After her thrilling debut Under the Harrow and strong follow up novel based on the Lucan Affair, A Double Life, Flynn Berry’s third novel, Northern Spy could not be more timely. With sectarian tensions and violence on the rise again in Northern Ireland, Berry takes readers into the continuing and ongoing struggle between the British forces and the IRA, a struggle that did not end with the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accords.
Tessa is a new single mother living outside of Belfast with her infant son Finn and working on a news program for the BBC. Her world is turned upside down when security footage of an IRA robbery of a petrol station is broadcast and her sister Marian’s face is prominent. Marian admits to Tessa that she has been in the IRA for many years and needs her help. Against her will, and putting both herself and her son in even greater danger, Tessa is drawn into the shadowy world of paramilitaries and British spies. At the same time Tessa is trying to manage her son, her relationship with her ex, Tom, and live a normal life.
While the subject matter is wildly different, readers of Berry’s earlier work will recognise her protagonist. A young woman dealing with a complex family situation and a tense situation that makes her question everything she does. The political becomes personal as Tessa also deals with her sister’s betrayal, and all of the regular pressures of early motherhood for a single mother. On the flip side of this, all of Tessa’s actions are informed for her deep love for her son and her desire to give him a peaceful future, and loyalty to her family.
Northern Spy is full of cliffhangers and tense situations as Tessa starts on the periphery but is slowly drawn further and further in to her sister’s world. Berry has delivered another page turning, read-in-one-sitting thriller and is becoming more assured with every book.