Review Blog

Sep 18 2017

The list by Michael Brissenden

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Hachette, 2017. ISBN 9780733637421
(Age: Senior secondary, adult) Recommended. Crime, Terrorism, Afghanistan. When young Muslim men on the terrorism watch list turn up dead, Sidney Allen and his partner, Haifa, are sent in to investigate. They are part of the K Block, a section within the Federal Police devoted to investigating terrorism within Australia. Three of these men have had their right hand removed, prompting Sid to think further than terrorist related deaths or deaths to do with gangs or drugs. When forensics reveals that the same gun has been used, and several of the men have been tortured, Sid concludes that these are revenge murders and the murderer is working to a list. But who that person is and why he is killing is harder to work out.
The opening chapter of the book, set in Afghanistan, provides a clue as to where the book is headed, and throughout the story, Brissenden gives the readers background information about the wars in the Middle East and how Australia is involved.
It makes for an informed and educative read, and the story powers along, taking the eager reader with it.
Sid's partner Haifa is part of a Lebanese family in Sydney's west, with two brothers jailed for drug offences and a third brother a darling of the political community, seemingly bridging the gap between Muslim and non Muslim. Haifa is torn between her family's values and those of the bureaucracy with which she works, and Brissenden eagerly reveals some of the tensions which exist between the characters. A relationship which develops between Sid and Haifa muddies their professional relationship and causes tensions within the whole group. But when Sid is kidnapped by the murderer, he realises that they must work together to find the terrorist called Scorpion to stop a major event happening in Sydney.
Brissendden delivers an acton packed page turner, revealing the nuances of understanding between all the protagonists, highlighting the range of opinions within each community and so reiterating just how multi layered this issue is in the modern world. He has used his experience as a journalist to add many real stories adding a layer of truthfulness to the fictional story. The climax reveals just how political decisions are when it comes to dealing with terrorists as those in power vacillate, looking at the implications for their electorate if a particular decision is made. It makes for fascinating reading, revealing a layer of complexity that for many will be unsettling and for some, shocking.
Fran Knight

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