Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan

The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan
First published in the UK by Grove Press in May 2007.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Railways and WorldReads: Australia

How I got this book:
Bought the audio book via Audible

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a one-night stand with an attractive stranger, pole-dancer Gina Davies finds herself prime suspect in an attempted terrorist attack on Sydney. Hunted by the police, her face stares back at her on the unremitting 24/7 news cycle. She is soon running away from her dreams for a better life and witnessing every truth turn into a betrayal.

The Unknown Terrorist is a startlingly prescient novel that drums with the cadences of city life; where fear invades individual lives, pushing one woman ever closer to breaking point.

The Unknown Terrorist is a fairly standard thriller which employs the mass media and an unscrupulous journalist as its evil. Our supposed heroine, Gina, also named throughout as The Doll, is hounded to madness over the period of just a few days by drummed up hysteria and the cynical machinations of anonymous powerful men in suits.

I was interested in the descriptions of Sydney, having never been to Australia. However, Flanagan's vision of the city is hardly tourist friendly! I liked his frequent mentions of the various immigrant populations, showing a country made up of many layers of cultures, much like Britain, and the way this was set against rampant hostility towards Muslims was also sadly familiar as this attitude is also widespread over here. The main characters never leapt from the page for me though which made it difficult for me to really invest in their story.

I'm not sure this book had decided what it wanted to be. It doesn't have the pace-at-all-costs approach of slick American thrillers, but the occasions where it tries for literary fiction fail too because of their isolation. My audio version was nicely narrated and passed a week of bus journeys, but I had hoped for a deeper novel and was ultimately a bit disappointed.

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  1. Sorry that this one was a bit of a disappointment for you. I really do need to feel at least some kind of connection to the characters for a story to really work for me in most cases as well.

    1. It was ok and passed the time! Good for the Sydney aspects, but the thriller side didn't work so well for me

  2. I'm sorry to hear you didn't like it more.