He’s the only one who can stop a massacre … The unputdownable action thriller from Australia’s no.1 true crime writer.
Riley Jax, convicted murderer. Once a promising engineer in the army, he lost everything in a single night when he killed a man – an act he cannot remember.
It’s a devastating gap in an otherwise perfect memory.
Now he’s facing a new life, one behind bars, where he has to learn a whole different set of rules and only the toughest survive.
And as a series of deadly bombings rocks the outside world, the only man who might be able to find the truth behind the conspiracy… is on the inside.
Australia’s no.1 true crime writer lets his imagination off the leash in this unputdownable action thriller for all fans of Matthew Reilly, Lee Child and David Baldacci.
Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:
The Inside Man: say goodbye to your weekend and hold onto your seats! This really is unputdownable from James Phelps, I’ve read Australian Heist but never made the connection he wrote that til I googled him. You will think this has been written in collaboration with Mr Matthew Reilly himself, I’ve read every Matthew Reilly at least twice. Masterfully written, expertly researched, it truly is gripping and full of suspense. Riley Jax is big screen movie worthy. Big thanks to Better Reading for supporting this! Penny, NSW, 5 Stars
This book felt like it was a very promising start to the beginning of a series featuring Riley Jax – similar to the Alex Cross style of book, but from a different perspective. This book was really enjoyable, took a lot of time setting the scene – hence why I thought it might be a series of books. It also provided an insight into life behind bars, along with showing how criminals still have important skills which should be utilised, and aren’t always bad people. This was a really entertaining book, and probably the best I have read this year and I hope my prediction of a series of books comes true. If you like a good crime book, this should definitely be on your list. Kerrie, NSW, 5 Stars
One of the best thrillers that I have read so far this year. Oh so look forward to further James Phelps books. Might just give his true crime books a go. Loved how Phelps has mixed things that have happened around the world into a story that I couldn’t put down and needed to know what was going to happen next. Terrorism, jihads, massacres involving innocent people in churches, bikies, prisons, government agencies etc… all into one little book that is an explosion to read. Loved every single page. It was interesting to read how different people’s minds worked and how they were thinking. How gangs and agencies are run and how easily they manipulate everyday life. You do wonder if it does happen in real life. There are also some really scary people out there as we discover in this book and I’m glad the Serpent is not a real person……. or is he. Jax of course was my favourite character and I can see how he became the Inside Man. Great Aussie thriller which I can see being made into a movie. James Phelps, you definitely have a new fan here. Maria, SA, 5 Stars
Wow, what a ride! The Inside Man by James Phelps is an absolute corker. So intense in parts, I had to put it down, but I always wanted to pick it back up. From the beginning, I was drawn into this story and I was invested in Jax’s character. The violence was not gratuitous, but so well written that it conveyed more than was on the page. Not thrilled about how it ended, but I won’t spoil it, however, it looks like it’s been set up for more instalments, and I look forward to them. Thank you to Better Reading for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Tracy, VIC, 5 Stars
Wow Wow Wow!! What an awesome page turner!! Set in two of Australia’s maximum security prisons, this is a must read!! This book took you into the prisoners cells like you were actually there, looking over your shoulder waiting for the next threat!! The characters feel real and scary!! I love learning about what bad things the prisoners get up to and how dangerous a place it is. The main character Riley Jax, is tough and extremely intelligent. He goes to great lengths to help solve where the next bombing will be. I loved how you learn how far the secret service can go to protect their countries against Bombers!! With highly trained agents and nothing is off limits to take down the bombers!! Highly recommend!! Judy, NSW, 5 Stars
Meet Riley Jax. He was a promising engineer in the army. Now he’s a convicted murderer. One night a murder was committed – something he doesn’t recall doing. Now he starts over in prison where there are new rules and you have to be tough to survive. Now Jax finds himself being the only one who can stop a massacre on the outside. An action thriller that can’t be put down from beginning to end. Catherine, NSW, 5 Stars
