The Twentieth Man by Tony Jones
PUBLISHED BY ALLEN & UNWIN
REVIEW BY ALLY M
Set in the 1970s and focusing on a terror threat against the Yugoslavian prime minister visiting Australia, the Twentieth Man follows a young female journalist with a political past. Anna's father was a leading communist in Australia and her ex-boyfriend Marin – who's mysteriously disappeared – is the son of a Croatian community leader who was part of an SS-type police force and is still a dangerous man.
The story meanders through Anna cutting her teeth at the ABC and giving credibility to her research, to the ultimate radio airing of an exposé on the Croatian secret police and war crimes committed.
The book gains traction with Anna's move to Canberra as a political correspondent for 'The Herald'. This coincides with the new Whitlam government gaining power, as the socialist attorney general Lionel Murphy starts to stir things up with ASIO.
Anna is a likeable character and her plight in clearly a male dominated working world is handled cleverly and without fanfare. She is who she is; she is respected, albeit begrudgingly, for her work – and she tells those she needs to to fuck off as and when necessary.
Anna's storyline intermingles with Marin's – who was sent to Bosnia to begin an uprising – a stuttering ASIO spy, and the detective team trying to shut the terrorist group down. Each of the main characters have depth and are memorable.
The story is a little slow at the start and really doesn't need the ABC background story, but once past that it moves quickly, can be gripping and the end draws all the pieces together cleverly and with a punch.
Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.