Harvill Secker has paid a six-figure sum for a thriller written by "a member of the publishing workforce" under the pseudonym Jessica Barry.
The publisher pre-empted UK and Commonwealth rights to Freefall, but would not disclose further details about the author, except to say it was an American living in London who worked in the publishing industry.
Editorial director Jade Chandler struck the deal through agent Felicity Blunt at Curtis Brown. The book is also taking off overseas, with US rights sold in a seven figure deal to Sara Nelson at HarperCollins following a seven-way auction. Feature film rights are set to be sold "imminently", according to Harvill Secker, and there is a four-way auction underway in Germany, with further offers in from France, Italy, Portugal and Hungary.
Freefall opens when a small passenger plane crashes deep in the Colorado Rockies. Allison, the sole survivor of the impact, knows that there is only one thing she must do now – run. With her enemies close behind her, she only has a small amount of time before they track her down.
With a dual narrative, the book also explores the mother-daughter relationship. On the other side of the country, when Allison’s mother hears the news that her estranged daughter is missing, presumed dead, she is determined to find her.
Jade Chandler, editorial director for Crime Fiction, said: "I was on the edge of my seat from the opening page of this fast-paced, emotionally intelligent and compelling thriller and read it late into the night. Jessica is a real talent and we are delighted to welcome her to the Harvill Secker list."
Barry said: "I was blown away by Jade’s enthusiasm for the book and couldn’t be happier to have her as my editor. Harvill Secker publish some of my favourite authors and I’m honoured to be included on their incredible list."