Harvill Secker has pre-empted Star of the North by D B John, an international thriller moving between the US and North Korea.
The book, authored by one of the few Westerners to have visited North Korea, is said to offer "an authentic and terrifying glimpse into life in one of the world’s most clandestine military regimes".
Jade Chandler, Harvill Secker editorial director for crime and thrillers, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Antony Topping of Greene and Heaton within a day of receiving the manuscript.
The UK sale was followed by 11 other international rights deals, which included seven further pre-empts, one from Penguin Random House Group imprint Crown for North American rights, as well as a six-publisher auction in the Netherlands.
Harvill Secker will publish the title in May 2018.
The story follows Jenna, a young Korean-American woman whose twin sister disappeared from a South Korean beach years earlier. Now a high-achieving academic at Georgetown University, Jenna is approached by the CIA – which knows all about her background and wants her to join the agency.
Chandler said: "I read Star of the North in an intense burst and was blown away not only by the beautifully crafted suspense and drama, but by the fantastic characters D B John has created. The North Korean setting feels devastatingly authentic and takes this brilliant thriller to the next level. I am very excited to say that we will be publishing Star of the North as a lead thriller on our list in May 2018."
Topping, John's agent, said: "It’s been a thrill to see Star of the North picked up so quickly by Jade Chandler at Harvill Secker, by Nate Roberson at Crown, and by so many other excellent publishers around the world. That said, I’m not surprised – this is an amazing novel."