The Inside Man by James Phelps is an action thriller book. With characters set all around the world and one in prison in Australia, time is ticking to stop the devastating bombings. Can the man who can stop the bombings do it from prison? Great book which I couldn’t put down. Heather, NSW, 5 Stars
This was a fast paced action thriller that really kept me on my toes. Jax, good army guy, was put in jail for murder. Whilst inside this book gives a realistic view of the fear, violence and sexual assault. Jax is to help find the people responsible for bombing churches. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more from this author. Renee, QLD, 5 Stars
Wow, I was pleasantly surprised with this novel. When I first started reading this book I didn’t think I would enjoy it. I don’t usually like reading books that are so vivid involving crimes, torture and harming of others. But this novel got me hooked and I couldn’t put it down. The book is about a young soldier, Riley Jax, who was convicted and jailed for a murder he can’t remember committing. Jax loses everything, his army career and his Fiancé Nicki due to his conviction and is now facing a new life behind bars, having to adapt and learn a new set of rules that are so very different to his life as an engineer in the army. He is a very intelligent man with a perfect memory. On the outside a series of terrorist church bombings around the world are taking place. Hudson Sami is head of CIA’s Russia and European Analysis team. He tracks the bombings mastermind to the Goulburn Jail in NSW Australia. Sami learns of Jax’s intelligence and enlists him as The Inside Man to assist the CIA to prevent further bombings. I so hope that this is a series as it finishes with a lot of unanswered question. I would love to know what happens to Jax and how he reacts when he finds out what really happened on the night of the murder and where this leads him. Thank you to Better Reading and Harper Collins for giving me the opportunity to read and review this wonderful novel. Renae, QLD, 5 Stars
The Inside Man by James Phelps was an eye opener to what life on the inside is like. And it’s not a place I would want to be. At first it is a bit confusing but it all comes together in an unexpected end. It is well worth a read. Shani, NSW, 5 Stars
Brutal, graphic, and fast-paced, the meticulous detail in this white knuckle ride enhances the sense of reality, without diminishing the flow of this white knuckled ride, it’s for fans of Matthew Reilly and David Baldacci. Alanna, QLD, 5 Stars
Having not read any books in quite a while, it was pure pleasure to delve back into such a quality to read as The Inside Man. I found myself immersed in the perils of Jax and seriously couldn’t put it down. This book has made me realise my mistake of not making more time to read. Wonderful writing that conjures not only images but sounds and smells, had me willingly captured. Kathy, WA, 5 Stars
Firstly, let me just say wow! What a gripping thriller! James Phelps’ new novel The Inside Man is unputdownable and will keep you turning pages into the wee hours of the night. The protagonist, Riley Jax, wakes up at six am on a Monday in his room at Holsworthy Army Base in Sydney to find a dead man sharing his room. The unknown man had been shot in the chest and in the head. However, Jax has no memory of the man, firing his gun or even why this man is in his room. If that doesn’t grab you immediately, throw in the fact that Jax has a remarkable memory and remembers every detail of his life until 8.14 pm of the previous night…the intrigue begins. Phelps is able to portray prison life in Australia in such incredible detail that you are left feeling terrified for the characters. With incredible action, believable dialogue and surprising twists, readers will be left gasping throughout its pages – the pace does not stop. This is not necessarily a novel that I would immediately gravitate towards, however, I am ecstatic that I had the opportunity to read a preview copy and I will be looking out for Phelps’ novels in the future. Genene, SA, 5 Stars
The Inside Man by James Phelps is a cracking read from go to whoa. Not a genre I would normally pick but thanks to #BRPreview and an advance reading copy I dipped my toes into the water then plunged right in! The main character Riley Jax is ex military, in prison for a murder he doesn’t remember committing….strange since he is a rare individual, a mnemonist who remembers everything. In prison, Riley must adapt and survive a brutal environment. The threat of violence is ever present and soon rears its ugly head. The graphic horror of what goes on is terrifying but believable in the context, particularly when you take into account the author’s background in true crime reporting. Against this narrative, we have a series of terrorist attacks happening in churches around the world and when links are made to Goulburn jail, Riley is bought in as “The Inside Man” to help uncover the cell and prevent further attacks. The machinations of the CIA and ASIO who must work together while revealing as little as possible to Jax are interesting and come to a head at the conclusion of the novel….a sequel looks highly likely and I for one, will be looking out for the next instalment. Lesley, SA, 5 Stars
