State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe

State of Fear Cover

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia (Trade Paperback – 22 July 2019)

Series: John Bailey – Book Two

Length: 390 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

One of the fastest-rising Australian thriller writers, Tim Ayliffe, follows up his impressive debut with an excellent second entry in his John Bailey series, State of Fear.

Tim Ayliffe is a talented author who debuted in 2018 with The Greater Good, the first John Bailey book.  This novel explored political corruption and international interference in Australia and made excellent use of the author’s experiences as a journalist.  I really enjoyed this first book and was rather interested when I received the second novel from Ayliffe, State of Fear, in 2019.  Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to read State of Fear when it first came out, and it has been in my to-read pile for a while, until I received a copy of the third John Bailey novel, The Enemy Within, a few weeks ago.  I rather liked the sound of the third book’s plot, and I really wanted to read and review it.  However, before checking out The Enemy Within I thought it would make more sense to read State of Fear first, and boy am I glad that I did.

Throughout his long career as a journalist and war correspondent, John Bailey has faced many dangers and been in several terrible situations.  However, his worst encounter was with the notorious terrorist mastermind, Mustafa al-Baghdadi, who kidnapped Bailey while he was reporting on the invasion in Afghanistan and relentlessly tortured him mentally and psychically.  Following his release from the terrorist group and a retirement from working in active war zones, Bailey thought that his days of dealing with terrorists was over, but he was wrong.

Speaking at a conference on Islamic terrorism in London, Bailey is horrified when a radicalised terrorist murders a woman in front of the convention centre.  Rattled, Bailey returns home to Sydney, only to find his troubles have followed him there.  The son of his former driver in Bagdad has gone missing, and Bailey has been implored to help.  Investigating, Bailey finds that the son has been in contact with some dangerous men with connections to Islamic terrorist cells.  Worse, it appears that they are planning to launch a massive attack in Sydney.

Desperate to save his friend’s son from making a terrible mistake, Bailey attempts to make sense of the terrible events unfolding in Sydney.  However, the deeper he goes, the clearer it becomes that Mustafa al-Baghdadi is back, and he is targeting Bailey personally.  As Bailey and everyone he loves comes under attack, Bailey is forced to turn to his old friend, CIA agent Ronnie Johnson, to find Mustafa and take him down.  But will they be able to stop Mustafa before it is too late, or will the world’s most dangerous terrorist destroy everything that Bailey holds dear?

State of Fear was an excellent and powerful novel that takes its great protagonist on a rough and dangerous journey through hell and back.  Ayliffe has definitely grown as an author since his first novel, and this second book is a compelling and intense novel with a well-crafted narrative.  Starting off with an intense beginning, the protagonist is swiftly shoved into his latest harrowing adventure, as the terrorist he thought he escaped violently bursts back into his life.  This is a very captivating novel, and despite its longer length I found myself powering through it in a very short amount of time.  The protagonist goes through a real wringer as he is forced to visit the ghosts of his past while trying to stop his foe’s latest plot.  Featuring a sprawling and deadly investigation through the suburbs of Sydney, the story eventually journeys back to London, where the protagonist and his friends engage in a deadly and dramatic fight to stop a deadly attack.  There is so much going on in this story, and the reader will experience outstanding action, powerful drama, and some major tragedy, especially in the novel’s dramatic conclusion.  This is a fantastic book which stands on its own and can easily be read by people unfamiliar with the other John Bailey novels.  I had an exceptional time reading State of Fear and it is really worth checking out.

Ayliffe works a lot of fun elements into this novel that make it quite a unique read.  Perhaps one of the most prominent of these is his experience and knowledge as a journalist which helps to produce a very Australian centric view of the events that are being depicted.  For example, Ayliffe includes a very detailed and compelling look at radical Islamic terrorism and how it is occurring both in Australia and in the wider world, particularly England.  Using several real-life Australian cases as basis, Ayliffe manages to expose and explore the heart of the issue, and he paints a fair and captivating picture of how individuals are lured into radical Islam as well as the consequences of their actions.  There are some very intriguing and powerful discussions included within this novel, especially around how the Islamic and migrant community in Australia feels isolated and prejudiced against, and I really appreciated the compelling inclusion in the novel.

Other intriguing elements contained within State of Fear include Ayliffe’s experiences with modern media and how journalist stories are produced and distributed.  There are some fascinating and fun journalistic scenes contained within this novel, and you have to assume that the protagonist’s extremely negative views about the swing to online social media based journalism has to reflect some of the author’s personal feelings.  Another great feature of this novel was the way in which Ayliffe once again used his novel to highlight the city of Sydney.  While a good portion of this novel is set in London (which Ayliffe also does a great job portraying), the scenes set within Sydney are a particular highlight.  The author really dives into showcasing this city, with the protagonist visiting several real-life suburbs and locations throughout the course of the book, distributing local knowledge as he goes.  As a result, this book is filled with some fun references that locals and Sydneysiders will really appreciate, and I enjoyed how Ayliffe spent the time to write a love letter to his city.

