Source: Review Copy
Publication: HQ on 27 December 2018
In the midst of one of the worst winters Chicago has seen in years, the body of missing teenager Ella Reynolds is discovered under the surface of a frozen lake.
She’s been missing for three weeks… the lake froze over three months ago.
Detective Sam Porter and his team are brought in to investigate but it’s not long before another girl goes missing. The press believes the serial killer, Anson Bishop, has struck again but Porter knows differently. The deaths are too different, there’s a new killer on the loose.
Porter however is distracted. He’s still haunted by Bishop and his victims, even after the FBI have removed him from the case. His only leads: a picture of a female prisoner and a note from Bishop: ‘Help me find my mother. I think it’s time she and I talked.’
As more girls go missing and Porter’s team race to stop the body count rising, Porter disappears to track down Bishop’s mother and discover that the only place scarier than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.
This book is best enjoyed if you have first read its predecessor, The Fourth Monkey. There’s a lot of the backstory, and the same characters in Fifth to Die, and it really helps to have read the first book, as the stories are closely intertwined.
The body of young Ella Reynolds is found frozen under the ice of a lake, wearing clothes that are not her own. Those clothes belonged to Lili Davies, a young girl who is found dead shortly afterwards. Yet forensics show she drowned in salt water. Both Lili and Ella drowned in salt water, yet were found in the freshwater lake.
Told in the third person the book follows Detective Porter, obsessed with catching the 4MK, as he is frustrated in his search when he and his partner Nash are pulled off the 4MK case to investigate the murders of the two girls.
It is pretty soon clear that these murders are the work of a serial killer and that the signature is not the same as the 4MK killer, Anson Bishop, so another dangerous predator is on the hunt.
The FBI is now in charge of the hunt for Bishop, and they don’t play well with others, but that doesn’t stop Porter from using any time he has to chase leads of his own.
J.D. Barker knows just how to build suspense and the tension soon rises as in a series of short, tight, chapters, he weaves a series of connecting threads that slowly begin to form a connecting pattern. At the same time Porter and Nash have to find the second serial killer who is targeting young girls, imprisoning and torturing them.
What Barker does in these novels is to create a narrative arc that never ends. Each story takes you closer to the ultimate destination of catching Anson Bishop, but there are so many new revelations, characters and clues that it is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle when you know some of the pieces are missing.
I like that about these books. The richness and complexity of the plot line keeps me interested as Barker jumps about from case to case allowing the reader a glimpse into the labyrinthine plotting that is his hallmark.
Porter follows the trail of intricately linked associates that make up Bishop’s network, but just as he thinks he is getting somewhere, he finds yet again that Bishop is several steps in front of him, anticipating his every move.
Barker focuses to great effect on the almost symbiotic relationship between Porter and Bishop which means the reader becomes emotionally caught up in their relationship and that adds to the already dark and extremely scary facets of this story line which verges on the horrific.
The joy of Anson Bishop is that he really is a creative, brilliant psychopath and finding him is incredibly difficult. Bishop toys with Porter and that makes the book fascinating, intriguing and ultimately just a bit frustrating.
I’ve loved both these books; I find them compelling and addictive, but I am really hoping that the next one will produce a conclusion. Bishop’s time must be up soon, or I fear for Porter’s well-being.
J.D. Barker (Jonathan Dylan Barker) is an international bestselling American author whose work has been broadly described as suspense thrillers, often incorporating elements of horror, crime, mystery, science fiction, and the supernatural.
His debut novel, Forsaken, was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award in 2014.
Follow J.D.Barker on Twitter @J.D.Barker