A "crackling debut thriller."
—The New Yorker (Best Books of the Year)
“A spy thriller that is engaging and utterly believable, in large part because the author has served overseas in the CIA herself. With the vividly painted backdrop of Bahrain in the time of the Arab Spring as the setting and her spy, Shane Collins, as the main character, the story that unfolds is steeped in actual knowledge of spy stuff. It’s cynical, fast moving and immensely readable.”
— NPR (Best Books of the Year)
“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
"Berry’s stint as a CIA officer lends a palpable veracity to this outstanding debut thriller...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...This auspicious first outing marks Berry as a writer to watch."
— Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"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 Americans
"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 and Moscow X
"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
"What an excellent debut. Vigilance, violence, paranoia, love, intrigue in the Gulf heat. An unforgettable portrait of venal, cynical, decadent American spies and diplomats."
— Simon Sebag Montefiore, New York Times bestselling author of The World and Jerusalem
"For those who want to better understand the complex political dynamics that have swept the Middle East in recent years, I.S. Berry’s provocative first novel will not disappoint. A powerful debut... Berry pulls no punches."
"Extremely complex and well written. Prose [that] enables the reader to see the streets. The author has the CIA credentials and experience to make the book ring true... reads like both a classic espionage novel and a current political narrative.”
— Robert Richer, former Associate Deputy Director for Operations at the CIA, The Cipher Brief (Best Reads of the Year)
“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 Carré 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
"…[a] compelling espionage debut… Berry writes about the region and role of intelligence agencies with precision and insight."
— CrimeReads (Best May Debuts)
"The Peacock and the Sparrow is, simply put, 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. What also sets this spy novel apart is how the country of Bahrain is not just an enigmatic backdrop to an exhilarating tale but a complex and captivating character in and of itself."
— Lindsay Moran, former CIA officer and bestselling author of Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy
“…a stunning literary debut. [The Peacock and the Sparrow] is not just about espionage, it’s about the human condition, set against a backdrop of political turmoil, and a journey of personal discovery.”
— Spybrary (Best Spy Thrillers of the Year)
"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 (Best Books of the Year)
"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
“This book joins the ranks of thrillers that work just as well as literature, inviting the reader to think about the human and political issues that it raises. Berry had me at the opening line. I could feel and sense what it was like to be on the street during the Arab Spring.”
— Nicholas Reynolds, former CIA officer and New York Times bestselling author of Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: The Secret Adventures of Ernest Hemingway, 1935 – 1961
“Berry has produced one of the hottest hits in espionage fiction… This is not the spy novel we have become accustomed to. With its literary feel and a touch of noir, The Peacock and the Sparrow gives us a different view on the [Middle East], while its finely drawn characters reveal how big shifts in world affairs always come down to the lives of ordinary people. Sharp and intelligent, espionage for grownups.”
— Crime Fiction Lover (Best Debut of the Year Nominee)
"Berry, a former spy, takes us on an unvarnished and emotionally charged journey through the depths of espionage as she draws us into the intrigue, betrayal, and disappointment that confounded the Arab Spring. Like James Ellroy, Philip Kerr, and John le Carré, her characters live with the consequences of difficult, compromising, morally ambiguous choices. It’s a brutally realistic, murky, and evocative imagining of a place, a time, and a people."
— Jay Newman, author of Undermoney
"The kind of spy novel that gets into the meticulous details of espionage, The Peacock and the Sparrow is as close as you can get to being a sleuth without actually being one. This is a debut thriller that will leave you eager for I. S. Berry's next."
— Barnes & Noble Bookseller Notes
"Berry's debut is bold, modern, and has the striking realism that only a former spy can bring to the page. Prose that is lush and haunting. A smart, sensational work of literature - put The Peacock and the Sparrow on your shelf next to all the espionage greats."
— Dustin Thomason, bestselling author of 12.21
"A knockout! A tour de force that seems like it’s written by a sure, practiced hand...rendered in sumptuous, lush prose. The gorgeous writing makes the bleak reality of the country’s unrest and its precarious political balance stand out in high contrast."
— Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine (Best Spy Novels of the Year)
“[A] multilayered spy thriller. Former spy I.S. Berry brings unparalleled firsthand experience to this novel, crafting a story grounded in the reality of Bahraini history and politics. She also transports us to the Middle East, writing lush descriptions of forbidding deserts and glittering oil-boom skyscrapers. [A story] where nobody's a clear hero or villain, The Peacock and the Sparrow will hook you."
—Apple Books (Audiobook of the Week)
"Written by someone with the insider knowledge to capture even the smallest of details about the life of a spy... [it will] have you questioning everything...."
— The Real Book Spy
"A dark, unpredictable, twisty, and grim espionage thriller that reads like a true account of a burned-out spy trying to do something right when all seems to be going horribly wrong. The Peacock and the Sparrow is a marvelous and intellectual debut of warring ideologies in a land where no one can be trusted, not even the ‘good’ guys."
— Best Thriller Books
An “explosive and exciting debut.”
—Virginia Living (Summer Picks)
"Berry has the authentic voice of an insider, someone who's lived the life. Engrossing and compelling, The Peacock and the Sparrow picks up speed, keeping you turning pages right up to the finale."
— Valerie Plame, former CIA officer and author of Fair Game
“…a contemporary spy story that's filled with twists, is rich with atmosphere and will get your adrenaline pumping.”
— The Big Thrill
“...engaging and compelling...”
— The Strand Magazine (Top May Reads)
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