Skip to main content

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Under the Harrow is Flynn Berry's debut novel.  It's a fairly gripping, fast read with chapters that fly by--due in part to their brevity as well as the engrossing story.  Set in England, the story takes place in a small English village about an hour's train ride from London.

When Nora arrives to visit her sister Rachel for her semi-regular weekend visit, Nora is shocked to find a brutal blood bath in her sister's home instead, and at its center, her sister's lifeless body, viciously stabbed nearly a dozen times.  Unmoored by her grief and with little faith in the police detectives' ability to find her sister's killer, Nora embarks upon her own investigation to find both her sister's murderer and the man who brutally assaulted Rachel and left her for dead when she was a teenager.  Is it possible her sister's attacker and murderer were the same man?

The police investigation reveals to Nora the secrets her sister kept even from her.  There was Rachel's dog, a German Shepherd (also killed during the commission of Rachel's murder) that was a trained guard dog, and the evidence that suggests her sister was readying for a move to Cornwall, five hours away--neither of which Nora was aware.  Most troubling is the revelation that Rachel never stopped looking for her attacker even though she told Nora she had let go of that obsession.

Now Nora returns to the sisters' old obsession with locating Rachel's attacker and utilizes their old methods in order to track down her sister's murderer.  She begins a potentially dangerous game of baiting the man she suspects responsible for Rachel's murder.  Flashbacks tell the story of Rachel's assault, happier times the two sisters shared as well as how the two women carried on their own investigation into Rachel's assault.  All of which leads to devastating revelations of Rachel's own actions that lead directly to her murder as well as a pulse pounding conclusion.

There are many questions throughout this novel.  Namely what was Rachel hiding?  What other secrets was she keeping?  How well did Nora really know her sister?  Despite the closeness between the two sisters, it is evident from the flashbacks as well as the lies Rachel told and the secrets she kept, that there were parts of herself that she held back even from Nora.  The reader has a distinct unsettling feeling throughout the novel that Nora's investigation, her fixation on a specific local man, and her naivete regarding the police investigation won't end well.  But will it end with Rachel's killer remaining free and her murder unsolved?  By the end of the novel most questions are answered except for the issue of what Rachel meant when she told Nora that there was 'something wrong with the town.'  I can't put my finger on it, but something about the story structure makes the story and/or timeline difficult to follow in some places.

This is a psychological thriller/mystery drenched in grief.  Even as Nora discovers the lies and the wrenching betrayal Rachel told and committed, she is determined to do right by her sister and bring her murderer to justice.  In the end I think Nora finds it a poor salve for her heart breaking loss.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


Popular posts from this blog

Broken by Karin Slaughter

Before I begin the formal review there are a few things I need to get off my chest in the wake of finishing this book; I'll do so without giving away too many (or any) spoilers.
The OUTRAGE!: the identity of Detective Lena Adams' new beau; the low depths to which Grant County's interim chief has sunk and brought the police force down with him; agent Will Trent's wife, Angie's, sixth sense/nasty habit of reappearing in his life just when he's slipping away from her. Thank God for small miracles though because while Angie was certainly referred to during the book, the broad didn't make an appearance. One sign that I've become way too invested in these characters is that I'd like to employ John Connolly's odd pair of assassins, Louis and Angel, to contract out a hit on Angie; do you think Karin Slaughter and John Connolly could work out a special cross over?
Hallelujah: Dr. Sara Linton and agent Will Trent are both back. There is no hallelujah for…

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

When the end came, it seemed to do so completely out of the blue, and it wasn't until long afterward that I was able to see that there was a chain of events leading up to it. Some of those events had nothing to do with us, the Morrisons, but were solely the concern of the Pyes, who lived on a farm about a mile away and were our nearest neighbors." from page seven
I must confess that it took me longer than it really needed to in order to finish the novel Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. The entire story is building up to the big catastrophe that forever destroys all the hopes and dreams the Morrison clan ever dared to hope and dream for its future. In the eyes of the narrator, it is even worse than the tragedy of the car crash that claimed both parents' lives one evening on the heels of some good news the family has received and celebrated. Now you can see why I dreaded getting to the end of a book that drips in foreboding like nobody's business. What can be a worse tra…

In The Woods by Tana French

"What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with the truth is fundamental, but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass. It is the core of our careers, the endgame of every move we make, and we pursue it with strategies painstakingly constructed of lies ... and every variation on deception. The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely ... This is my job ... What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this--two things: I crave truth. And I lie." opening lines of In The Woods chapter 1, pages 3-4
In The Woods by Tana French, an Irish writer, is an extremely well-written and well-crafted mystery novel. The downside is that this is French's debut novel, and her website (located at does not offer any insi…