Under the Harrow
By Flynn Berry
Author’s website: http://www.flynnberry.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Kayt
When Nora takes the train from London to visit her sister in the countryside, she expects to find her waiting at the station, or at home cooking dinner. But when she walks into Rachel’s familiar house, what she finds is entirely different: her sister has been the victim of a brutal murder.
Stunned and adrift, Nora finds she can’t return to her former life. An unsolved assault in the past has shaken her faith in the police, and she can’t trust them to find her sister’s killer. Haunted by the murder and the secrets that surround it, Nora is under the harrow: distressed and in danger. As Nora’s fear turns to obsession, she becomes as unrecognizable as the sister her investigation uncovers.
A riveting psychological thriller and a haunting exploration of the fierce love between two sisters, the distortions of grief, and the terrifying power of the past, Under the Harrow marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.
Under the Harrow is a novel of tragic loss and heartbreak. Nora loses her sister in a horrific way and cannot move forward. Told in first person through Nora, the pain she feels is palatable. Nora walks into her sister Rachel’s home to find a horrible scene that has left her sister and her dog murdered. Nora is frozen in grief and ends up taking residence in the small town her sister lived in and where she died. She is divided in thinking her sister’s death may be due to a savage beating Rachel suffered as a teen and that it could be someone local. Either way it seems Nora’s staying put until she gets some answers. And answers are hard to come by. Memories seem to flood her thoughts and most times she does not seem to be thinking clearly. It is a scary insight into the grief and overwhelming angst Nora feels over her sister’s savage murder.
The memories that dually haunt and bring happiness to Nora include the beating her sister endured at 17 after a party. This event seems to have haunted both sisters since. Rachel had tried unsuccessfully to find the perpetrator and now Nora feels maybe her searches led to her demise. She takes up the task and filters through information and arrest records in hopes of finding answers. In the end it matters little, but things do become clearer for Nora.
Nora tries and tries to get the local investigators to make an arrest, but in the end they start to look at her as the culprit. The ending is surprising and fast paced after a slower start. Nora is frantic and at times manic, or so it seemed to me. Some of her choices were odd and bizarre, but how am I to judge or know what I would do in her shoes. The horror she saw had to be beyond devastating and author Flynn Berry portrays that effectively and throughout.
While the writing style of Under the Harrow was a bit choppy to me and not what I am used to, it fit perfectly for this story and the mindset of main character Nora. The story itself is unsettling (especially the death of the dog and details of it). There is a sense of mystery that keeps the reader guessing and definitely on edge. Several reveals were quite surprising and even shocking. I would recommend this book to fans of suspense, criminal reads and those who enjoy getting into the psyche of those dealing with things like this – good or bad. Quite a successful first novel for author Flynn Berry. It is packed with punches that kept me on my toes and the edge of my seat.