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Literature / Bad Monkeys

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This is a 2007 book by Matt Ruff. Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder. She tells police that she is a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil; her division is called the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons — "Bad Monkeys" for short. The confessions earns Jane a trip to the jail's psychiatric wing, where a doctor attempts to determine whether she is lying, crazy — or playing a different game altogether. The answer is yes.

Spoiler Alert: Due to the nature of this book, there are a lot of spoilers in the trope list.



  • All Just a Dream: Everything after Jane meets the Scary Clowns.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Panopticon has cameras in any picture with eyes and also in library binding.
  • Creepy Good: Robert Love, and the Scary Clowns in general.
  • Dead All Along: Phil. Zig-zagged when it turns out he's not actually dead.
  • Detect Evil: Malfeasance job. Also what the Shibboleth is supposed to do.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Turns out Jane is actually a mole from The Troop and that entire story may or may not have been a lie.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Phil. Horribly subverted at the end because Jane is evil and she enjoys killing Phil.
  • Evil Feels Good: The Troop claims they drive on this and if one feels any pleasure in killing, they are perfect for being evil.
  • Evil Twin: Bad Jane. Turns out she's not real, though.
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  • Face–Heel Turn: The Troop tries to convert Jane to join their side. They fail, but only because she had been a Bad Monkey since she had been a teenager and it is actually The Organisation trying to convert her to good.
  • Foil: Almost every major character is this to Jane, some in obvious ways (Carlotta Juana's name is a reversal of "Jane Charlotte", the "bad Jane" is self-explanatory), some more subtly.
    • Philip: Incorruptible Pure Pureness working inside an evil organization, whereas Jane is a "bad seed" working inside a good organization
    • Dixon: Good Is Not Nice to Jane's Faux Affably Evil
    • Robert Love: Like Jane, he spent more than four years at Berkeley, felt directionless, and had evil urges, but unlike Jane he managed to suppress them, and ended up on the side of good.
  • Foreshadowing: All the Bad Monkeys that Jane kills or has run-ins with have hurt or tried to hurt young boys, sometimes sexually. Dixon brings this up when he reveals that he knows about Jane's former habit of using teenage boys for sex.
    • There are two quotes in the very beginning of the book, before chapter one. One is H.L. Menken: "Conscience: the inner voice that warns us someone may be looking." The other is from the Bible. "Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let us go out to the field..." Together, they very cleanly set up the themes of the story to come.
  • For the Evulz: Most evil drives on this. They kill and destroy because they can.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The assumption of The Organisation. Most humans have evil tendencies that they try to surpress or better with various subdivisions while the Bad Monkeys division is the one for those that are hopelessly evil.
  • Hope Spot: At the end, Jane manages to threaten and kill the doctor aka Phil. Followed by The Reveal that Jane was evil the whole time, out to murder Phil who got saved from evil.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Apparently Phil was this, and that's why the Bad Monkeys were able to recruit him.
  • Magic Realism: The organization sees everything, can make things appear from thin air, and have dream lessons. However the focus isn't really on the magical aspects of what they do. It almost borders on Mundane Fantastic.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: NC Guns make people's deaths look like natural causes such as heart attacks or strokes.
  • Mind Screw: Oh Lordy! Just to give one example: The Other Wiki concludes - based on the reviews written about the novel - that everything is a drug-induced schizophrenic hallucination, Matt Ruff's website claims in the FAQ tab that the entire story plays in a massive Ant farm and the Origin tab on the same page says that Jane is a extreme Unreliable Narrator and you have to guess for yourself what happened and what didn't.
  • Jane
  • Phil
  • Monster Clown: The "Scary Clown" division. Apparently John Wayne Gacy was one of them who went rogue.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In universe, Malfeasance assumes that Jane hit one with her Pet Boys, but their Detect Evil test proves that she felt guilty about it and thus can't be evil. Dixon is impressed in the end, because she had been evil without ever having one and is able to perfectly fake feeling guilty about her deeds, too.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Jane had a habit of sleeping with underage boys (aka "pet boys") in exchange for booze and a place to stay.
  • Paranormal Gambling Advantage: Annie, a trainer for the Organization, is a crazy-acting homeless woman who makes enough money to live by buying scratch tickets, as she has an unerring ability to pick batches of them with big winners. Narrator Jane Charlotte tries to repeat this strategy after Annie dies, to no success.
  • Putting on the Reich: Jane says the Malfeasance agents' uniforms make them look like "nearsighted Gestapo". Subverted in that they're the (relatively) good guys.
  • Reminiscing About Your Victims : Jane does this in her talk with the psychatrist. Slightly subverted because she lies, leaves out information and even fakes her emotions during the talk to throw off The Organisation.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: What "Bad Monkeys" does.
  • Sex Is Evil: While not a general rule, almost all the bad people in the story are related to sexual crimes (pedophilia, rape, cheating, etc).
  • Start of Darkness: Jane really didn't like her mother and little brother and the way she got ignored in favour of Phil.
  • The Unreveal: Jane Charlotte and Phil's last name is never revealed because their mother forbid Jane Charlotte from using it.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: The Troop considers kidnapping and converting innocent children into evil serial killers their Special Kind Of Evil.
  • White Void Room: The room where Vale examines Jane is describes as being pretty close.
    "White walls. White ceiling. White floor. Not featureless, but close enough to raise suspicion that its few contents are all crucial to the upcoming drama."
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Angel of Death, Julius Deeds, Arlo Dexter, John Doyle and Jane Charlotte.
  • Your Television Hates You: After Dixon reveals that he knows about Jane's "pet boys", all she sees or hears is stuff related to that, such as The Mary Kay Letourneau Story, Michael Jackson songs, and even songs by the Pet Shop Boys.