One of 49th Shelf's 2021 Books of the Year
Longlisted, Miramichi Reader's "The Very Best!" Book Awards (Novel)
For fans of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light comes an historical espionage novel with a contemporary edge from Michelle Butler Hallett.
The time is 1937. The place: the Basque Country, embroiled in the Spanish Civil War. Polyglot and British intelligence agent Temerity West encounters Kostya Nikto, a Soviet secret police agent. Kostya has been dispatched to assassinate a doctor as part of the suppression of a rogue communist faction. When Kostya finds his victim in the company of Temerity, she expects Kostya to execute her -- instead, he spares her.
Several weeks later, Temerity is reassigned to Moscow. When she is arrested by the secret police, she once again encounters Kostya. His judgement impaired by pain, morphine, and alcohol, he extricates her from a dangerous situation and takes her to his flat. In the morning, they both awaken to the realities of what Kostya has done. Although Kostya wants to keep Temerity safe, the cost will be high. And Temerity must decide where her loyalties lie.
Writing about violence with an unusual grace, Michelle Butler Hallett tells a story of complicity, love, tyranny, and identity. Constant Nobody is a thrilling novel that asks how far an individual will go to protect another — whether out of love or fear.
About the author
One of Canada’s most courageous and original literary voices, Michelle Butler Hallett was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Her work, at once striking, memorable and difficult to categorize, has been praised by Books in Canada for “economy and power,” while The Globe and Mail notes that “demons are at work – the kind that lurk in the subconscious and surface, depending on the individual, as either despairing visions or acts of outright brutality.” Butler Hallett is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Deluded Your Sailors, Sky Waves, and Double-blind, shortlisted for the Sunburst Award. She is also the author of the short-story collection The shadow side of grace. Her stories appear in the anthologies Hard Ol’ Spot, The Vagrant Revue of New Fiction, Running the Whale’s Back, and Best American Mystery Stories 2014. Her latest novel, This Marlowe, was published in 2016. She resides in St. John’s.
- Long-listed, <i>Miramichi Reader</i>'s "The Very Best!" Book Awards (Novel)
- Unknown, One of <i>49th Shelf</i>'s Books of the Year
“[Constant Nobody] is an immersive sensory experience. There were moments when it felt like I was in the front row of an intimate theatrical performance.”
“Nothing falls outside the scope of Michelle Butler Hallett's huge talent. In this novel, she explores the psychology of fear as few are able and does so with absolute confidence.”
<i>The Miramichi Reader</i>'s “Ten Outstanding #ReadAtlantic Books”
“Constant Nobody is a remarkably accomplished novel. It takes readers deep into the brutal hearts of darkness of both civil war Spain and Soviet Russia during Stalin’s purges. In those hellish places, men and women struggle with duty and survival while tormenting their victims and being tormented in turn. In the nightmarish world of violence, a man and a woman must grapple with their complicated relationship while trying to save themselves from destruction.”
Antanas Sileika, author of <i>Provisionally Yours</i>
“Constant Nobody is a suspenseful work of historical fiction, populated with nesting dolls of intrigue, identity, and revelation. Set on the murky borders of war and political unrest, Constant Nobody is a powerful reminder of the importance of connection, one person to another, no matter the cost.”
Ami McKay, author of <i>Half Spent Was the Night</i>
“Gripping, gorgeous, and unforgettable.”
<i>Pickle Me This</i>
“Wholly original in story, style and form.”
Christi Ann Conlin
“Constant Nobody is a compelling read about a time and place western writers often don't bother with.”
“Constant Nobody works. It rehearses — and I mean that in the most generous sense of that verb — the tropes of spy genre fiction with energy and verve. And yes, Hallett injects some much-needed ambiguity and questioning into these tropes — all too often misogynistic to their core — and implies a number of interesting and difficult questions.”
<i>Newfoundland and Labrador Studies</i>
“Without a doubt, Constant Nobody is a difficult, sprawling, challenging novel, but its power is undeniable.”
<i>The Miramichi Reader</i>
“With vivid characters and indelible images that transmit the cruel bleakness of Stalin’s Russia and ruthless gentility of Chamberlain’s England, Butler Hallett conjures a morally complex world of high-stakes international espionage where nothing is as it seems — except that the human heart wants what it wants.
"In Constant Nobody, Michelle Butler Hallett gives us a spy thriller that does more than entertain. It asks us to meditate on the fundamental questions of existence: who can we trust, and what should we believe?”
Christine Fischer Guy, author of <i>The Umbrella Mender</i>