The Enemy Within by Tim Ayliffe

The Enemy Within Cover

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Trade Paperback – 28 July 2021)

Series: John Bailey – Book Three

Length: 353 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

One of Australia’s fastest rising crime fiction authors, Tim Ayliffe, returns with another impressive and brilliantly relevant novel, The Enemy Within.

Ayliffe is a great author whose work I have been really enjoying over the last couple of years as he sets some fantastic stories around contemporary Australian subjects.  Debuting in 2018, this journalist wrote a compelling and intriguing first novel with The Greater Good, which looked at political corruption and the growing influence of China in Australia.  He followed it up in 2019 with State of Fear, which looked at Islamic terrorism and featured a dramatic and impactful story.  Now Ayliffe checks out the complete opposite end of the political spectrum in The Enemy Within, which features a look at growing right-wing radicals.

As the smoke from devastating January 2020 bushfires covers Sydney, investigative reporter John Bailey is covering a far more dangerous threat in the suburbs.  Barely recovered from the traumatic events that took the love of his life from him, Bailey is now working for a news magazine.  His first story will cover the re-emergence of right-wing nationalists and white supremacist groups in Australia.  Attending one of their meetings, where a controversial American social media star whose entrance into the country has gained much political opposition and protest, Bailey attempts to gain the pulse of this movement, only to face violence and an anti-media mentality from the crowd.

Working on his story, Bailey has no idea of the chaos that is about to rain down on his life.  After he meets with an old contact and informant, Bailey’s house is raided by the Australian Federal Police.  The police are investigating him for a story he ran back while he was a war correspondent that highlighted the alleged war crimes Australian soldiers committed in the Middle East.  Armed with a warrant granting them access to his phone, computer and all his files, the police tear through Bailey’s life and throw him in gaol for attempting to impede their search.

With the entire nation’s media covering his plight, Bailey is released from prison and soon discovers that someone orchestrated the police raid to delete evidence from the rally.  Attempting to investigate further, Bailey is shocked when his contact ends up dead in mysterious circumstances and the police fail to investigate.  With Sydney on the verge of a race war, Bailey continues his investigation and soon uncovers proof about a dangerous conspiracy that aims to shake the very foundations of Australian life.  With only his old friend CIA agent Ronnie Johnson as backup, Bailey attempts to stop this plot before it is too late.  But with a seemingly untouchable enemy targeting him from the shadows, has Bailey finally met an opponent even more determined than he is?

This was an awesome and captivating novel from Ayliffe who once again produces an intense, character-driven narrative.  Set around some very relevant and controversial topics, The Enemy Within is a powerful and exciting novel that takes the reader on a compelling ride.  I had a fantastic time reading this clever book and I loved the fascinating examinations of one of the more insidious threats facing Australia.

Set in the blistering, smoke covered streets of early 2020 Sydney, this story starts with protagonist John Bailey engaged in a controversial story about the rising far-right wing.  After a predictably violent confrontation, the narrative takes off like a shot, with the protagonist investigating a series of concerning events, including several murders, racial attacks, and a re-opened investigation into an old story of his that sees the AFP raid his house.  Each of these separate investigative threads are drawn together as the book progresses, and the reader is treated to an impressive and deadly conspiracy with several clever allusions to real-world issues and events.  This was a very exciting and captivating novel to get through, and I found myself reading it extremely quickly, nearly finishing it off in a day.  The story leads up to an awesome and intense conclusion, where Bailey uncovers the entire scope of the plot and races to stop it.  While the identity of some of the participants is very clear since the character’s introductions, their full plan, methods, and reach are more hidden and it was great to see the protagonist uncover them all, especially as several were cleverly hidden in innocuous moments earlier in the novel.  There is even an excellent twist towards the end of the book that reveals a well-hidden antagonist, which I particularly enjoyed as it was so skilfully inserted into the story.  I ended having an excellent time getting through this amazing narrative, and this might be one of the best stories that Ayliffe has so far written.

