Filler content with rogue chimps

Another review that appeared on the old TTA Press website back in the day:-

BAD MONKEYS by MATT RUFF
Bloomsbury paperback, 234pp, £10.99

The book opens with a young woman imprisoned in an asylum for murder, but as the resident psychiatrist talks to her a strange tale emerges. As a child Jane Charlotte was involved in the capture of a serial killer preying on young boys and thus came into the orbit of an organisation calling itself the Bad Monkeys. Years later she was recruited as a field agent by this organisation, which takes a pro-active stand in the battle against evil by killing the bad guys and has advanced technology at its disposal. And then there’s The Troop, a rival organisation dedicated to evil and with a special interest in Jane Charlotte. Naturally the psychiatrist has no difficulty demonstrating that these are all simply delusions, brought on by the guilt felt over a childhood trauma, but of course there’s more to it than that.

With its super science gimmickry and rival organisations championing good and evil, Bad Monkeys seems pitched at the same audience as TV shows like Alias and conspiracy nuts, but written with a comic book sensibility. It’s fast paced and feisty, packed with incident and invention, almost as if Ruff wants to keep the reader off balance so that there is never time to call into question the credibility of the whole, and along the way he constantly reinforces our interpretation of events as all a part of Jane Charlotte’s mental landscape. Credibility is an issue throughout though, with the technology used by these organisations sounding a note of caution, while the idea of The Troop actively promoting evil seems rather fanciful, at least as stated. Do the bad guys ever think of themselves as evil? Ruff needed to apply himself a bit more to the ideological background of this novel. And don’t even get me started on the Scary Clowns.

Bad Monkeys does hold the interest, especially in the final furlong where the changes of fortune and perception come thick and fast, but ultimately it’s like one of those Russian doll nests, where at the end you are left with nothing, except a vague feeling that the author has slipped one past you and you’re not sure exactly how.

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