"Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs" in The Fourth Monkey, the new serial killer thriller from author J.D. Barker that hits shelves this week from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. We've been provided with three hardcover copies of the new novel to give away to lucky Daily Dead readers, and we also caught up with Barker in our latest Q&A feature to talk about The Fourth Monkey, his work on an official prequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula, getting advice from Stephen King, and much more.

The Fourth Monkey synopsis: "Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs in this dark and twisting novel from the author Jeffery Deaver called, “A talented writer with a delightfully devious mind.”

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller."

To learn more about The Fourth Monkey, visit Amazon, and check out our official contest and Q&A below.


Prize Details: (3) Winners will receive (1) hardcover copy of The Fourth Monkey.

How to Enter: We're giving Daily Dead readers multiple chances to enter and win:

1. Instagram: Following us on Instagram during the contest period will give you an automatic contest entry. Make sure to follow us at:


2. Email: For a chance to win via email, send an email to contest@dailydead.com with the subject “The Fourth Monkey Contest”. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Entry Details: The contest will end at 12:01am EST on July 3rd. This contest is only open to those who are eighteen years of age or older that live in the United States. Only one entry per entry method, per household will be accepted.


Q&A with J.D. Barker

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, J.D. When and how did you initially come up with the idea for The Fourth Monkey?

J.D. Barker: The idea had been rattling around in my head for a few years, but all it did was make noise. I knew I wanted to write a book about a serial killer, I also knew there were an insane number of books out there about serial killers. Killer grabs victim. Police chase killer. Police eventually catch killer. The formula has been done to death, then resurrected and done again. It’s not a bad formula. Criminal Minds is in its twelfth year and still going strong. We enjoy these stories. I couldn’t write that book, though, I needed to do something different.

So, the idea continued to rattle as I worked on other projects. It truly came to life one day where all the best ideas seem to surface and grasp at life—in line at the supermarket. There was a rather large woman two customers in front of me in one of those rechargeable carts, behind me was a father and his son. The boy couldn’t have been more than eight years old. He said something about the woman to his father, made a joke of some sort, and his father leaned over and delivered a line I would have never expected in a million years: “Speak no evil, son.” Who says that?!? The second I heard it, though, that idea in the back of my mind poked up, its hand held high. I couldn’t help but wonder what life at their house was like. By the time I got home, I had a grasp on much of 4MK’s history. I immediately went to work on the rest.

How much time did it take to complete The Fourth Monkey after its inception?

J.D. Barker: I write, a lot. I average 2-3K words before noon, every day. I don’t consider doing anything else until I have those words down. I also don’t get up from my desk unless I know what my next sentence is going to be. I’ve found that if I quit with the next block of text in my head, I hit the ground running every day. I spend the time between thinking about what comes next. Years ago, I would write until the well ran dry, then spend hours staring at a blank screen waiting for my muse to clock in. I’m more productive this way. I’m also what is called a “pantser.”

In On Writing, Stephen King pointed that if he doesn’t know where a story is going, there is no way the reader will figure it out. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I personally believe that if a novel is plotted out in detail, the subconscious mind of a reader will always figure it out. The consciousness may chime in a little later, but I think it takes away from story, something about it “feels” constructed. I tend to come up with major plot points I know I need to hit, but allow the characters to tell the story. If writing a novel is like a highway and the highway is my major plot points, I can let characters detour off onto side roads, as long as they return to that highway. Trust the characters to tell the story and all the pieces will come together, you’ll reach your destination. Back to your original questions, since I am now clearly babbling, it took me about three months to write the first draft of The Fourth Monkey. If my agent or editor asks you, please tell them I spent the last ten years toiling over the manuscript and I don’t know if I have another in me.

The book’s official description compares The Fourth Monkey to elements of Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs. Did those movies, or any other films and books, influence or inspire you while writing The Fourth Monkey?

J.D. Barker: They absolutely did. Se7en is one of my all-time favorite movies. I love the grittiness of it. Kevin Spacey was perfect. The Silence of the Lambs is one of those rare instances where both the book and the film are damn near perfect. I have a short list of books I revisit over the years and my Thomas Harris collection is well-worn. Strip away everything but the dialog and you can still identify every one of Lecter’s lines. Harris is a master at this. He also has the rare ability to jump from one character’s head to another seamlessly. If you are a budding writer, even if you don’t like the genre, Harris should be required reading. Another book I would cite as influential is The Collector by John Fowles. The narrative first follows a kidnapper, then the story is told from the perspective of the kidnappee. The shift in narrative style is so complete, you’d swear there were two separate writers involved.

The twists and turns of The Fourth Monkey take place in Chicago. How important was it for you to have that city as a key backdrop for this emotional story?

J.D. Barker: I spent a large chunk of my childhood in Crystal Lake, Illinois, about an hour outside of Chicago. My friends and I would take the train into the city to watch the Cubs play. I never once saw them win, but I saw a lot of games. I saw Harry Caray dangling out of his booth more times than I can count. I was always amazed when the flat farmland began to fade away and these large buildings would come into view. Chicago was this mystical place to us kids. When I was an adult, I learned about the history of the city and first heard about the bootlegging tunnels hidden away beneath. Although I’ve never actually lived there, Chicago has always felt like home to me. I knew at some point, I would find the right story to tell there.

What types of horror and thrills can readers expect to encounter within the pages of The Fourth Monkey?

