The Peacock and the Sparrow: A Novel
EDGAR AWARD NOMINEE FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker • NPR • The Diplomatic Courier • Deadly Pleasures mystery magazine • The Cipher Brief • Spybrary
During the Arab Spring, an American spy’s final mission goes dangerously awry in this “crackling debut thriller” (The New Yorker) from a former CIA officer that Joseph Weisberg, creator of The Americans, calls “the most realistic espionage story I've read.”
Shane Collins, a world-weary CIA spy, is ready to come in from the cold. Stationed in Bahrain off the coast of Saudi Arabia for his final tour, he has little use for his mission—uncovering Iranian support for the insurgency against the monarchy. Then Collins meets Almaisa, a beautiful and enigmatic artist, and his eyes are opened to a side of Bahrain most expats never experience, to questions he never thought to ask.
When his trusted informant inside the opposition becomes embroiled in a murder, Collins finds himself drawn deep into the conflict. His budding romance with Almaisa—and his loyalties—are upended; in an instant, he’s caught in the crosswinds of a revolution. Drawing on all his skills as a spymaster, he sets out to learn the truth behind the Arab Spring, win Almaisa’s love, and uncover the murky border where Bahrain’s secrets end, and America’s begin.
Praise for The Peacock and the Sparrow: A Novel
“[A] crackling debut thriller.”
— The New Yorker
“The Peacock and the Sparrow is that rare thing: a genuine page turner that also has something to say. A sharp, knowing look at today’s CIA, with the moral complexities of the best spy fiction and a Persian Gulf setting so richly detailed and immediate you feel you could reach out and touch it. A remarkable debut.”
— Joseph Kanon, New York Times bestselling author of Istanbul Passage and The Berlin Exchange
“Outstanding…The plot’s many twists will captivate readers, and Berry’s gorgeous prose is its own reward with echoes of le Carré and Graham Greene.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A stunning debut about an aging CIA case officer at the end of a lackluster career during the Arab Spring in Bahrain. The Peacock and The Sparrow beautifully captures the ambiance of a teeming port city in the midst of unrest where people aren’t who they appear and no one can be trusted. Tense action that mixes with a beautifully rendered depiction of one man’s descent into despair make this spy novel an instant classic.”
— Paul Vidich, author of Beirut Station and The Matchmaker
"Something very special in the crowded genre of spy fiction. Berry's book is the most realistic espionage story I've read, heart-stopping without any contrived glamour."
— Joseph Weisberg, creator of the TV series The Americans
“Not since The Spy Who Came in from the Cold has there been such a riveting and thought-provoking story of international espionage. In the tradition of John le Carre and Graham Greene, former spy Berry has woven a twisted, richly evocative tale—one that plunges the reader into the depths of the Arab Spring and the blackest recesses of human nature. A breathless tour-de-force that smuggles the reader from the souks of Bahrain to the simmering streets of Phnom Penh, Berry’s debut delivers the perfect spy tale.”
— Ian Caldwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Fifth Gospel
"Gritty, propulsive, dark, and twisty. The setting in Bahrain during the Arab Awakening is beautifully rendered; you can feel the swampy heat on the page."
— David McCloskey, former CIA officer and author of Damascus Station
"Berry crafts a literary version of Bahrain that is utterly sumptuous and delectable... From the absurdly disconnected expatriate world of the diplomatic community to the Shia slums and the waterfront, each of Berry’s details pulls the reader further into the world she creates...exceptional."
— Diplomatic Courier
“I.S. Berry absolutely nails the psyche of case officers in this examination of life in the clandestine service. From the pitch-perfect opening to the stunning twist at the end, The Peacock and the Sparrow is gorgeously written with a surefootedness rarely seen in a debut. Sure to be a new classic among spy novels.”
— Alma Katsu, former CIA officer and author of Red London
"An astonishing debut. In the spirit and tradition of le Carré - but somehow with even greater verisimilitude - Berry perfectly captures the romance, the grit, the overarching sense of loss, and even the underlying dry comedy of a life devoted to undercover operations. CIA officer Shane Collins is the most realistic representation of a spy I've encountered in fiction."
— Lindsay Moran, former CIA officer and bestselling author of Blowing My Cover