One of the things that I have always enjoyed about the John Bailey novels is the way in which so much of the amazing story was tied to how extremely damaged the titular protagonist is.  John Bailey is a veteran reporter whose previous life as a war correspondent has left him extremely broken, especially after being tortured by a dangerous terrorist leader.  This eventually led to him becoming an alcoholic, which ruined his career and separated him from his family.  However, since the start of the series, Bailey has shown some real character growth, although this is usually accompanied by some traumatic events or tragic moments.  In The Enemy Within, as Bailey is still recovering from the loss of his lover at the end of State of Fear.  Despite making some strides to recover, Bailey is still reeling from the loss, and this becomes a major aspect of his character in this latest book.  This is especially true as Ayliffe does an outstanding job of highlighting the grieving process and showing Bailey’s feelings of despair.  It was really moving to see Bailey in this novel, and I was glad to see him continue to recover from all the bad events of his life, including stopping drinking and getting a dog.  However, Bailey still has an unerring knack to annoy the subjects of his stories, and he ends up getting into all sorts of danger.  It was great to see him getting to the root of this story by any means necessary, and I continued to appreciate his impressive development.

I also love the way that the each of Ayliffe’s novels feature some fascinating contemporary issues facing Australia or the wider world.  In The Enemy Within, the main issue is the rise of Australian right-wing and white supremacist groups in recent years.  Like in the rest of the world, these groups have been becoming a bit more prominent recently in Australia, and Ayliffe does an excellent job analysing this issue throughout his novel.  The author does a deep examination of the movement as the story progresses, and the reader is given a good insight into their concerns, motivations, and the reasons why the movement has been gaining progress in recent years.  There are some clever parallels between the events or people portrayed in the novel and real life, which was interesting to see.  Examples of this include the government allowing controversial right-wing figures into the country despite protests, and the reactions of certain right-wing media groups.  I liked how Ayliffe once again featured the character of Keith Roberts, a right-wing commentator who is a pastiche of several Australian radio personalities.  It was also quite fascinating to see how the concerns and motivations of the right-wing groups were extremely like some of the Islamic terrorists featured in State of Fear, with both groups feeling disconnected from and attacked by mainstream Australian society.  Not only is this extremely fascinating and thought-provoking but it also serves as an amazing basis for Ayliffe’s narrative.  The author does a fantastic job of wrapping his thrilling story around some of these elements, and it makes the overall narrative extremely relevant.

I also must highlight another significant contemporary inclusion that was featured in The Enemy Within, and that was the Australian Federal Police’s raids on Bailey’s house.  This police raid is a direct reference to a series of controversial raids that occurred on several media organisations, including ABC News (who Ayliffe works for), in relation to articles they published.  Ayliffe uses these real-life examples to really punch up what happens within The Enemy Within, and he produces some realistic scenes that were comparable to this.  The subject of the articles that prompt the raids are also very similar and feature another topic that is quite controversial in Australia in the moment, that of alleged war-crimes by Australian soldiers fighting in the Middle East.  Just like with the other divisive topics featured in this novel, Ayliffe did a fantastic job re-imagining these events in his novel, and it produces some excellent inclusions that will particularly resonate with an Australian audience.  I deeply appreciated the way in which he was able to work these events into his story, and I think that it made The Enemy Within a much more compelling and distinctive read.

I have to say that I also really loved the author’s use of setting in The Enemy Within.  This latest book is set in early 2020, when Sydney was surrounded by some of the worst bushfires in Australian history and the entire city was covered in smoke for months.  Ayliffe does an excellent job portraying these terrible conditions, no doubt drawn from his own personal experiences, and the reader gets a good idea of how difficult life was under those conditions (it certainly brought me back to that time, although we didn’t have it quite as bad down in Canberra).  Ayliffe uses this unique setting to full effect throughout the book and it provides some fitting atmosphere for the narrative, especially as the landscape reflects the simmering tensions flaring up within the city.  This was one of the more distinctive features of The Enemy Within, and I really appreciated the way the author used it to enhance his great story.  I also quite enjoyed the throwaway references to COVID-19, with none of the characters particularly concerned about it considering everything else that was happening, and I have no doubt that Ayliffe’s next novel will make great use of the pandemic in some way.

