Books & Literature

Book Review: The Enemy Within, by Tim Ayliffe

ACTION: Journalist John Bailey has been investigating the rise of a global white supremacist group and suspects that a notorious neo-Nazi in the United States has been directing deadly racist attacks on Sydney’s streets. Now someone wants to stop him doing what he does best – exposing the truth.

Ayliffe’s new work, while not as strong as the first two, is a welcome addition to the John Bailey canon and one for the devotee.

Journalist John Bailey returns in the third book from Tim Ayliffe, The Enemy Within. Bailey (as he prefers to be called) first appeared in 2018 in Ayliffe’s first novel, The Greater Good, reappearing in 2019’s State of Fear.

Previously, Bailey has been chased by his past. Now, he is caught up in an all-too-real nightmare: the pervasion of White Supremacy online that has been the cornerstone of ‘current affairs’ for the last few years. As he begins a new job with a yet-to-be-released monthly publication, Bailey enters the world of Aryan dogma by attending a rally headlined by an international speaker who spouts the kind of propaganda designed to incite hatred and violence.

Little does Bailey know that his fact-gathering will have severe personal ramifications and draw him directly into the maw of this all-consuming beast. But as we know from the previous novels, Bailey is not one to take these things lying down. When the police come knocking on his door, alleging to be investigating his actions of nearly a decade earlier, the gloves are off and Bailey will not stop until he finds the truth.

Ayliffe’s latest novel, as with the previous two, is an easy read and a welcome return for his rough and tumble character. Bailey is a mouthy, brash, ‘dog with a bone’ type and that is what makes him such an engaging character. His mouth is always landing him in trouble with those both inside and outside the law.

A number of the core satellite characters return, with one playing a major role in driving the story forward. Not much is seen of any of them, however, this time around. With the exception of the enigmatic former CIA Agent Ronnie, with his ever-present cigar and Jack Reacher-esque knack for hand-to-hand combat.

The slightest drawback of such a prolonged delay in releasing this novel comes in the form of an aspect which is weaved throughout the work. As with Chris Hammer’s Trust, the Sydney landscape is continually referenced in terms of the ashen impact of the 2019/20 bushfires. With COVID-19 having been at the fore for so long now (and a throwaway line within the novel) this mars the book’s timeliness with its overt presence in the now.

It is also a bit of a patchwork model this time. There are a few incidental flashback chapters, serving to inform circumstances in greater detail. Flashbacks have been essential to the previous two novels, due to their overt need for reader understanding of the present. This time around, they feel almost superfluous.

In closing, it is interesting to note that the originally planned third John Bailey novel, Nowhere Man, is now scheduled for a 2022 release. As this was scheduled back when the first novel was released, it may explain the lessened power of this surprise inclusion. That said, it is positive news, meaning that the originally conceived trilogy will be extended and John Bailey will return.

See our reviews of Tim Ayliffe’s other novels The Greater Good here and State of Fear here.

Reviewed by Glen Christie

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster
Released: July 2021
RRP: $32.99

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