Riley Jax joined the Army straight from school. He is young and has an eidetic and mnemonic memory. One morning he wakes to find a gun in his hand and a dead man in his room but no memory of that happened. He is sentenced and sent to Long Bay Prison, Where he soon learns about the prison hierarchy and who to pay either in drugs or cash for protection. Christian churches are being bombed around the world and hundreds killed but no terrorist group is claiming responsibility. The only person who can find the bombers are Jax with his memory, but he is locked up, so how can he find a reason for the attacks, who is doing them and where the next one will occur?? Liz, VIC, 5 Stars
Wow! At first I felt a feeling of déjà vu when reading the first few pages as it felt like something I had read or seen before but nope, this book took me in for a ride that I certainly had not read or seen before! A great twisty, turny plot and strong characters to follow. Without spoiling the ending, I have to know, will there be a sequel?!? I guess we will have to wait and see… Melanie, VIC, 5 Stars
A gritty, confronting and riveting read that has you wanting more, as I’m sure there will be a series of Riley Jax, the main character. I’ll be the first in line to read it. Liz, QLD, 5 Stars
Wow…what an explosive and addictive fiction debut! Unputdownable is correct! The book takes you on a tense, provocative, and extremely realistic journey inside prison life following Riley Jax, a convicted murderer who lost everything and is sent to the notorious Long Bay Prison. Add in an intriguing and deadly global terrorist campaign that promises to coincide and keep you guessing and you have one thrilling prison/spy/crime thriller! It is very clear from the beginning, the author has drawn from his experience writing true crime novels, as I was drawn into a realistic and believable world of inside prison life as I was drawn into the journey right beside Riley Jax and everything that was thrown at him. Not for the faint heart and weak stomach! The Inside Man delivered… I honestly did not expect a book I could not put down from start to finish that kept me fixated with the main character right from the outset. The perfect book for fans of true crime who want to step over to the amazing world of fiction novels! A truly provocative, action thriller of a debut! Keith, VIC, 5 Stars
Phelps is a literary genius. This novel by far is a breakthrough. I sank my teeth into this read and found it spine-tingling, moreish. I highly recommend it to all his fans! Izabella, VIC, 5 Stars
James Phelps’ The Inside Man is a fast paced, action packed thriller with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing. It deals with the harsh realities of prison life, violence, sexual assault and organised crime. If you’re ok with that, The Inside Man is a ripper read, with hopefully more to come. Thanks to Better Reading for introducing me to James Phelps’ work. Imogen, VIC, 4 Stars
This was my first book by James Phelps and I really enjoyed his style of writing (I am a fan of crime). Whilst this is a fiction novel, the majority of the book is set in a maximum-security prison in NSW which gives the reader a look into the harsh realities of prison life. The main character is called Riley Jax, a young army soldier who is jailed for a murder he can’t remember committing. So he goes from living in the free world to trying to survive and adapt in a new world which has its own rules and hierarchy. Whilst trying to navigate life in the prison system, there is a something bigger happening in the free world… terror attacks against churches around the world, and apparently, they are being orchestrated from the very prison Riley now calls home. His job as ‘The Inside Man’ is to try and find out who but with very little information sent his way and a not so great working relationship of the CIA & ASIO things are bound to clash and come to heads. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a complimentary copy of this book to read and review. Laura, WA, 4 Stars
The Inside Man by James Phelps introduces us to a young protagonist, Riley Jax, who is incarcerated for a murder, a crime that he cannot remember. Jax, a young soldier, is sent to a notorious maximum security prison where he has to deal with murderous inmates to survive. At the same time the world is rocked by a series of deadly bombings. Jax’s exceptional memory and intelligence brings him to the notice of the CIA who enlist his help. I really enjoyed the pace of this story. There were no boring bits. The insight into prison life was brutal and very realistic. Despite this I liked Jax and wanted the outcome for him to be favourable. The ending left me with some unanswered questions about Jax’s life and hoping that his story will continue in another book. Karin, VIC, 4 Stars
