A Novel Concept

Doubling Down With ‘Trust Her’ in Ireland Capital

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By Michael Malone

Trust Her cpver“Trust Her” is the story of Tessa Daly. She’s a Belfast woman based in Dublin, who a few years ago informed on the IRA to the British security outfit MI5. She has a new identity in Dublin, a job at “The Irish Observer” and a young son.

All is good for Tessa in Ireland, until she realizes the nation isn’t quite large enough to start a new identity and keep your secrets from the bad guys who want to harm you.

There’s a heatwave in Dublin, and Tessa wants a swim. She heads to a pond – a lough, in local parlance – in Wicklow, and has a car accident.

She detects something sketchy about the motorist who hit her.

“He is reaching for his wallet when I catch a movement inside his car,” author Flynn Berry writes. “A pale blur of a face, behind the windscreen. Someone else is with him, and fear drops over me. We are alone, I realize, on a road surrounded by wheat fields. Sweat prickles down my back. Around the crossing, the wheat shifts in the wind, dozens of paths across the field appearing and collapsing.”

Tessa’s instincts are spot-on. She is taken to a bungalow in the middle of nowhere. She is shackled to a radiator. Hours pass. An IRA guy speaks to her. He wants her to get her old MI5 agent, Eamonn, to work with the IRA.

She is taken back to Dublin with firm orders. The IRA will not relent.

Tessa’s sister Marian had been an IRA member, then turned against the organization. Tessa helped Marian share some IRA secrets with the intelligence agency. Like Tessa, Marian has a new identity in Dublin. She also has a husband and an infant daughter named Saoirse.

Tessa goes on with her life back in Dublin, but an IRA thug she knew from growing up in Belfast wants regular updates on her efforts to spin Eamonn. They meet in a dodgy pub. He is not messing around, and it is made clear to Tessa that, if her life is not in danger, that of her four-year-old son, Finn, may be. (She is divorced.) Same goes for Marian’s baby.

As much as the book is about espionage and terrorism, it is about a mother and a son, and her determination to give him a normal life despite some frightening challenges.

Tessa reaches out to Eamonn and they meet at a safe house. They meet several times, and Tessa realizes she has some feelings for the agent. She also realizes the mysterious guy isn’t exactly who he claims to be.

Berry’s other books include “Under the Harrow,” “Northern Spy” and “A Double Life.”

“Trust Her” is a slim 291 pages. It shows the parts of Dublin the tour buses skip – the streets on the edge of town, choked with traffic, the stores where everyday Dubliners shop, the desolate pubs where an IRA guy might meet a woman who wants no part of the meeting. Such as the Gravediggers, near Glasnevin Cemetery in the city’s northern end.

“Gravediggers working in the cemetery used to buy pints through a hatch in the pub’s back wall,” Berry writes. “The hatch is gone, but otherwise the pub seems unchanged by the centuries, with low ceilings and a fireplace and a long wooden bar. The pub is nearly empty, except for the barman and a few old regulars leaning over their pints. The regulars glance over at me for a few seconds, long enough to identify me if anyone ever comes asking questions, I think. Royce is at a table in the back corner, eating a fry-up.”

“Trust Her” came out last month. It has an impressive 4.12 rating on GoodReads, out of 5, with 181 raters.

Publishers Weekly wrote, “Though some of the hairpin twists are less convincing than others – a subplot concerning a Dublin detective who’s determined to prove the Daly sisters belong to an IRA sleeper cell feels particularly forced – Berry’s moving depiction of a fractured family whose love runs as deep as its rifts should please existing series fans and win her new ones. Espionage buffs will find much to enjoy.”

Tessa is a compelling character, full of love for Finn, smart, quick on her feet and tough, able to look some menacing IRA guys in the eye and stand her ground.

Will Tessa stick with you weeks after you’ve finished the book, the way unforgettable characters in memorable books do? Maybe not. But you will root for her throughout this invigorating read.

Journalist Michael Malone lives in Hawthorne with his wife and two children. 

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