With his latest novel, The Enemy Within, Tim Ayliffe continues to showcase why he is one of the best new writers of Australian crime fiction.  The Enemy Within had an awesome and incredible story that perfectly brings in amazing contemporary Australian issues and settings, which are expertly worked into a thrilling novel.  I had an outstanding time reading this fantastic read and it comes highly recommended.

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.

Book Haul – 29 May 2021

It has been a little while since I have done a Book Haul post, so I figured it was a good time to look back at some of the amazing books that I have received in the last couple of weeks.  I have actually received quite an impressive haul recently, made up of a number of exciting and intriguing books, including a few novels that I have been looking forward to for some time.  Each of the books below have a lot of potential and I am really keen to check them all out as soon as I can.

 

Protector by Conn Iggulden

Protector Cover Final

Let us start this post off with one of my anticipated reads of 2021, Protector by Conn Iggulden.  Protector is the sequel to one of my favourite books from last year, The Gates of Athens, and will continue to follow the epic events of the Greek war against Persia.  Set to feature some major battles and Athenian politics, this is going to be an awesome and compelling novel and I look forward to checking it out.

 

Rabbits by Terry Miles

Rabbits Cover

Next we have this intriguing science fiction debut, Rabbits by Terry Miles.  Rabbits, which I have already read, is a weird and unique novel that sees a brilliant, yet troubled, protagonist attempt to play a legendary game with the fate of the universe in the balance.  A fantastic, if unusual read, I am hoping to get a review up for it soon.

 

The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy

The Ninth Metal Cover

Another book that I have already read, The Ninth Metal is an exciting and interesting science fiction read that follows the chaotic events occurring around a small-town in America that was the site of a meteor strike, leaving a vast amount of a rare, alien metal.  Featuring feuding companies, strange abilities and a fantastic goldrush mentality, this was a captivating and fun read.

 

The Enemy Within by Tim Ayliffe

The Enemy Within Cover

I also received a copy of the latest thriller from Australian author Tim Ayliffe, The Enemy Within.  This latest novel contains an intriguing narrative about neo-Nazis in Australia and a dangerous cover-up surrounding them.  I very much enjoyed Ayliffe’s first novel from a few years ago, The Greater Good, and I was honoured to see that my review for it was featured in the inner-cover of The Enemy Within.  I am looking forward to checking this novel out, although I may have to read the second novel, State of Fear, first.  

The Enemy Within Inner Cover (2)

 

Falling by T. J. Newman

Falling Cover

Another great book that I have received is the fantastic sounding thriller, Falling by T. J. Newman.  Falling contains a great story that sees a plane full of people at risk when their pilot’s family is kidnapped and threatened.  This debut novel from Newman already has a lot of buzz around it and I am very keen to check this one out.

 

Small Acts of Defiance by Michelle Wright

Small Acts of Defiance Cover

I am also very excited to check out another great debut, Small Acts of Defiance by Australian author Michelle Wright.  Small Acts of Defiance is a compelling historical drama set in occupied Paris.  I imagine this is going to be a pretty intense and impressive read and I am very excited to check it out.

 

The President’s Daughter by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

The President's Daughter Cover

The final novel I have received is the fun sounding thriller, The President’s Daughter by the remarkable team of Bill Clinton and James Paterson.  The President’s Daughter is the follow-up to the pair’s first novel, The President is Missing, and looks set to be another exciting and fantastic adventure of a rogue president going off on his own to save the people he loves.

