Bad Monkeys Book Review

“What if there was a secret society fighting evil?” isn’t exactly an unexplored area of fiction, but it is still an area packed with possibility.

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff might be treading a familiar path, but this sci-fi/action/psychological thriller is still a fun journey to follow.

Bad Monkeys Book Review

Bad Monkeys is the story of Jane, a woman accused of murder and determined to prove her innocence with an outlandish tale of action and adventure.

But is it quite as outlandish as it first seems or is Jane telling the truth about the secretive Bad Monkeys?

With a fun and thrilling plot that at times feels more like a comic than a novel, Bad Monkeys is an enjoyable adventure, if not a sophisticated one. Read our full review of Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff here.

Bad Monkeys Plot Summary

37-year-old Jane Charlotte begins Bad Monkeys in the Las Vegas Clark County Detention Center, where she’s being kept in the mental disabilities wing.

Accused of murdering a man named Dixon, Jane faces questioning from the prison psychiatrist, Dr. Vale, as to her role in the crime. But Jane insists there’s more to the story than anyone realizes.

Jane’s story instead begins several decades ago, when she was just 14 years old. Having recently lost her brother under mysterious circumstances, Jane was forced from her home. But the small town she now calls home hides a horrifying secret — the school janitor is a serial killer.

Jane isn’t the only one observing the janitor. A mysterious organization known as the Bad Monkeys also has the janitor under surveillance.

The Bad Monkeys are a secret group that operates behind the scenes to fight evil. At age 36, Jane encounters the Bad Monkeys again, when she is enlisted by the Monkeys to kill a man who once assaulted her.

Wrapped up in their vigilante justice, Jane becomes a member of the organization, otherwise known as the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons.

The Bad Monkeys are everywhere. Their “Panopticon” surveillance operates hidden cameras throughout public places, where they can observe their targets every minute of the day.

And when something goes wrong, Bad Monkeys’ “Catering” service can clear up the damage without anyone knowing.

Jane slips right into the world of the Bad Monkeys, one that’s filled with car chases, big battles, and psychiatric drugs. 

But the Bad Monkeys aren’t just fighting crime. They’re also battling against the Troop. The Troop is a nefarious organization determined to unleash evil onto the world. However, all is not as it seems with the Troop.

Sitting at the head of the organization is a man long assumed dead…

Bad Monkeys switches perspectives between Jane in prison and Jane fighting crime. But the two stories are rushing together to meet a narrative conclusion that’s ready to twist and surprise.

Bad Monkeys Style

Thinking about diving into Bad Monkeys? This is a book that plays with a lot of different genres and styles, smashing them together to create a rollercoaster of a narrative. 

Alternating Perspective

Bad Monkeys is a story of two perspectives. The first is the conversation between Jane and Dr. Vale. This opens the novel and we return to it throughout the plot.

The second perspective follows Jane’s life before she was accused of murdering Dixon. From the mysterious disappearance of her brother, to her first brush with the Bad Monkeys, to her role in the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons.

With the occasional interjection from current-day Dr. Vale.

The joint narratives contribute to the twisting tale of Bad Monkeys. With Dr. Vale constantly questioning Jane’s story, pointing out all the flaws and inconsistencies, the audience struggles to track just what’s going on.

Psychological Thriller

Is Jane telling the truth or is her wild story a desperate attempt to explain an awful crime? Does Jane believe what she’s saying or is it all a ruse? Are the Bad Monkeys nothing but a traumatized child’s attempt to understand the bad things in the world?

Bad Monkeys wants to keep you guessing. The quick-moving narrative effectively masks what’s real and what isn’t. 

The book works partly as a psychological thriller (If you like thrillers, also check out Falling). Jane is an unreliable narrator to the highest degree. For a start, most of what she says doesn’t seem in any way plausible. And when you add on the accusations of murder, isn’t Jane doing what she can to evade justice?