In addition to a fantastic story and excellent setting, Ayliffe also ensures that State of Fear is loaded with some complex and memorable characters.  The most prominent of these is series main protagonist and primary point of view character John Bailey.  Bailey is an outstanding veteran reporting character, and Ayliffe portrays him as a broken older news hound who is trying to balance his addictive career with holding onto his family.  This protagonist is the very definition of a damaged character, as he has experienced great trauma, both psychical and emotional, over the years thanks to his work as a war correspondent.  Despite this trauma, Bailey has experienced some major growth since the first book in the series, mainly thanks to the actions of major people in his life, and he is now a much more functional human being, allowing the reader to really connect with his struggles and damage.  Unfortunately, the events of this novel really hit him hard, as he experiences fresh pain while also revisiting his traumatic past through a series of dark flashbacks.  Despite this, Bailey keeps moving forward trying to solve the case, and it was great to see his determination and resolve, even under the worse of circumstances.  The ending of the novel is pretty bad for Bailey, and he goes through some tragic moments that will no doubt rock him for the rest of the series.  All of this makes for an incredible central protagonist, and readers will fall in love with this damaged and compelling character.

Aside from Bailey, State of Fear also contains several great supporting characters, most of whom are holdovers from The Greater Good, and who find themselves in all sorts of trouble in this book.  The most prominent of these is Bailey’s romantic partner, Detective Chief Inspector Sharon Dexter, who serves as a secondary point-of-view protagonist for parts of the book.  Dexter is a tough, no-nonsense cop whose past with Bailey led to a romantic relationship in the first book.  Despite having a very complex and unusual relationship with Bailey, Dexter proves to be an excellent supporting character, acting as the sensible and official support to Bailey who tries to keep him out of trouble.  While she has a bit of a cold exterior, especially when Bailey stuffs up or lies to her, Dexter is another character the reader can easily get attached to, and her involvement in the story is quite essentially the overall powerful narrative.

I also quite liked the inclusion of Bailey’s editor, Gerald Summers, another aging newsman who serves as Bailey’s emotional rock and best friend and who has an amazing run in this book.  Gerald is an outstanding and loveable character, which of course means he is going to suffer a little bit, so prepare yourself for that.  You also have to like Ronnie Johnson, the maverick CIA agent who spends most of his time living on Bailey’s couch, but who proves to be an effective and very dangerous operative when he needs to.  Ronnie has been a favourite character of mine ever since the first book (I mean, he kills an Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt style), and he does some cool things in this second novel.  Finally, I felt that Mustafa al-Baghdadi was a pretty good overarching antagonist for State of Fear.  Ayliffe did a good job portraying a manipulative religious zealot with grand plans for vengeance and the advancement of his cause.  Despite being hidden for most of the book, this character contains a great deal of menace, and I really enjoyed the sinister flashback sequences that featured him and Bailey.  I did think that some of his reasons for vengeance on Bailey were a bit weak (I mean, he had to know that the first thing Bailey was going to do when freed was to share what he knew with the Americans), but he was an overall great villain with major impacts on the narrative.  Each of these characters were well written and established, and I felt that their combined narratives really improved this fantastic novel.

State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe was an outstanding and captivating read that presents a powerful and moving adventure of journalist John Bailey.  Containing an intense narrative about terrorism, some unique elements and amazing characters, State of Fear is an excellent read which swiftly grabs the reader’s attention and refuses to let them go.  I had an incredible time reading this novel and I am still kicking myself for taking so long to check it out.  I have already read the third entry in the John Bailey series, The Enemy Within, and I am hoping to get a review out for it soon.

WWW Wednesday – 21 July 2021

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

 

What are you currently reading?

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (Trade Paperback)

She Who Became the Sun Cover

I recently started reading She Who Became the Sun, a fascinating historical fiction novel that is getting a lot of buzz throughout the review community. She Who Became the Sun is the debut novel from Australian author Shelley Parker-Chan and it follows a young woman in 14th century China who steals her brother’s identity in order to survive and forge her own destiny.  I am around 100 pages in at the moment and I am quickly becoming addicted to the awesome and compelling story it contains. Parker-Chan is a very talented author and I look forward to seeing how this outstanding novel ends.