 

In addition to some of the books I have received from publishers, I also went out on a bit of a shopping spree the other day and grabbed several amazing novels and comics that I have been really excited for.

 

A Comedy of Terrors by Lindsey Davis

A Comedy of Terrors Cover

There was no way that I could avoid getting a copy of the latest Flavia Albia novel by Lindsey Davis, A Comedy of Terrors, especially after how much I enjoyed her 2020 release, The Grove of the Caesars. This latest novel sets professional informer and investigator Flavia Albia up against a new and dangerous foe during the middle of a massive festival.  It sounds like a pretty awesome novel and I cannot wait to explore it’s brilliant mystery and fantastic humour.  

 

Blackout by Simon Scarrow

Blackout Cover

Blackout is a novel that I have been hoping to read for a very long time.  Written by one of my favourite authors, Simon Scarrow, Blackout is an excellent sounding murder mystery set in the midst of Nazi Germany during the war.  While I do prefer some of Scarrow’s Roman historical fiction novels, such as last years exciting The Emperor’s Exile, Blackout sounds like an exceptional read and I am very keen to check it out.

 

Breakout by Paul Herron

Breakout Cover

Another novel that I have been hoping to read for a while is the amazing thriller Breakout by Paul Herron.  Breakout has a fantastic sounding plot which forces a violent criminal and a forgotten prison guard to work together to survive the horrors of a flooding super-max prison with all the inmates let out.  This novel has so much potential for fun, action and excitement, and I imagine I will get through it in a very short amount of time.

 

Star Wars (2020): Volume Two: Operation Starlight by Charles Soule, Ramon Rosanas and Jan Bazaldua

Star Wars (2020) - Volume 2 Cover

The final entry on this book haul post is the second volume of the fantastic Star Wars (2020) comic series, Operation StarlightOperation Starlight continues to follow the adventures of Luke, Leia and Lando following the events of The Empire Strikes Back, and this latest volume forces them to face off with a dangerous foe.  I deeply enjoyed the first volume of this series, The Destiny Path, and after reading this second volume, Star Wars (2020) is swiftly becoming one of my favourite Star Wars comic book series of all time.

 

 

Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.

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

The Fifth Column Cover.png

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.

The Greater Good by Tim Ayliffe

The Greater Good Cover

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date – 23 April 2018

 

Australian author Tim Ayliffe presents a fantastic debut thriller set in iconic Sydney that delves into the heart of politics and the role of the media in the modern world.

John Bailey was a brilliant war correspondent for the Australian paper, The Journal.  However, his life took a downward turn when he was kidnapped in Iraq and tortured for several months.  Now, years later, Bailey is living a life of alcoholism and self-destruction, only occasionally contributing articles to The Journal.

However, when a prostitute is found murdered in her high-end Sydney apartment, his editor and old friend, Gerald Summers, sends him to investigate the crime, claiming that Bailey is the only person he trusts to report the story.  The prime suspect in the case is an influential political advisor who had a close relationship with the victim.  When Bailey encounters the advisor, he claims to have information that will clear his name, while at the same time implicating his boss, the defence minister.

After a run-in with an old friend in the CIA, Bailey soon realises that there is much more to this story than a simple murder.  Investigating further, he soon discovers that the murder was committed to cover up a massive conspiracy that the defence minister is linked to.  When witnesses to the crime start turning up dead and the police are pressured to drop their investigation, Bailey is determined to uncover the truth and publish the full story.  But powerful people are invested in keeping this case quiet, and Bailey soon finds himself in their crosshairs.

This is an exciting and high-energy first book from Ayliffe, who makes full use of his journalistic experience and political insights to create a smashing thriller with a tangible Australian presence.  The investigation into the conspiracy and its associated murders works well as the heart of this story, and readers are invited along on a wild thrill ride as the protagonists rush through this murky world of Australian politics and espionage in a quest to find the truth.

