Tim Ayliffe is one of Australian crime fiction’s most reliable entertainers, and “The Enemy Within” is another sure-footed mystery starring investigative journalist John Bailey.
It begins in medias res, with a body falling from the sky and crashing to the pavement right in front of Bailey’s eyes. Sickened by the sight, but having witnessed worse horrors in Afghanistan, he approaches the body, sidestepping the pool of blood spreading across the concrete.
Of course, he recognises the man.
Smash-cut to a week earlier, in the middle of ‘the summer that Australia burned,’ when COVID-19 barely rated a mention on the news, and Bailey is working on a story involving the rise of right-wing extremism in Australia, inspired by a global white supremacist group, whose neo-Nazi leader has arrived in Sydney to fan the flames of insurrection.
Before we return to the opening scene, Bailey’s home is raided by the Federal Police, an innocent man is beaten into a coma, and CIA veteran Ronnie Johnson has inserted himself into proceedings. By which time there’s still half the story to tell, with a giant conspiracy to uncover, confront — and survive.
Ayliffe isn’t necessarily a stylist, but his prose has an enviable purity: no extra word or superfluous paragraph takes up space; it’s as authoritatively orchestrated as anything in the genre. This spareness endows the narrative with inexorable momentum, and keeps the intricate and timely plot from tangling.
Ayliffe’s early promise (“The Greater Good”) has been borne out nicely by succeeding novels. I hope there’s more to come.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
Publication Date: July 28, 2021
Length: 368 pages