Riley Jax is the central character of this novel, he is ex-military now serving a prison sentence for a murder he has no recollection of committing. The main plot revolves around Jax’s life in prison where the author cleverly draws comparisons between serving in a war zone and serving time in jail. The two subplots keep the reader guessing how all the different threads will eventually come together. Jax’s character evolves throughout the story, with nothing being as it initially seems as Jax’s military and prison experience become crucial to averting disaster on a global scale. The Inside Man will appeal to lovers of crime thrillers, as it takes the reader on a wild ride with many twists and turns and even when it seems like all has been revealed, it hasn’t. Sue, VIC, 4 Stars
Loved this book. It kept me intrigued until the very end. Madelaine, NSW, 4 Stars
Let me start by saying that The Inside Man isn’t within my usual genre of choice but I’m so glad I read it. I found James Phelps’ style of writing skilful and utterly compelling with his experience clearly evident. The main character, Jax, was definitely a person that you’d want on your side! For all his brutality his personality was understandable and the workings of the inside of a maximum security prison a real eye opener. This was truly a journey into the underbelly of prison life and how it would affect not only your own life but your loved ones too which is a subject not often written about. The “unputdownable” label on this one is apt and delivers a nice Aussie twist to this type of book which I find sadly mostly dominated by an American flavour. Raised questions in my mind also about how much we’re really being told about important global events in the mainstream media. A good read and I’m sure we’ll be reading much more from James Phelps in the future. Faye, QLD, 4 Stars
I really enjoyed this book and the characters. The author has a real understanding of inside a prison from his previous books. The main character was really likeable. You are feeling his pain and frustrations while reading it. Really hoping this will be a series. Robbi, QLD, 4 Stars
I was fortunate to receive a free copy of this book, and I agreed to submit a review. It is a fast-paced story with plenty of action and spy activities, plus I would say the details of prison life would be a convincing deterrent for many who think they can risk committing crimes which would land them in jail! The main character has my sympathy. He seems like a really good guy but has copped some pretty rotten luck. This book isn’t my usual choice of genre but it kept my interest to the final page. Marnie, NSW, 4 Stars
There will be people who love this book however it took me a while to warm to it. I found there was some completely unnecessary and quite graphic details which did not add anything to the story or the characters. I even questioned the authors intentions for including it. The sensationalism and inaccuracies about the Australian prison system was really off putting BUT I persevered and once I reached the middle of the book it was actually hard to put down!! The twists and turns as you reach the finale were fantastic and you can’t help but love and be fascinated by the main character Riley Jax. This is a good book and those who like the Jack Reacher series will enjoy this one too. Emma, QLD, 4 Stars
If you are looking for thrills, this book will give you mountains of ghastly, gripping, grimy, blood-curdling insights into life inside the hellish hole of a prison. If innocent before entering, one soon learns to defend yourself however possible. Use of pills, chemicals, zip-ties, understanding of someone’s anatomy, psychological games, stealth, lies, no flight responses, just fight here; your own body becoming the weapon of choice. Riley Jax, the primary character of the book finds himself in this predicament in Long Bay Jail, Sydney, NSW. He finds plenty of motives for murderous intentions bordering on madness amongst the prisoners including himself whilst enduring plenty of physical injuries. However, halfway through the book along with his newfound confidence and the help of visitors, there is a paradigm shift. We become aware of Jax’s unique memory and special abilities as an ex-army engineer. He observes closely who is who in the gang groups and hierarchies within the controlled restricted environment. He learns all the tricks of smuggling and favours required to be protected, or not of choice; and yet always to remain strong and alert. He is able to tap into information on all the prisoners, to discover what sort of links they may have. A series of planned undercover operations of several bombings of significance were occurring all over the world. Turns out he is the man on the inside who has the intelligence and ability to decipher the links not dissimilar to a virulent virus that does not need prison walls to operate effectively. Alison, QLD, 4 Stars