But, then again, can we dismiss what Jane’s saying? Parts of her story seem horrifyingly close to reality… 

Action Adventure

If Bad Monkeys functions as a psychological thriller, it also works as a straight-up action and adventure story. Jane weaves a complex and exciting narrative that moves at breakneck speed and takes you along with it. 

Car chases and shoot-outs and explosions, oh my! Everything is happening in Bad Monkeys! The people you thought you could trust turn out to be double agents, no triple agents — quadruple agents?! It’s all going on and it rarely lets up.

You just have to buckle up and go with the ride.


Bad Monkeys owes a debt to Philip K. Dick. The science fiction writer is a huge influence on the narrative of Bad Monkeys (If you like his sci-fi works, also check out Robert Heinlein’s Books), playing with the idea of what’s real, what isn’t, and can we ever really tell the difference?

Sci-fi touches are woven throughout the book, adding another layer of confusion to an already complex narrative.

Bad Monkeys Review

As you might have guessed from the name, Bad Monkeys is not a book that begs you to take it seriously. It’s a light-hearted adventure that delights in pulling the rug out from under your feet and then pulling away a second rug that was hidden under the first.

You don’t have a moment to catch your breath.

This lack of seriousness is what allows Bad Monkeys to shine. Because the narrative is so frequently taken to the next level and then the next you never stop and think about what’s going on.

As a simple action novel, Bad Monkeys requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. While some spy novels ask the question, “What secrets are being hidden from us?”, Bad Monkeys gets the audience thinking differently.

It’s less, “What if?” and more, “Wouldn’t it be cool if something exploded?”.

And, most of the time, it is pretty cool. The plot twists and turns so much you can never get a grip of it, and it’s best not to try too hard. Instead, just let the whole thing wash over you.

As most of the plot is told in flashbacks, we also spend a lot of time with Jane and Dr. Vale in the present day.

These conversations introduce the element of confusion to the novel. Dr. Vale doesn’t seem to believe a word Jane is saying, so can we trust her either?

By diving back and forth between the two timelines, Bad Monkeys makes you question everything that you might think you believe. Jane isn’t the most reliable narrator to begin with, and when Dr. Vale starts questioning her story, we begin to question it as well.

As the two timelines come crashing together, the novel comes to its dizzying conclusion. And you, the reader, finally get a chance to reflect on what’s happened.

It’s a good job that you aren’t given a chance to think at any point in Bad Monkeys because the plot falls apart when careful thought is applied. Everything is overblown, everything is ridiculous, and it seems to follow cartoon logic, rather than reality.

There are clear sci-fi influences throughout and much of what happens to Jane is only possible in a world with different physics to ours. Add on that blend of what’s real/what’s fake and Bad Monkeys has the feel of a science fiction hallucination.

If you like your books to cling to the real world, then you won’t enjoy Bad Monkeys. Although technically taking place on our Earth, Bad Monkeys actually exists in the same realm as superhero films and kids’ comic books.

But if you don’t mind waving goodbye to believability, Bad Monkeys is super fun. It doesn’t take itself seriously and it doesn’t want you to take it seriously. Don’t try and overthink it, just sit back and enjoy the ride. 


Bad Monkeys is silly and overblown but all the better for it. If you want a book that moves at the pace of a speeding train and never gives you a moment to get off, you’ll enjoy Bad Monkeys

Bad Monkeys is undoubtedly a page-turner, introducing new concepts and confusing questions with every chapter. But you probably should keep turning those pages because when you stop and reflect on Bad Monkeys, it does fall apart a bit.

An enjoyable plot that carries you through the lack of logic with skillful writing and an exciting storyline, Bad Monkeys is a fast and fun read that doesn’t demand much from its audience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Book Bad Monkeys About?

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff follows the dual narrative of Jane Charlotte, an accused murderer who’s trying to defend her innocence through a series of flashback stories. Her defense? She’s part of a secret crime-fighting organization.

What Genre Is Bad Monkeys?

Bad Monkeys is a mixture between psychological thriller, action-adventure, and science fiction. It plays with elements of all three genres throughout the novel.

Sophie Andrea