The following questions were created by Northern Valley Old Tappan High School’s Detective Fiction Studies class and for that, I thank them bunches.
In order to provide discussion topics for reading groups and book clubs, important plot points are revealed. You may wish to explore these questions only after finishing The Fourth Monkey.
1. As we read the novel, we find out a great deal about 4MK’s childhood. Coming from a dysfunctional home and family, do you think the author intended for the reader to gain a sense of sympathy for him?
2. How does the novel address the idea of vigilante justice? Can one consider 4MK a true vigilante because he is not killing those who did wrong?
3. Throughout the novel, Porter’s wife’s note is consistently brought up and thought about. By providing such an emotional aspect of the character’s life, how does the reader connect to him? Does he become more realistic because of his pain?
4. How is the end of the novel supposed to make the reader feel about 4MK? Do they see him as a monster, or is there a possibility that the reader gives him a pass for the “final” crime?
5. How does the author use a timeframe at the beginning of the chapters to create suspense for the reader?
6. Do you think Porter will help 4MK find his mother? Why or why not?
7. Throughout the story, there are quite a few different minds the readers enter. How does this shift in perspective add to the story?
8. 4MK was punished because he was related to his mother, not because of something he did. 4MK’s victims are not the culprits, but loved ones of them. Do you think there is a connection?
9. Porter is in a fragile state when he first gets on the scene of 4MK’s death. Does Porter’s situation make him a better detective because he can now empathize with families?
10. In your opinion, which character showed the most growth throughout the story?
11. What is the dynamic of Nash and Porter’s relationship? What are the strengths and what are the flaws?
12. If 4MK grew up in a different family, would he still have turned out the same way? Or would he have lived a completely different life?
13. Rats appear in 4MK’s past with Mrs. Carter and they’re also in the room with Emory. Could there be a significance to them and the idea of not “ratting” someone out when they’ve done wrong (speak no evil)?
14. Analyze the meaning behind the ear, tongue and eyes. Why does he choose those parts and why send them to the family? Isn’t there too much risk involved?
15. Even though 4MK is sadistic, he was able to evade capture for five years. In what ways was 4MK an intelligent and well-planned character?
16. Will 4MK find his mother? If he does, will he kill her like he has the others, or does he have other plans for her?
17. In 4MK and Porter’s conversation near the end of the novel, it’s ironic how 4MK does not like foul language and will not tolerate someone being rude. Analyze the irony behind how 4MK acts as opposed to what one would think he would be like.
18. Is there a part of 4MK that knows he’s wrong, or do you think he does not see any wrongdoing in his actions?
19. 4MK planned out Emory’s kidnapping for quite some time. Did he make this one more significant because of personal involvement?
20. At one point, 4MK makes a comment to Porter about what he would do if he came face to face with his wife’s killer. If Porter had the chance, what would he do to him?
21. Do you think that diary is real?
Book Club Appearances
To book J.D. Barker for an appearance with your club, please submit a note via the contact form with “Book Club” in the subject.