J.D. Barker: Poor parenting has consequences. Every time you say no (or even worse, when you say yes), a child is making a right or left at the crossroads. Whether they find their way home or get lost in the weeds is entirely in the hands of the parents who raise them. Aside from that, readers are not going to close the cover on this book and feel they’ve learned some big moral lesson. The answers to the cosmos will not be revealed. I only hope I can make them cringe, I can make them smile, and I leave them entertained. I hope they wonder what each of the characters is currently doing. I know I do.

What was the most challenging or rewarding moment to write in The Fourth Monkey?

J.D. Barker: I try to challenge myself with each book, that’s what keeps it fun for me. I constantly ask, “What is the least likely thing to happen right here?” Then I write it, curse myself, and try to help the characters get past it. As a writer, the path of least resistance is lazy—never, ever take it, as tempting as it may be. The most rewarding? When all the pieces finally come together. My wife tends to be a fickle reader, she’s also my first reader. When I caught her sneaking glances at pages, I knew I was on to something. That look on her face, the one she gets when a story grips her, is most rewarding of all.

Would you consider returning to the world of The Fourth Monkey in a sequel?

J.D. Barker: I didn’t initially see this as a trilogy, but the characters clearly weren’t ready to stand in the unemployment line just yet. The second book is done. I can’t give you anything on plot, but I will share the tagline:

The only thing more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

Switching gears a bit, which authors did you read in your formative years that sparked your interest in writing?

J.D. Barker: There are the usual suspects, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Saul… I tend to read almost as much as I write. I started at a young age. By the time I entered kindergarten, I had already read all the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries and I was well on my way into the classics. Like Thomas Harris, I continually revisit Charles Dickens, I’m reading Great Expectations again right now. I’m a sucker for a good story regardless of who is telling it. I believe the best writers have a way of making you forget you’re reading at all, you get lost in the words and the pictures they paint. Good storytelling isn’t bound by genre. I’ll scoop up a romance novel as quickly as the latest thriller. If you analyze the works of some of the greats, you’ll find they blend genres. Their creative hatrack is top heavy and they have no problem wearing any particular one. As a writer, I’m always deciphering what worked and what didn’t in anything I read. Even the greats have put out a few stinkers. Understanding why a novel doesn’t work is just as important as why it does.

For your novel Forsaken, you were given permission by Stephen King himself to include the character of Leland Gaunt from Needful Things. What was that experience like for you? Do you hope to include any other characters from King’s books in your work?

J.D. Barker: I emailed him shortly after Mr. Mercedes came out and asked why he wrote it in present tense (in On Writing he says present tense should be reserved for short fiction). A few hours later he got back to me with a detailed explanation. He could have ignored me (most authors would), but instead he took the time to school me a bit and I’m a better writer for it.

King is a genuinely good guy (please forgive the adverb, Steve). There is no better way to put it. He has built a legacy. He has proven his point time and again. In Gerald’s Game, he goes on for about ten pages about the sweat on a water glass… and it’s riveting. He can write about anything. If he wanted to, he could hang up his pen or disappear behind the walls of a fortress in the location of his choosing and ignore everyone who has no impact on his life. He’s earned that right tenfold. Instead, he puts up with guys like me. Someone who nearly showed up on his doorstep with a manuscript and a note that said, “Please read me.” (Note to budding authors: do not show up on anyone’s doorstep uninvited, not even with pizza.)

Success has not jaded him. He remembers what it was like when he first started out and he’s the first guy to put out a hand to help others. Maybe he saw something in my writing, maybe he just didn’t want to see me end up working at a laundry, either way, he gave me permission to visit with one of his better-known characters. I owe him immensely for that. I hope one day I can do the same for someone just starting out.

As far as future books with King characters? I’m not going to lie, I’d love to check in with Charlie from Firestarter and learn what she’s been up to or maybe poke around Jerusalem’s Lot for an afternoon and see who’s moved into town. If I did, though, I’d have to explain the situation to my own characters, tell them why they have to sit on the bench for a while, and they may not be too understanding. Some of them really want their story to be told and I can only type so fast.

I understand that you’ve also been working on an official prequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What can you tell us about that project?

J.D. Barker: I’ll let you in on a little secret, I haven’t talked about this anywhere yet. In March, Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) invited Dacre Stoker and me out to Seattle to view the original Dracula/The Undead manuscript. We spent the day locked in a very secure room going through every page. It was incredible. I grew up with that book. It was one of the first I ever read. To see the original, handwritten corrections and all, was a surreal experience. Aside from the cool factor, we had other reasons for viewing the manuscript. Most people don’t know this, but the Dracula story we know is incomplete. The opening (Jonathan Harker’s journal) actually appears on page 102 of the original draft. 101 pages of story precede it. For the past two years, we’ve been buried in Bram’s original notes and journals piecing together the beginning of his story and needed to see the original in order to confirm some of our findings. After what I’ve seen and read, I truly believe Bram thought vampires were real. The prequel explains why. I can’t wait to share it.

With The Fourth Monkey coming out on June 27th, what projects do you have on deck that you can tease, and where can readers find you online?

J.D. Barker: Dracula, The Fourth Monkey, some television and film stuff… it’s going to be a busy year. I hear they may even let me out of my office long enough for a book tour.

Upcoming conferences include C2E2 and ALA in Chicago and ThrillerFest in New York.

The latest news can always be found at www.jdbarker.com or in my newsletter. I’m also active on Twitter (@J_D_Barker) and on Facebook.