Book Review | Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

As she’s done a dozen times before, Nora takes the train out from London into the countryside town where her sister, Rachel, lives. Walking up the path to her secluded home, she opens the front door, ready to enjoy an evening of home-cooked food and good conversation. Nothing prepares her for the scene that awaits; Rachel lies dead at the top of the stairs, covered in blood. The victim of a brutal murder.

Nora spends the following days in a trance-like state. The lack of forensic evidence makes it hard to narrow down suspects; Nora, with a deep distrust in the police, begins an investigation of her own, keeping tabs on other violent killings and dissecting her sister’s last movements, last conversations. Motherless and with an absent father, their sisterly bond is fierce. They would tell each other everything. The profound loss Nora feels torments her, as if life without Rachel is no life at all.

“I remember thinking that this isn’t the newest moment in history but the oldest, that time isn’t thinning but thickening. It’s so easy to think about her. Each memory links to another one, and time doesn’t seem to pass at all. I sit for hours remembering, until the first commuters, unbearably sad, begin to arrive, waiting in the darkness on the platform for the early train to London.”

It turns out, however, that Rachel had secrets too.

Under the Harrow is an unsettling yet meandering thriller. The best way I can describe this book is that it is a quiet, slow burner that creeps up on you. Our protagonist is as much in the dark as we are, and we must stumble along together until fragments of the truth are slowly pieced together.

This would have got a higher rating from me had it been a little pacier, if we weren’t so ensconced in the fog of Nora’s grief and therefore unable to truly focus on the plot. Nevertheless, Flynn’s novel is well-written and does something different with the genre with her careful, detailed, darkly atmospheric prose.

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