Book Review: Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry

Publisher:  W & N (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Publication date: 14th June 2016 – Kindle

Under the Harrow My Review

Under The Harrow by Flynn Berry - Kindle CoverNora is looking forward to arriving at her sister’s house for tea, instead she finds herself on the set of a horror movie. Her sister lies dead. Her dog is too. Nora is covered in her sister’s blood and soon everything will be scrutinised by the police.

It’s tragic to learn that this is not the first time the one of the sisters had been targeted by an unknown assailant. Years have passed since an incident in their hometown of Snaith sparked their own unofficial manhunt to track the offender down. By trawling through reports of similar crimes the sisters hoped that anything would strike a chord and lead them to confront the vile brute. The horrific news stories they came across as a result of their unofficial investigations affected their future relationships and even their judgement of given situations.

Her sister’s death raises some serious paranoia issues for Nora, quite rightly too. They both moved away from Snaith, so how did the attacker find her sister? It’s been fifteen years. Have they been watching and waiting all this time? If only Nora have left for an earlier train, she could have saved her. And then there are the secrets the new investigation brings into the light. Why didn’t her sister tell her about this, or that – they were close, weren’t they? All these what if’s and why’s cloud Nora’s reasoning even further.

Under the Harrow is unquestionably mysterious. In contrast to the vivid crime scenes Nora’s narration has a bland, monotone approach, like she’s still reading the news reports they were so immersed in as teenagers. She shows an impartial attitude and separates herself from events as though they never happened, while relentlessly reliving them in her mind, or imagining more pleasant scenarios.

With the previous attack at the forefront of Nora’s mind, she gives unhealthy consideration to potential suspects in her sister’s murder and latches onto finding who could be responsible. But the trouble is she doesn’t know when to let go. Nora’s over-zealousness morphs uncomfortably into harassment at times. As she dwells on the developments little does she realise that her behaviour is not perceived as entirely reasonable.

One thing’s for sure, Under the Harrow keeps a brooding, creeping pace. Although it did take me a little while to tune in to Nora’s wavelength before I could see how the sisters tried to inject life into their soulless teens, only to spend the last the last fifteen years being drowned by the past. Nora may resemble a husk-like android, but go with it – a much deeper undercurrent is afoot, something unexpectedly vengeful.

Rating: 4/5

(I received a PDF copy of this title for review courtesy of the publishers and Rebecca Gray. I’m forever grateful.)

Under the Harrow Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

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 Author Profile

Flynn Berry is a graduate of the Michener Center and has been awarded a Yaddo residency. She graduated from Brown University. Under the Harrow is her first novel.

She is represented by Emily Forland at Brandt & Hochman. The editor of Under the Harrow is Lindsey Schwoeri at Penguin.


6 thoughts on “Book Review: Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry

  1. This is one of the best books I have read in quite awhile. I just happened to find it at a local library. FLynn writes with beautifully rendered words of the character’s environs bringing you with her as Nora investigates the haunting winter shores of her sister’s murder. So the reader not only is privy to a great mystery but also the delicious sights and smells of Nora’s surroundings. I am looking so forward to her next book.


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