I finished this book in my pyjamas on the couch with my cat curled up at my feet, but I felt like I was sitting in a cinema watching the end credits roll on a Hollywood blockbuster. My heart rate was up, my mind was racing and I was blown away that a book could deliver the same impact as a big-screen action thriller. Congratulations to Australian author James Phelps on his first crime fiction novel. I haven’t read any of his best-selling true crime stories, but I’m already anticipating the sequel to The Inside Man that the final chapter of this book alludes to. The story starts with Riley Jax, a promising young engineer in the army, waking up to find a murdered man in his dorm and all the evidence pointing to him. He doesn’t remember anything and soon finds himself behind bars in a maximum-security prison. The first quarter of the book is devoted to setting the scene, which may sound boring but isn’t. The author paints a vivid and unsettling image of prison life, introducing us to a cast of unsavoury characters and the life or death decisions every inmate has to make that will either seal their fate or determine the quality of their life while they serve their sentence. I instantly liked Riley for his integrity and heart, which is precisely why I feared for him every time he left his cell. There is one scene that was particularly difficult to read. Had it been on the big screen, I know my eyes would have been squeezed shut. Before I knew it, the book changed pace as Riley becomes the only man who might be able to stop a series of deadly bombings that are happening in the outside world. At times graphic, this book is spy thriller meets action with a good dose of mystery and a dash of romance. Eynas, SA, 4 Stars
A book with lots of twists and turns and a surprising ending. It’s a good look into the CIA and governments as to what they are capable of doing. The book also offered insights to high maximum prisons. I enjoyed it once the pieces started to fall into place. Margie, VIC, 4 Stars
Thanks James Phelps for writing this very gritty, thrilling, dark and graphic novel that describes life on the inside, of the difficulty of prison life in maximum security and also weaving in that the character Jax Riley is the only person who can find out the truth to the conspiracy of a series of terrorism attacks across the world. This book is not for the faint hearted! It does end on a positive note so it is not entirely a tough read. I’m thinking this will be the first in a series. And there is still a bit of mystery at the end to discover who was the murderer in the crime that Jax was committed for. A very insightful read! Preeya, QLD, 4 Stars
This debut novel from James Phelps is definitely for readers of Jack Reacher and other military/crime/spy thrillers. Although the storyline is really detailed from the author’s years of experience, research and journalism, it was hard to connect to characters that just seemed too young to be in prison and deal with terrorism, even if the character is a genius and makes a great spy. The Inside Man captures your attention with the prologue, but it’s a slow burn story until the action starts, and even then, the reader is engaged and must piece the story together as the clock counts down. Amanda, VIC, 3 Stars
The Inside Man by James Phelps was a little hard to get into at first, but once you get half way through, wow! What a thrill ride! It was very well written and so vivid but the extent of some of the details were a little too much for me. I’m not a fan of the chopping and changing of characters but understand this was essential for the story building. With the ending left as a cliff hanger, I hope it’s not too long for the sequel! Katrina, QLD, 3 Stars
Thanks to Better Reading Preview for the opportunity to review this book. In this story we met Riley Jax, ex-army engineer who is sentenced to prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Unfortunately he doesn’t recall the details of the event, making his innocence hard to prove. Whilst Riley is locked up, a series of terrorist bombings are taking place in the community. Whilst I really enjoyed reading about prison life and his struggle with adjusting, this type of story is not my usual genre. I imagine Clive Cussler fans would enjoy this type of read. Angela, QLD, 3 Stars
