Thursday, April 15, 2021

Review: Northern Spy by Flynn Berry


Title: Northern Spy
Author: Flynn Berry
Published: April 2021, Viking Books
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Source: Personal copy

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 Belfast bureau of the BBC, Tessa is at work one day when the news of another raid comes on the air. The IRA may have gone underground after the Good Friday agreement, but they never really went away, and lately, bomb threats, arms drops, and helicopters floating ominously over the city have become features of everyday life. As the anchor requests the public's help in locating those responsible for this latest raid - a robbery at a gas station - Tessa's sister appears on the screen. Tessa watches in shock as Marian pulls a black mask over her face.

The police believe Marian has joined the IRA, but Tessa knows this is impossible. They were raised to oppose Republicanism, and the violence enacted in its name. They've attended peace vigils together. And besides, Marian is vacationing by the sea. Tessa just spoke to her yesterday.

When the truth of what has happened to Marian reveals itself, Tessa will be forced to choose: between her ideals and her family, between bystanderism and action. Walking an increasingly perilous road, she fears nothing more than endangering the one person she loves more fiercely than her sister: her infant son.

A riveting and exquisite novel about family, terror, motherhood, betrayal, and the staggering human costs of an intractable conflict, Northern Spy cements Flynn Berry's status as one of the most sophisticated and accomplished authors of crime and suspense novels working today.


My thoughts:  I first discovered Flynn Berry by accident when I found the audiobook  of her debut novel, Under the Harrow, one day. I really liked that book and since then have been keeping an eye on what she's been up to. As soon as I heard about this latest release, I knew I had to read it...and it totally delivered!

I will admit, I do not know much about all the political goings on in Northern Ireland, so that immediately grabbed my attention with this book and I found it made for such compelling reading. I inhaled this book, basically reading it in two sittings because I just could not put it down. I was so consumed with this story, completely caught up in the tension and the family drama that was contained in this book.

I am always a sucker for any book that delves into sister relationships and this one really took it to another level. Not only do you have two sisters that are total opposites of each other, but they also have differing loyalties when it comes to their country. It was such a realistic look at just what lengths we are willing to go for our families but also just how hard it is to deal with the choices that our loved ones sometimes make. While things start off political, it becomes personal for Tessa as she becomes desperate to keep her child safe, and ultimately begins questioning herself at every turn.

This book kept me engaged and captivated from start to finish. It's intense and full of little cliff-hangers that keep you flipping the pages. It also is quite a thought-provoking book at the same time. What would you do should you ever find yourself in this position? I loved this book and it just confirms that Flynn Berry is a master at what she does. I still have to read her second book, Double Life, which I'll be picking up ASAP. She is definitely going on my must-read list and I cannot wait to see what comes next from her!



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