The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan

Gina Davies, aka ‘The Doll’ is a pole dancer from Sydney, who yearns for a better life for herself.  To The Doll, all that matters is the pursuit of money and all the pleasures that it can being (such as designer clothes, accessories etc.).  One night, The Doll has a one night stand with a stranger named Tariq, who has disappeared by morning.  At around the same time, three unexploded bombs are discovered, and Gina discovers that Tariq is a suspected terrorist…and as someone who has been seen with him, she finds herself a suspected terrorist (the ‘unknown terrorist’ of the title).

The Doll goes on the run, while around her the media whips Sydney into a state of panic about the threat of terrorism.  An unsavoury journalist jumps on the bandwagon in an attempt to rescue his own flagging career, and soon the situation becomes a major news story, with Gina as public enemy number one.

 

This book can be enjoyed as a straightforward thriller, but there is a a subtext, showing how the media manipulate people’s fears, and how such fears give society justification for vilifying people, with nothing concrete to base their feelings on.  Scariest of all was the fact that it is easy to see how such a situation could happen in today’s culture of fear.

It’s a fast moving story (despite taking place over only a few days); the first half however was more enjoyable for me than the second half, which seemed to get a bit bogged down by some overwrought prose.  It also felt a little preachy towards the end, but overall this did not detract from the story.

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