Berry’s slow-burning thriller is set against the backdrop of an alternate version of contemporary Northern Ireland. After the IRA resumes hostilities in the decades after the Good Friday Agreement, BBC producer and new mother Tessa learns that her sister Marian has been involved in terrorist activities in support of the group. Unconvinced she participated willingly, Tessa sets out to find her sister and the truth. Full of intrigue and suspense, Northern Spy is a quick and engaging read.
April 2021 Indie Next List
“This emotionally rich espionage story set in present-day Ireland looks at a country divided, the invisibility of motherhood, and the bonds of family that can supersede all else. It is the story of two sisters, one a paramedic and one a BBC news service employee. When one sister is apparently part of an IRA attack, the other refuses to believe it and sets out to prove her sister’s innocence. I read this in one sitting — compelling is not a strong enough adjective for this thrilling novel!”
— Mary Lee Delafield, Warwick's, La Jolla, CA
Reese’s Book Club Pick Instant New York Times Bestseller A New York Times Book Review Top 10 Thriller of 2021 A Washington Post Top 10 Thriller or Mystery of 2021
“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.
About the Author
Flynn Berry is the New York Times bestselling author of three novels: Northern Spy, a Reese's Book Club pick; A Double Life, a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice; and Under the Harrow, which won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and was named a best book of the year by The Washington Post and The Atlantic. The recipient of a Yaddo fellowship, she is a graduate of Brown University and the Michener Center for Writers.
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2021 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, CRIMEREADS, KIRKUS REVIEWS, AND THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
“A chilling, gorgeously written tale of a modern community poisoned by ancient grievances . . . Berry is a beautiful writer with a sophisticated, nuanced understanding of this most complicated of places.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Thrillingly good . . . Flynn Berry shows a le Carré-like flair for making you wonder what’s really going on at any given moment . . . Berry won an Edgar for Under the Harrow in 2017. Here comes another contender.” —The Washington Post
“[A] beguiling thriller that’s hard to put down . . . Even at its highest pitch, [Northern Spy] remains a human-centered story that closely examines the behavior of siblings, babies, mothers and friends.” —The Wall Street Journal
“[A] twisting thriller of espionage, competing loyalties and sisterhood . . . [a] title everyone will be talking about this season.” —Parade
"Taut and passionate. . . full of threat and heartbreak. . . Northern Spy will be a hit for readers of Dublin noir and tartan noir. . . Denise Mina and Tana French readers can also find familiar ground—but so in fact can any readers who treasure a well-plotted mystery with a powerful sense of how place and the near past can force a person to cross the lines they once felt were sacred." —New York Journal of Books
"Berry broadens her range with the volatile Belfast setting and twisty espionage plot. Tautly told and unsentimental, Northern Spy keeps the pressure on as the Daly sisters improvise their waythrough a chilling minefield of loyalty and betrayal." —AirMail.com
“[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
“A sharp, moving thriller, combining motherhood and espionage, sisterhood and sacrifice. You lose your breath for adrenalin, but also in empathy: for Tessa and Finn, in those quiet nightime moments between mother and son. As tender as it is tense.” —Abigail Dean, author of Girl A
“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