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Northern Spy

A Novel

Flynn Berry


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Other Editions of This Title:
Library Binding, Large Print (6/1/2021)


The acclaimed author of Under the Harrow and A Double Life returns with her most thrilling 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-punding story of the contemporary IRA and a moving portrait of sister- and motherhood, and of life in a deeply divided society.

Praise For Northern Spy: A Novel

Advance praise for Northern Spy:

“[A] twisting . . . emotional thriller . . . Berry’s portrayal of Irish life is uncannily accurate . . . dropping readers headfirst into the emotions of living in conflict.” —Booklist (starred review) 

“A taut and compassionate thriller . . . [and a] reflection on personal choice and consequence . . . A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace.” —Kirkus (starred review)

 “[A] moving contemporary thriller . . . 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.” —Publishers Weekly

“Tense, terrifying, and briskly paced, Flynn Berry’s Northern Spy is not only a thrilling tale of espionage and conflicting loyalties in a deeply divided Northern Ireland, it is also a tender and honest portrayal of those fierce, all-consuming early days of motherhood and the complicated bonds between sisters, mothers, and daughters. A stunning story, beautifully told. I couldn’t put it down.” —Elizabeth Wetmore, New York Times bestselling author of Valentine

Praise for A Double Life:

“Flynn Berry writes thrillingly about women raging against a world that protects cruel and careless men . . . her prose can be as blistering as it is lush.” —Karen Valby, The New York Times Book Review

“[A] page-turner.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Elegantly written [and] artfully structured.” —BBC

“With forensic precision, Berry picks apart lives derailed by violence and the ways in which class privilege protects the guilty.” —Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water

Praise for Under the Harrow:
“Exquisitely taut and intense. . . A superbly crafted psychological thriller [that] deserves to be celebrated for its own singular excellence.” —Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post
“A truly intelligent writer . . . Berry has a keen instinct for plotting and pacing, knowing just what to reveal and how much and when.” —Elizabeth Brundage, The New York Times Book Review 

“Berry takes some of the big social struggles that have animated the feminist movement and makes them specific and personal, exploring the rippling effects of power imbalances across individual lives.” ­—The Atlantic

“Flynn Berry is a deeply interesting writer.” —Claire Messud, author of The Woman Upstairs and The Burning Girl

“In prose that is economical but perfectly judged, Berry transfixes the reader.” —The Guardian

“Surprise-filled . . . Well-wrought.” —The Wall Street Journal
“[Berry] imbues the classic murder mystery with rich emotional depth . . . The result is an investigation not just of the crime but also of the fierce, complicated love that exists between sisters.” —

Viking, 9780735224995, 288pp.

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

About the Author

Flynn Berry is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers and the recipient of a Yaddo fellowship. Her first novel, Under the Harrow, won the 2017 Edgar Award for Best First Novel and was named a best book of the year by The Washington Post and The Atlantic. Her second novel, A Double Life, was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice.