Review: Dead Letters by Michael Brissenden

It’s been a while between drinks for Michael Brissenden and his cop hero Sid Allen. “The List,” published in 2017, was a satisfying thriller, if not a tad mechanical in its unravelling: a blend of “Bosch” and “24,” one part police procedural, another part political thriller. Its direct sequel “Dead Letters,” one of those dreaded sophomore novels, is superior in every way: tighter-plotted, richer in character, and pacier. 

It opens with the murder of Dan LeRoi, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, whose burgeoning political career is cut short by four bullets to the head. The crime scene is chaotic, a kaleidoscope of local and federal investigators, the media swarming on the biggest news story of the year. 

Among them is journalist Zephyr Wilde, a Lois Lane facsimile, whose tenaciousness is rooted in her tragic past. When she was a kid, Zephyr’s mother was killed by an unsub. It’s a cold case that’s remained on ice despite her dogged attempts to probe deeper, fuelled by letters from her long-dead mother that keep appearing in her mailbox. Breaking the golden rule of their professions, Sid and Zephyr partner up to look into LeRoi’s murder against the backdrop of a looming federal election. In doing so they awaken dark, dangerous forces operating within the corridors of power in Canberra. Brissenden weaves these threads together with skill, and pulls the curtain down with a couple of piercing twists.

Despite a deluge of brilliantly distinct local crime fiction published over the last half-decade, Australia — specifically Sydney, the city closest to my heart — is still looking for its answer to Michael Connelly and his (now former) LAPD detective Harry Bosch. The crime genre is so malleable, but the police procedural is my favourite form. Michael Brissenden’s Sid Allen series might be just what I’m looking for.

ISBN: 9780733637445
ISBN-10: 0733637442
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 368
Available: 27th January 2021
Publisher: Hachette Australia

Review: The List by Michael Brissenden

9780733637421Sidney Allen and Haifa Hourani are part of the Australian Federal Police’s K Block, tasked with doing whatever it takes to stop terrorist attacks on home soil. When young Muslim men on the Terror Watchlist start turning up dead, the two cops investigate, and uncover an incredible terrorist plot that would decimate Sydney.

“The List” is a blend of Bosch and 24; one part police procedural, another part political thriller. Michael Brissenden clearly knows his stuff, and this is professional work by the veteran journalist, whose debut is suffused with authenticity. Here he touches on relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia, and ISIS’ mastery at messaging and manipulation. Some of this detail is a little too expository, stuttering the momentum of Brissenden’s narrative, and too many events happen to (or around) its dual investigators rather than generated by them. But these are storytelling imperfections easily ironed out in future instalments, in what has the potential to be a long-running Sydney-based crime series.

ISBN: 9780733637421
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368
Imprint: Hachette Australia
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publish Date: 25-Jul-2017
Country of Publication: Australia