This will be a good read for the action lover or Lee Child fan in your life. Ex-army engineer and convicted murderer Riley Jax is a pretty easy character to get behind as we see him trying to adjust to life behind bars. It becomes clear early on he’s not like all the other inmates and we immediately get the sense that there may be more to his story than meets the eye. The portrayal of prison life is brutal and eye-waveringly realistic, although it did become a little claustrophobic for me at times. The main thing that held me back from completely embracing the story however, was the lack of connection between Jax and the central bombing narrative. I wanted these two streams to cross-over far earlier than they did to drive the story forward even quicker. As it was, without the blurb, I would have wondered what the connection between the two narratives was. So while I liked this book, I would have loved it even more with a little more overlap. A good read and sure-fire hit for action thriller readers that I’m sure will eagerly await the return of Riley Jax. Michelle, VIC, 3 Stars
Riley Jax finds himself in Long Bay jail for a murder he can’t remember committing. The rest of the world is experiencing a series of deadly bombings. Can he solve the conspiracy before it’s too late? I found the first half of the book focused on Jax’s horrendous experience in jail. His girlfriend made an appearance for a while and then was never heard of again. Suddenly you discover that Jax has amazing hidden talents and is the only one who can save the world, even after suffering numerous beatings and injuries to the head with no concussion or memory loss. I enjoyed the book in places but it was all a little far fetched for me. Thanks to Better Reading and Harper Collins for an exclusive early reading copy. Karan, VIC, 3 Stars
The scene has been set and I feel there’s so much more of this book to come in an evolving new series, which is fine for those who want more once the initial story ends, but for me I prefer a unique tale told to perfection not what feels like the laying down of an ensemble of stories to bring the money in with the next books in the series. The story was average, it didn’t truly grip me, at moments I had to force myself to keep reading to get through the book in order to submit this review. I honestly thought it would be better, perhaps my building it up in my mind made it more of a disappointment than it ought have been. Maybe this one will be more appealing when it hits the big screen? Ernie, VIC, 3 Stars
For a crime thriller, this book has a slow burn. So slow, in fact, that I almost DNF’d it at 105 pages, nearly a third of the way in, as I didn’t feel I’d gotten any real sense of the main character or the storyline. The rest of the book did redeem it somewhat. That said, although I don’t look for realism in these type of books, I do look for a certain amount of plausibility, and found it rather lacking in the events of this one. It’s difficult to mention much without giving away spoilers, but I found moments of promise were overshadowed by a very obvious villain, disjointed points of view and the completely baffling decision by the main character (pleading guilty) that landed him in jail in the first place. Amanda, WA, 2 Stars
The Inside Man by James Phelps is not the usual type of book that I would choose to read. The premise sounded intriguing but unfortunately I struggled to get into it. The first half of the book is very slow and the chapters jump around between the different protagonists. I couldn’t get a real sense of Jax and was not interested at all in the other characters. The prison settings, characters and terrorist themes seemed all too real and were quite graphic at times. I must admit I read to escape the everyday not to be immersed in the horror of it. Janelle, NSW, 2 Stars
Riley Jax is a convicted murderer, sent to prison for killing a man, a crime he can’t remember. A blight on his otherwise perfect memory. With a promising career as an engineer in the army, he has now lost everything and faces a life behind bars where he needs to learn a new set of rules and only the toughest survive. As a series of bombings rock the outside world, he is the only man who may be able to find the truth behind the conspiracy while on the inside. While not my usual choice of genre, I found it difficult reading with too much poor language. It was, however, an insight into prison life and the need for survival. It is certainly an entertaining read for anyone who likes this genre as a choice of reading material. Carolyn, WA, 1 Star
Firstly I need to say this isn’t my usual read, but stepping outside my comfort zone is sometimes good. The novel which is written with short chapters felt like a mash up, I felt like I was reading two novels at once the story follows Jax a young 19-year-old soldier who wakes up to the understanding he has committed a murder that he has no memory of. The lead up to him willingly going to prison is brushed over, you pick up the story and for the first half of the book following his day to day life in prison and need to survive. Honestly I was glad I finished and afterwards it held no value to me, sadly I wouldn’t recommend this title. Crystal, TAS, 1 Star