The character of Bailey serves as a great central narrator for this frenetic story, and readers will love the maverick approach he has to investigating the case and the lack of restraint of manners he has when it comes to dealing with Sydney’s political and financial elite.  Ayliffe also spends a significant amount of time attempting to humanise his main character by examining his past as a prisoner and the effects his PTSD has had on his life and career.  There are some great, emotional scenes as Bailey attempts to get over his problems with the help of other characters, and Bailey comes across as a much more grounded and damaged protagonist as a result.  The other main narrator in The Greater Good is Sharon Dexter, who serves as the official police investigator and Bailey’s main love interest.  Her investigation focuses more on cover-ups, sexism, and corruption in the police force, and these parts of the book serve as a great counterpoint to the sections featuring Bailey.

Ayliffe has made full use of his political knowledge and insight throughout this book.  A large amount of the plot revolves around both Australian and international politics, and readers will be amazed at the potential conspiracy he is able to create.  Various Australian political elements are dragged into the story and play a key part of the plot.  These include discussions about pre-selections of federal seats, government spending and the role of several federal government agencies.  World politics and the current status of Australia on the world stage are also examined within the story.  There is a large focus on the expanding role of China, and the discussion about whether Australia should strengthen its relationship with this new world power or whether it should maintain its current relationship with the United States.  This discussion is a key part of understanding the plot, and plays out in the book in a similar manner to current debates on the subject within Australia.  This adds a real sense of realism to the story and makes readers, especially those familiar with current Australian news and politics, very thoughtful.

Throughout The Greater Good, the main characters are attempting to obtain evidence of a conspiracy so that they can print it in their newspaper, The Journal.  As a result, the role of print media in keeping government’s honest and uncovering political corruption is examined in some detail.  It is clear that Ayliffe, a career Australian journalist, is very supportive of the media remaining in this role, and many of his characters are quite critical of attempts to stall the publication of these stories.  This allegorical analysis of the current role of media in politics and society is an intriguing part of the book and many readers will find this exceedingly relevant in light of recent world events.

Readers also need to keep an eye out for Ayliffe’s clever and entertaining inclusion of characters that are clearly based on real life Australian personalities.  For example, the fictional Australian Prime Minister is described as an athletic man who is known for his fun runs and surfing, in a way reminiscent of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.  In addition, certain plot twists towards the end of the book will also remind the audience of another previous Prime Minster.  Another example is a minor character who is introduced as a prominent talk show radio host.  This character appears to be a composite creation of several of Australia’s right-wing radio commentators and comes across in a very similar manner to these real life presenters.  These cheeky additions are a fun inclusion that will amuse readers with even a passing knowledge of these Australian personalities.

In many ways The Greater Good can be considered a love letter to the author’s home city of Sydney, as it contains a number of different locations and references that will be quite familiar to Sydneysiders.  The narrator visits a number of different suburbs within Sydney, including Palm Beach, King Street, Finger Wharf at Woolloomooloo, Bondi and Chinatown, and also frequents some real life Sydney venues, such as Harry’s Café de Wheels.  Not only is the food, geographical location and description of this Sydney café described in the text, but the author has also included a write-up of the restaurant’s owners and its history.  In addition to furnishing the story with real life Sydney locations, Ayliffe also includes brief references to events and occurrences that Australians would recognise the significance of, such as Australian rugby, lockout laws and the current ice epidemic.  While none of these locations or occurrences is essential to the plot, they do add a certain sense of reality to the entire novel, and Australian readers will enjoy seeing locations and scenarios that they recognise and understand.

Tim Ayliffe’s debut novel, The Greater Good, is a fun and exhilarating political crime thriller that is guaranteed to electrify and entertain in good measure.  Making full use of Ayliffe’s extensive knowledge of Australian politics, culture and media, this very topical book is an excellent read for Australian audiences and those international readers keen to explore Australia’s potential for thrillers.

My Rating:

Four stars