Matthew Franks “The Monster Underneath” Review

Posted: May 13, 2016 in Reviews, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,



Publisher: Samhain Horror

Length: 219 Pages

Release Date: April 5, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for The Monster Underneath

I remember reading some early praise for The Monster Underneath from Ronald Malfi, Rena Mason and John Everson and thinking that this was a book that I just had to read. So when Erin from Hook of a Book Publicity offered me a spot on the blog tour, I jumped at the chance!

Max Crawford has offered therapy to inmates for over 6 years at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville through a secretive government program. He has unique abilities to read minds and enter the dreams of the inmates and he utilizes these gifts in order to help rehabilitate violent offenders. His goal is to talk his patients through their crimes in the hopes that they will feel remorse for what they have done and begin to rehabilitate so they may reenter society. His identity is largely kept a secret in order to protect him and his family should some of the more violent inmates ever be released. He hardly ever meets them face to face and solely interacts with them through their dreams. The reason he gets their consent first is it makes his therapy more effective.

Max has been content using his abilities in secret at the tiny jail in Huntsville, but one day his life is changed when FBI agent Charles Linden shows up and asks for Max’s help. Linden is well aware of Max’s gifts and wants him to help get a confession from one of the country’s most notorious serial killers, William Knox. At first glance, he seems relatively harmless. He is a husband and father who is well-respected within his community and is a well-regarded English professor at the University of Texas in Austin. Despite his squeaky clean public image, he is the prime suspect in a series of murders of young women that stretched from Dallas to Arkansas. Other than the fact that his victims were all women, there was no clear motives for his crimes. The FBI has been unable to break Knox no matter what tactic they try, which is what convinced Linden to reach out to Max in a last-ditch attempt to get a confession. Max normally has the consent from inmates to enter their dreams, but Linden wants this to be a more covert operation. While this makes Max uncomfortable, he has no choice but to agree to Linden’s plan if he hopes to help get justice for the victims’ families. Max enters Knox’s mind with the goal of gaining his trust by any means necessary and once he is inside Knox’s mind, he is in a race against time to uncover the truth about the murders.

I liked the concept behind The Monster Underneath and while I have read a few books with a similar premise, this one stood out to me. Most of the stories I have read that were fairly similar involved detectives who used these abilities to either prevent attacks or to catch a killer that is still on the loose. Max’s abilities and his background as a therapist intrigued me because he strictly worked with criminals who are already in jail. Also, while he is able to enter prisoner’s minds at will, he tends to only works with inmates who have granted him permission to enter their dreams. This is interesting because when Max meets with his patients, he already has knowledge of their crimes and how they were committed. A lot of his work when he enters their dreams is figuring out why they made certain choices and trying to help them feel remorse in an attempt to rehabilitate them should they ever be released from prison.

This is interesting because when Max meets Knox, he has the same abilities and knowledge to draw on, but he is plunged into a situation that is vastly different from what he is used to. He is attempting to gain Knox’s trust without prior consent and he is using his abilities to figure out the details of a crime through a person’s dreams for the first time. Max’s previous work and knowledge allows him to identify things easier, but his case with Knox is tricky because he needs to sift through what is fiction conjured up by Knox’s mind and what may be real memories of his crimes.

I loved the way Franks handled the dream world and the sort of rules that govern them. While there aren’t too many similarities I couldn’t help but think of Russell James’ Dreamwalker while reading some of these scenes. I also enjoyed the way Franks describes Max’s abilities. Mind reading comes like second nature to him and he really has to work on keeping other people’s thoughts from merging with his own. However, the ability to enter dreams was something he had to work at. I like that it wasn’t something easy, but rather an ability he had to develop. A great example is the very descriptive scene of how Max first discovers his ability to enter dreams, which he ironically discovered while trying to read the thoughts of one of his patients at a sleep clinic he worked at during college. Franks puts a lot of detail and thought behind the description of Max’s powers and the protocols that Max establishes as a result of his experiences with his abilities. I don’t want to spoil too much of this because it is one of the many things that make The Monster Underneath an entertaining and unique read.

I also loved the interactions between Max and Knox. Their relationship is the major sense of tension throughout the novel and although Max is trying to keep Knox locked up, they develop a toxic and bizarre pseudo-friendship. As Max gets deeper and more involved in Knox’s dream reality, the lines that separate the real world from Knox’s dream world begin to blur a little bit. The case is extremely stressful for Max and for the first time in his career, he starts to doubt himself.

The only issues I had with the novel were a few instances where the transitions between chapters took me out of the story. I also had a few issues with the ending, but it didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the novel too much. Overall, The Monster Underneath is a gripping psychological thriller that I couldn’t put down!  The novel works well as a standalone story, but while I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of more books containing Max and having him possibly team up with Agent Linden again. While Linden can come off as abrasive at times, I do think it would be cool to see them work together more closely on a case from start to finish. So, I was excited to read in Wag The Fox’s great interview with Matthew Franks that there is indeed a follow-up currently in the works!

Rating: 4/5


Matthew Franks Official Webpage 

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase The Monster Underneath: Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), Amazon (Australia), Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror or your favorite bookstore!

The Monster Underneath tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about The Monster Underneath! – #TheMonsterUnderneath #psychologicalhorror #dreamsvsnightmares

The Monster Underneath Synopsis

Reality can be the difference between a dream and a nightmare…

Max Crawford isn’t a typical prison therapist. He uses his unusual psychic ability to walk with convicts through their dreams, reliving their unspeakable crimes alongside them to show them the error of their ways.

Max always has to be on his toes to keep himself grounded, but the FBI agent waiting for him in his private office immediately puts him on edge. The bureau wants Max to go way outside his comfort zone to enter the dreams of suspected serial killer William Knox.

To get a confession and secure the future of his prison program, Max must gain Knox’s trust by any means necessary—and survive the minefield of secrets waiting inside a murderer’s mind. Secrets that could turn Max’s reality into a living nightmare.

Praise for The Monster Underneath

“An assured, gripping, totally engaging debut, Matthew Franks will have you burning through the pages of this taut supernatural thriller at breakneck speed. If Christopher Nolan and Stephen King ever teamed up to write a novel, this would be it. Highly recommended!” Ronald Malfi, author of Little Girls

“What if you could see inside the dreams of anyone you came in contact with? Would you dare to look? Could you handle the things you’d find within? The Monster Underneath is a real nail-biter – one of those ever-spiraling stories that you just can’t put down until you reach the surprising end!”John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Covenant and The Family Tree

The Monster Underneath is an intense and clever debut in which reality is more terrifying than the nightmares and twisted dreamscapes of a madman. Author Matthew Franks is a name to remember, his stories you won’t soon forget.” Rena Mason, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Evolutionist and East End Girls

“Matthew Franks’ debut novel takes you through the darkest, twisted alleys of a killer’s mind and then drags you several steps further, beyond the status of observer and into the disturbing realm of accomplice. A harrowing tale of murder and delusion and moral ambiguity.” Hank Schwaeble, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of DamnableDiabolicaland the dark thriller collection, American Nocturne

About Matthew Franks

Matthew Franks headshot

Matthew Franks lives in Arlington, Texas with his beautiful wife and children. He studied psychology and creative writing at Louisiana State University then obtained a Master’s Degree in counseling from Texas State University. When he’s not working on his next story, he’s counseling adolescents or trying to keep up with his three highly energetic daughters. You can connect with Matthew at:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.