REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICK
“If you love a mystery, then you’ll devour [Northern Spy] . . . I loved this thrill ride of a book.”—Reese Witherspoon
“A chilling, gorgeously written tale…Berry keeps the tension almost unbearably high.” –The New York Times Book Review
The acclaimed author of Under the Harrow and A Double Life returns with her most riveting novel to date: the story of two sisters who become entangled with the IRA
A producer at the BBC and mother to a new baby, Tessa is at work in Belfast one day when the news of another raid comes on the air. The IRA may have gone underground in the two decades since the Good Friday Agreement, but they never really went away, and lately bomb threats, security checkpoints, and helicopters floating ominously over the city have become features of everyday life. As the news reporter requests the public's help in locating those responsible for the robbery, security footage reveals Tessa's sister, Marian, pulling a black ski mask over her face.
The police believe Marian has joined the IRA, but Tessa is convinced she must have been abducted or coerced; the sisters have always opposed the violence enacted in the name of uniting Ireland. And besides, Marian is vacationing on the north coast. Tessa just spoke to her yesterday.
When the truth about Marian comes to light, Tessa is faced with impossible choices that will test the limits of her ideals, the bonds of her family, her notions of right and wrong, and her identity as a sister and a mother. Walking an increasingly perilous road, she wants nothing more than to protect the one person she loves more fiercely than her sister: her infant son, Finn.
Riveting, atmospheric, and exquisitely written, Northern Spy is at once a heart-pounding story of the contemporary IRA and a moving portrait of sister- and motherhood, and of life in a deeply divided society.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In this evocative thriller, the relationship between two sisters is tested during Northern Ireland’s infamous sectarian conflicts. BBC producer Tessa Daly never imagined she’d see her estranged sister Marian on the news. But there she is: caught on camera robbing a gas station to help fund the Irish Republican Army. Author Flynn Berry steadily raises the tension as Tessa, who considers herself a politically neutral journalist, gets pulled into the fray both professionally and personally. Tessa’s also a sleep-deprived single mom of a six-month-old, which makes her strain even more relatable—both in how motherhood influences her newfound political conscience and in all the nitty-gritty details of caring for an infant. Northern Spy is a thought-provoking pageturner about fear, bravery, and family love in the face of deceit and violence.
Belfast BBC political news producer Tessa Daly, the protagonist of this moving contemporary thriller from Edgar winner Berry (A Double Life), is struggling to juggle her job with caring for her six-month-old son, whose custody she shares with her ex-husband, when she sees a TV clip showing a gas station being robbed by a gun-wielding IRA trio. One of them is her younger sister, Marian, whom Tessa believed to be vacationing on the north coast. Detective Inspector Fenton and his team, who subsequently interrogate Tessa, seem convinced that she must also be IRA or, at the very least, privy to her sister's activities. It turns out that the local authorities don't know an awful lot about the now-fugitive Marian, whose efforts to press Tessa to assist her in her current clandestine mission puts both mother and baby at risk. The tension becomes at times almost unbearable as the plot takes increasingly sharp, sometimes improbable twists. It's a measure of the author's skill that she never loses sight of the humanity of her characters. Berry remains a writer to watch.
She knows how to write women
I chose this book because of a long held interest in Northern Ireland and the troubles. I love this book because of how Berry gives insight into the female brain. The way she depicts how Tessa processes this period of trauma, grief, and forgiveness is incredibly authentic. I’d love for her to write a parallel novel from Marian’s point of view!