current of the deepest sea. Cold and salient, crawling across her body with the touch of a stranger.
While this is told mostly in alternating POVs between Detective Porter and diary entries from 4MK we’re also given glimpses of what Emory has/is enduring, along with a few excerpts from members of Porter’s squad. I was incredibly impressed with Barker’s writing, particularly in the diary entries. This ratcheted up the creep level to one million. We move seamlessly between 4MK’s retelling of his own past as well as Porter’s present hunt for Emory.
The suspense here was so thick it was more fit for gills than lungs. Once you get into this thing you won’t be able to put it down. It surprised me time and again. As I’ve mentioned before I’ve been on a bit of a thriller binge and it’s always exciting when you get something so fresh and visceral that you absolutely can not step away from it. The Fourth Monkey delivered jaw-dropping thrill from start to finish.
While I did feel there was a little bit of gratuitous gore here and there, it didn’t detract from the story as a whole. There are a few moments that had me going all squinty in one eye and grimacing at the detail but it was never poorly placed or unnecessary. While gore isn’t generally my type of reading I don’t feel like it was used to sensationalize the story but ground it in the reality that these Detectives were dealing with.
I’ve seen more lives end than I can count, and they all seem to hold that same expectation at the end, their eyes glancing at the door, waiting for their savior to arrive. He doesn’t, though. In real life, the only true savior is oneself.
I loved being inside the mind of a serial killer. It added another dimension to an already impressively complex story. Characters in thrillers tend to fall into one of two categories: 1) exciting but unlikable or 2) likable but one dimensional – however, in those few instances where it all just clicks, you get a group of likable, exciting and enjoyable characters you can connect to. The Fourth Monkey expertly delivered the third. I didn’t just enjoy the story – I enjoyed the characters and I look forward to seeing more of them in the sequel.
All in all, I loved this book and I’m amped to pick up the second installment. This was a thrilling ride from the first page to the last and once it grips the reader – it absolutely doesn’t let go. The twists were fresh and exciting and I didn’t see them coming from a mile away. I highly suggest you go pick up this book!
Suggested For: Anyone who likes exciting tales and police procedurals. Anyone looking to read a fresh take on a thriller / mystery / crime drama.
Now that you’ve finished The Fourth Monkey and surely aren’t hungry – let’s get onto the real party – our recipe to pair with our read!
Slow Cooker Korean Beef Stew!
- Servings: 4
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 6-8 hours
- Pans Required: 1 crock pot / slow cooker + 1 pan for searing
- 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/2 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 lb lean stew beef
- 4 tsp tapioca or corn starch
- 3/4 cup beef broth
- 3/4 cup apple juice (not from concentrate)
- 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce (or aminos)
- 3-4 large carrots chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tsp minced or microplaned ginger
- 2+ tsp sriracha
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 4 large eggs
- Cook cauliflower or white rice
- Pickled cucumbers
- Pickled red cabbage
- Bean sprouts
- Sliced green onions
(Optional) Pickling Ingredients:
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1/2 rice vinegar
- Sliced cucumbers
- Chopped red cabbage
Easy edits to make, per preference:
- 2-3 cups of mushrooms would go well in this dish – I’ll add in a note below as to where to add them in if you so choose.
- While avocado oil is probably not imperative to this dish if you enjoy Asian inspired meals I highly suggest picking up sesame oil as it adds a lot of flavor.
- We’re deviating from the cast iron skillet on this one and using a slow cooker. You can prep this on the weekend and freeze or throw in the fridge and toss it in the slow cooker before you go to work or it can be a nice weekend treat! *Your house will smell amazing.*
- I shop at a grocery store that offers fresh squeezed juices so I picked up an apple, lemon and ginger juice (it’s why it’s pink) but feel free to use whatever apple juice you prefer!
- Heat sesame and avocado oil on high heat. Add in the beef and sear until all sides are golden brown. Place in the bottom of a 7-quart slow cooker.
- Add 4 tsp of tapioca or cornstarch and mix to coat the beef. Add in the apple juice, soy sauce, carrots, garlic, ginger, beef broth, pepper and sriracha and stir to combine.
- Cook either on low for 6 hours, or on high for 4 hours.
- Once you put everything in the crock pot combine 1 cup apple juice and 1/2 cup of rice vinegar and place in Tupperware with cucumbers – repeat with red cabbage. Place in fridge for quick-pickling.
- *IF ADDING MUSHROOMS* after 6 hours (on low) or 4 hours (on high) add in the mushrooms and allow to cook for another 1-2 hours until mushrooms and beef are soft.
- Once you’re close to finished (beef and/or mushrooms are soft) boil water (enough to cover eggs). Place eggs in boiling water with slotted spoon and allow to cook for 7 minutes and 30 seconds. Move immediately to ice water (GENTLY) and allow to cool before removing shells and slicing.
- I suggest having some extra eggs on hand. It’s super important you take the eggs directly out of the fridge and put them STRAIGHT into the water so their temperature is more consistent. Because you’re heating them so quickly one or two may crack upon entering the water.
- Garnish and eat your very on trend beef stew!
Quote: “I stared at the stew.
Mr. Carter was nowhere to be seen.
She wouldn’t….she couldn’t. Right?”
Music Mood: Truth Hurts by Lizzo