Book review: Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Thursday, August 4, 2016 Permalink

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry has everything a lover of mystery and mayhem like yours truly might desire. The book kicks off with a murder, features a devoted but-slightly-screwy sister hellbent on uncovering whodunnit AND an unsolved event from the past which might – or might not – be related to what’s unfolding in the present.

Book review: Under the Harrow by Flynn BerryUnder the Harrow
by Flynn Berry
Published by Hachette Australia
on July 26th 2016
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 9781474605274
Pages: 256

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.

I was surprised at the complexity in this novel by Berry and the book becomes as much about Nora and her obsession to identify her sister’s killer as the investigation itself.

The blurb tells us that Nora’s distrustful of the police so determined to get to the bottom of things – sure that they’ll never get there themselves.

We’re in Nora’s head throughout the book… from the moment she discovers her sister’s body. She’s a likeable lead… even when we dispassionate onlookers can see she’s going a little over-the-top.

We slowly get some insight into Nora and Rachel’s relationship through regular flashbacks and learn that Rachel herself was not one to suffer fools gladly. The pair were close and talked often, saw each other regularly and holidayed together. And yet it appears Rachel was keeping secrets from Nora and the younger sibling (along with the police!!!) has to wonder why.

We learn pretty early on that Rachel was assaulted in her late teens and never quite the same afterwards, and Nora – and the police – are forced to ponder if the attacks, over a decade apart, are related.

I found the pacing slightly uneven but Berry offers something quite different. This novel is dark, but not in a menacing way. Rather, it’s the insight into Nora’s own thought processes, her suspicions and her actions that have readers wary. We’ve identified with Nora and there comes a point when we have to ask ourselves how well we know our narrator and what she’s omitted from her tale.

This is Flynn Berry’s debut novel and – steeped in layers – it’s an impressive one at that, so I look forward to more from the English author.

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry was published by Hachette Australia and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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