 

Relentless by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Relentless Cover

I was very excited to start listening to the latest entry in the Rogue Team International series by Jonathan Maberry, Relentless.  The Rogue Team International series, which follows on from the Joe Ledger series, are among some of my favourite books at the moment, and Relentless was one of my most anticipated reads for the year.  This latest novel follows on after the devastating conclusion of Rage and see’s protagonist Joe Ledger go on a one-man rampage while some of his worst enemies plot another massive attack.  I have made some pretty good progress with this audiobook so far and I am hoping to finish it off in the next week or so.  Unsurprisingly, I am deeply enjoying this latest novel and Relentless is proving to be an exceptional new addition to this great series.

What did you recently finish reading?

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott (Audiobook)

Star Wars - The Rising Storm Cover

 

The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry (Trade Paperback)

The 22 Murders of Madison May Cover

 

State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe (Trade Paperback)

State of Fear Cover

 

The Enemy Within by Tim Ayliffe (Trade Paperback)

The Enemy Within Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

#MurderFunding by Gretchen McNeil (Hardcover)

#MurderFunding Cover

 

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 14 July 2021

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe (Trade Paperback)

State of Fear Cover

I just started reading State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe, an Australian thriller that originally came out in 2019 and which serves as a sequel to his debut novel, The Greater Good.  I have plans to read Ayliffe third book, The Enemy Within, in the next couple of weeks, so I thought it would be worth my while to check out this bridging novel first.  State of Fear, which details a traumatized reporter attempted to stop the terrorist who kidnapped him years before, has a very strong start to it, and I am already really getting into this excellent book

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm by Scott Cavan (Audiobook)

Star Wars - The Rising Storm Cover

I am currently making some great progress with the latest entry in The High Republic range of Star Wars fiction, The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott.  This latest novel, which follows on from the events of Light of the Jedi, is a pretty epic read, which highlights the unique chaos and battles that occurred hundreds of years before the events of the Star Wars film franchise.  Scott, who previously wrote the great audiodrama Dooku: Jedi Lost, has crafted together a pretty impressive story in The Rising Storm, and I cannot wait to see how this fantastic tale concludes.

 

What did you recently finish reading?

Breakout by Paul Herron (Trade Paperback)

Breakout Cover

 

Blackout by Simon Scarrow (Trade Paperback)

Blackout Cover

 

Skavenslayer by William King (Audiobook)

Skavenslayer Cover

 

Daemonslayer by William King (Audiobook)

Daemonslayer Cover

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry (Trade Paperback)

The 22 Murders of Madison May Cover

 

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books to While Away the Lockdown

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. The official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday was Ten Signs You’re a Book Lover. While that did sound like an interesting topic, I thought I would do something a little different. Today was actually my first day working from home due to the current coronavirus outbreak. While my city is not officially locked down yet, I am going to be spending a lot of time indoors for the next couple of months, which I fully intend to use as an opportunity to catch up on some reading that I have been meaning to do. Unfortunately, it is very likely that I am going to get a limited number of new books coming in, due to businesses shutting down and release dates being knocked back (the main bookshops in my city literally just announced they were closing their doors today). Luckily, I have a huge number of books already on my shelf which I have been hoping to read for some time. As a result, I thought I would take this opportunity to list the top ten books from previous years that I want to go back and read during this homebound period.

Over the last couple of years, I have been building up a massive collection of books which I have been meaning to read. This is a pretty eclectic mixture of novels from across the various genres, featuring an interesting range of topics and authors. I am hopefully going to get around to reading all of them at some point, but for this list I went through and selected the top ten (with an honourable mentions section) that I want to try and check out first. I figure that this list will be a good focusing tool, and hopefully by the time this whole crisis is over I will have managed to get through a reasonable chunk of them. For this list, I am limiting my choices to those books that I physically have on my shelf right now, and I won’t be including books that I want to read that I have to go and buy. I have to admit that this is a pretty random collection of books, and I haven’t always chosen the best books on the shelf. These are the ones that I want to read first, either because I enjoyed the previous entries in the series, I have heard good things about them or because the plot sounds really interesting and I want to finally check it out. So let’s see which books made the list.

Honourable Mentions:

 

State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe – 22 July 2019

State of Fear Cover

The sequel to the excellent 2018 Australian thriller The Greater Good.

The Warehouse by Rob Hart – 13 August 2019

The Warehouse Cover


The Second Sleep
by Robert Harris – 20 August 2019

The Second Sleep Cover

Top Ten List (By Release Date):


The Deathless
by Peter Newman – 14 June 2018

the deathless cover

This first entry on my list is rather intriguing-sounding fantasy novel that I picked up a couple of years ago but never got a chance to read. I have been quite keen to check this out for a while and I even featured it on my Top Ten Books I Wish I Read in 2018 list. Newman has already written two fantastic-sounding sequels to this book, so I definitely need to pick up my game and have a go at reading The Deathless.

