A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

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NORTHERN SPY

Berry delivers a taut and compassionate thriller as young mother Tessa is drawn into working as a double agent in the Irish Republican Army to protect her sister.

It's been years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, but tensions in Northern Ireland remain at a constant simmer. Tessa moves through the simple motions of her life: taking care of her infant son, working at the BBC News Belfast bureau, spending time with her mother and sister. The physical isolation and beauty of her home village hint at the possibility of a world in which one doesn’t always have to be alert for terrorists; Tessa is old enough, however, to remember the Troubles, and she fears that the IRA will never truly surrender. Still, it comes as a shock at work one day when she sees a video of her sister participating in an IRA robbery. But even more shocking is the revelation that comes from Marian herself once she is able to reach out to Tessa: She's been a member of the IRA for seven years, drawn in by their talk about economic inequality, and has recently begun feeding information to MI5 in order to create space for peace talks. After a bomb she created for the IRA failed to blow up, though, she's under constant surveillance and can no longer meet with her British handler. And so Tessa joins her sister as a double agent: She's accepted by Marian’s crew and asked to do increasingly dangerous tasks for the IRA, which she then reports to her handler. Days of espionage are balanced by quiet moments with her son as Tessa comes to realize that putting herself in danger is justified, even necessary, if she wants him to grow up in a safer Ireland. Berry's use of short chapters, often divided into several smaller episodes, is particularly effective in reflecting Tessa's fragmented sense of loyalty and safety. This is not a book of action, though there is plenty, but instead a greater reflection on personal choice and consequence.

A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522499-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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