Header Image

Review: Northern Spy by Flynn Berry

Title: Northern Spy
Author: Flynn Berry
Year published: 2021
Category: Adult fiction (mystery)
Pages: 288 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)UK/Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland

SummaryA 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.

Review: I am on an Irish kick, but I didn't mean for that to happen. This novel pulled me in from the first page and I read it in just two days.

The issues and troubles between Catholics and Protestants, the IRA, etc are all super interesting to me. I have read a few books on the subject and like that this one has a different angle on the conflict. This novel looks at IRA recruitment, British MI5 informers, and how regular families are affected by it all.

Tessa and Marian are sisters who are really close to each other and feel that they cannot be deceived, which sets up a good background for this story line. How well do we really know our family members? Are we sure we know how they will act in certain situations? And what if a baby/child is involved? What are we willing to risk or believe? I think Berry handled all of these questions well and it kept me riveted to the pages of this book. I wasn't sure which twists and turns it was going to take, which made it a good read.

Challenges for which this counts: none

No comments