Watch the Girls by Jennifer Wolfe – 10 July 2018

Watch the Girls Cover

This next book is a rather cool-sounding thriller novel, which I rather regret not reading back in 2018. I really liked the interesting concept that Watch the Girls had, and I always thought that this would be quite a fun book to read.

The Winter Road by Adrian Selby – 13 November 2018

The Winter Road Cover

Now this is one that I have been really trying to read for ages. The Winter Road was probably one of the more awesome-sounding fantasy novels of 2018, with amazing plot about a massive merchant caravan trying to get through a dangerous wilderness. I honestly have no idea how I never got around to reading this one, and I will be extremely happy if I finally get a chance in the next few months.

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons – 5 February 2019

The Ruin of Kings Cover

The Ruin of Kings is one of the biggest fantasy releases of last year, and I have been hoping to check it out since I first got it. Unfortunately, it has just been sitting unread on my shelf instead, even though I included it on my Top Ten Books I Wish I Read in 2019 list. The third and final book in this series is just around the corner, so I really cannot afford to waste any more time with this one.

The Bear Pit by S. G. MacLean – 11 July 2019

The Bear Pit Cover


The Bastille Spy
by C. S. Quinn – 1 August 2019

The Bastille Spy Cover

This was one of the more fascinating historical fiction releases of last year, and I am truly sorry I did not get around to enjoying The Bastille Spy. Following a female British spy who helps free and smuggle noblemen from revolutionary France, this book sounded absolutely incredible. I really need to have a look at this book soon, as the sequel is hopefully coming out soon.

Magebane by Stephen Aryan – 6 August 2019

Magebane Cover

The third and final book in the Age of Dread trilogy, Magebane sounded like an extremely fun and explosive fantasy novel, which I did hope to check out last year. I really enjoyed the previous novel in the series, Magefall, so I have high hopes for this latest book.

Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw – 20 August 2019

Grave Importance Cover


Duplicity
by Richard Evans – 1 September 2019

Duplicity Cover


Salvation Lost
by Peter F. Hamilton – 29 October 2019

Salvation Lost Cover
Well that’s my list. I am hopeful that I will get a chance to check out all of the books featured above in the next few months, and I am sure that they will keep me extremely entertained and sane during my time at home. I hope everyone is staying safe during these hard times, and I wish you all luck during the difficult coming year. In the meantime, let me know which of the books above you enjoyed and what novels you are hoping to read during your lockdown period.

Book Haul – 19 August 2019

In the last week or so I have had a pretty substantial pile of books rock up which I am very excited to check out.  There are some really good books in this lasted haul, including some sequels to several great reads I reviewed last year.

The Queen’s Tiger by Peter Watt

The Queen's Tiger Cover

Ok, so I may be slightly biased because this upcoming book quotes one of my Canberra Weekly reviews on the cover, but this is probably the book I was most excited to get.  The Queen’s Tiger is the exciting sequel to Australian author Peter Watt’s fantastic piece of historical fiction, The Queen’s Colonial.  This should be a pretty epic book, and I hoping to read it well in advance of its release date.

Supernova by Marissa Meyer

Supernova Cover.png

Another advanced proof that I am exceedingly happy I got already, Supernova is the final book in Meyer’s Renegades trilogy.  I really enjoyed the second entry in this amazing young adult superhero series, Archenemies, and I am keen to see how this trilogy ends.  Also, check out how awesome that cover looks, I know I am impressed.

Shepherd by Catherine Jinks

Shepherd Cover.jpg

An inriguing sounding Australian historical fiction book.  Shepherd is a slightly shorter book than some of the others in my haul, but it sounds like it could be an good read with an unique Australian story behind it.

Magebane by Stephen Aryan

Magebane Cover.jpg

Magebane is the final book in Aryan’s The Age of Dread trilogy, which follows on from his previous The Age of Darkness trilogy.  I really enjoyed the previous book in the trilogy, Magefall last year, and it sounds like Magebane is going to be a pretty impressive conclusions to these books.

The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry

The Art of Dying Cover.jpg

A medical murder mystery Victorian Edinburgh, this could be a fun book to check out.

State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe

State of Fear Cover

This looks like it is going to be a really cool Australian thriller.  Ayliffe’s debut novel, The Greater Good, was an excellent piece of Australian fiction last year, and I have high hopes for this sequel.

The Fifth Column by Andrew Gross

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The final book I got in this haul is a pretty cool sounding novel.  The Fifth Column is a thriller set around potential Nazi spies in 1940’s New York.  It sounds really intriguing and I look forward to checking it out.
Which of these books are you most eager to read?  Let me know in the comments if there is a book you want me to try and review first.