Review: The Fifth To Die (A 4MK Thriller, #2) by J.D. Barker

“You can’t play God without being acquainted with the devil. “

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★★★★½

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 2018

This is what you have to know going into the 4MK series:

This story is a marathon, not a sprint.

And I’m not just talking about this particular book, number two in the series.

J.D. Barker has crafted a rich, intricate world full of robust, personality-driven characters, and advanced storytelling technique. And he is presenting it to us, the reader, one giant novel at a time.

You don’t get conclusions around here. There is no end until it ends.

It’s a train that never stops. It is always moving towards the next destination in this 4MK world where you’ll be given new threads and new clues and new revelations that puts one more puzzle piece into the jumbled picture that is Anson Bishop and Detective Porter.

This series is detailed, not so much in visual description, but in depth of narrative and connections. They are flying all over the place, from past to present, from case to case. It could be too much maybe for some readers, but for me, it filled me with joy at how vast this puzzle really is.

And I don’t want to oversell this, but HOLY SHIT, YOU GUYS, IT’S THE GREATEST THING OUT THERE RIGHT NOW ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH.

…yeah, that feels like the appropriate amount of cap locks.

I won’t attempt any kind of synopsis because it’s just too much story to boil down into a neat little paragraph that will make any kind of coherent sense. But I will say there is a case of girls disappearing, being stuck in a basement cage like every good serial killer is want to do. There are dead bodies. There is an FBI takeover. There is a prison break. There is Anson’s mother. There is a weird guy with a lisp and scars on his head. There is Porter doing a lot of travelling trying to figure out just what the fuck 4MK is up to. And there are more of Bishop’s diary entries.

In the end, some things make sense, but this really is a case of raising more questions than it answers.

And, yeah, that’s about as much as I can tell you.

This is a not a book you can jump into without reading the first in the series. I mean, you could, but you’d be missing out on half of the beauty of what J.D. Barker is doing with this series.

This is a very intense and thoughtful nemesis epic. EPIC. E.P.I.C. It has elements of the Hannibal/Clarice relationship. Or Archie and Gretchen. Good vs. Brilliant Evil.

Honestly, Bishop is just the fucking shit. He’s so purely demented, and so maniacally intelligent that he makes things not only scary and thrilling, but fun too. We aren’t people that want others to be murdered…but at the same time, if it means Bishop remains free, then yeah, kill away buddy!

you i GIF

If you want to really enjoy this book, you need to enjoy all that came before it. You need to know the relationship between Bishop and Porter from the very beginning, and become emotionally invested in all it’s dark, creepy aspects. So if you haven’t already gotten into this series, do it. Now. Run, don’t walk. Pick up number one, The Fourth Monkey, and get ready for number two, The Fifth to Die, when it comes out in July.

I’ve seen some reviews suggesting this can be read as a standalone, but in my honest opinion, you’d be doing yourself a giant disservice by reading these out of order.

The only reason I’m calling this 4.5 stars instead of 5 is really because there wasn’t as much action in this one as I was hoping. The first book was a mile a minute. It literally blew my mind. I’m still picking up the pieces. But this book focused more on the discovery of Bishop’s past, how he got to be who and what he is, and less on the “serial killer” aspect of this serial killer thriller. I think it was brilliant, but it was missing that last, teeny-eeny little bit of oomphf.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bomb-ass book, it just a little bit more information heavy than I was expecting after reading The Fourth Monkey.

Okay, so for the rest of the review, I’m basically just going to be fangirling over J.D. Barker because at this point, after reading this and dealing with that cliffhanger, I’m convinced he’s a motherfucking genius.

were not worthy waynes world GIF

After I read Into the Black Nowhere I wanted to start a religion for Meg Gardiner. And I think it’s only fair that J.D. Barker is brought into the fold. (I’m still only in the planning stages, so it’s really not that difficult to alter the scripture.)

Like, if Meg Gardiner is god, then J.D. Barker is Jesus. Meg Gardiner is the water, J.D. Barker is the ice. They’re taking on different forms, but are essentially the same energy.

Let me know if you’re interested in going this cult…er, religion.

I’m open to robe/uniform suggestions and whether or not we should all just move into a spiritual commune together. I’m picturing something like The Source Family in LA back in the 70s, but you know, based around crime fiction and not on all having sex with each other. But I’m open to that too.

Just call me Father Yod.

Praise be for Barker, the ultimate literary god. His voice is so unique, his thoughts so twisted and his ability to create a story that never stops, is unmatched. He’s the serial killer epic master.

🔪🔪🔪


In the thrilling sequel to The Fourth Monkey, a new serial killer stalks the streets of Chicago, while Detective Porter delves deeper into the dark past of the Four Monkey Killer.

Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.

Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

book source: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley in exchange for a review.

4 thoughts on “Review: The Fifth To Die (A 4MK Thriller, #2) by J.D. Barker

  1. Just finished reading The Fifth to Die. Did I miss something?? Didn’t really answer how Sam fit into Anson past , just some mention of a picture of Sam at 40years of age next to a boy of about 14 to 15 years old that might be Anson. Is there another book coming out finishing the story?

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    1. Oooo I wish my memory was better!! From what I remember, the ending was a cliffhanger that was alluding to the revelation that Porter was involved in a case years ago that involved 4MK/Anson, who was a teenager at the time. But we didn’t get much more detail about that. This series is officially a trilogy and the 3rd book has been confirmed, but JD Barker is being tight-lipped about details, we don’t even have a title or release date. The books have also been optioned for a movie/TV, so there’s that to look forward to!

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