Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry

"It's difficult to know how scared to be.  The threat level is severe but then has been for years." 

Bodies can still be found in bogs, searches are conducted to find informers the IRA had disappeared, at certain funerals, men in ski masks would suddenly appear in the cortage, chamber their handguns and fire shots over the coffin.  This is how many people lived in the Belfast area, wondering daily if there was a credible threat.

The story focuses on two sisters. Marian and Tessa.  Marian is not married and has been a paramedic for over six years. Her face is always so open and bemused while  her sister Tessa's expression tends to be more grave, her having to reassure people she's not worried about anything.

Tessa is divorced and mother of a 6 month old boy named Finn.  She works at the BBC in Belfast and is asked by some friends how she can work for the English. She went to university at Trinity College is a program reporter, working with political guests. 

We start with Tessa narrating and learn Marian is on a vacation to swim and explore caves in the north.  Neither Tessa or her mother can get ahold of Marian but they assume she's in cellular dead zone or simply having fun exploring.

Then a robbery and raid happen at a local gas station the news anchor asks for help identifying those responsible. Tessa stares at the images of the terrorists and suddenly sees her sister's face on screen, Marian pulling a black ski mask over her face.  Tessa's world dissolves.

The only negative in this narrative is the description of The Troubles as if it's a current situation.  Perhaps I missed the time frame in this book but it had the feel of being set in present time or a few years earlier.  The plot appears to be during the height of the violence and near the peace agreement which would put it around 1994, right?   That being said, I loved the book and couldn't put it down.

I see why this is a best seller with over 3,400 four star ratings.  I plan to read all of Flynn Berry's novels in the near future.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday. and Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2021 Historical Fiction Challenge. 


  1. Sounds interesting to me even though I'm not a fan of this type of book.

  2. What a compelling plot! There's a lot to explore in that concept.

    1. Joy, I couldn’t put this one down. Read it in less than 2 days.


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