Like a brick through a plate glass window, Michael Brissenden’s debut novel, THE LIST, grabs attention, raises the heartbeat, and showers an all encompassing thriller in shards of intrigue, tension and sharp wit.
Sifting through those shards, the shrapnel of evidence, clues, markers and pointers is primarily the job of the Australian Federal Police’s K Block, a unit doing whatever it takes to to stop terrorist attacks on home soil.
The pebble that starts the ripple, the murder and mutilation of young Muslim men on the Terror Watchlist, soon becomes a stone around the neck of investigators. They know it’s a message, but from whom and about what? Is it a serial revenge spree perpetrated by a rogue agent or a harbinger of a greater horror to come?
THE LIST’s central character is Sid Allen, a Fed assigned to K Block after having served in Iraq, where he lost his partner, Rosie. In Sydney, Sid is partnered with HaifaHourani, a beautiful Lebanese with a brain the size of a planet and expert in Arabic and Farsi.
She’s estranged from her brother, a charismatic character purporting to be a moderate, determined to be a major player in the political landscape of modern Australia.
Chief suspect in the murder and dismemberment of the Muslim men is a returned Australian soldier who had his hand hacked off in Afghanistan, by an assailant code named The Scorpion. He’s working off one list to discover another list – an inventory of cells and targets that are heart-stoppingly imminent.
Together with his sensational sense of pace, Brissenden conjures a superb sense of place, mapping out Sydney streets and neighbourhoods with geographical accuracy and accompanying nuance.
Crisp characterisation and wry psychological, sociological and political observations, reminiscent of Peter Corris, deliver a complete package.
Where Sid goes, trouble is a fellow traveller and Brissenden barrels the journey at urgent speed and tremendous zest, ripping the headlines from today’s news to produce a thriller as relentless as the 24 hour news cycle.
Verisimilitude veritably oozes out of every twist and turn thanks to Brissenden’s thirty years as a journalist and foreign correspondent, including a stint as the ABC’s Defence and National Security Correspondent.
THE LIST has “soon to be a major television event” (hopefully on the ABC) written all over it.
Resistance is futile, add THE LIST to your list of must reads (and Fathers Day prezzie list) and surrender to a superior storyteller.
THE LIST by Michael Brissenden is published by Hachette Australia
Featured Image – Journalist and novelist Michael Brissenden.