Pub. Date: June 14, 2016
Source: Finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Penguin!)
Summary: 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.
The moment Nora walks into her sister’s home she knows something is wrong. A smeared hand print and a trail of blood lead her to Rachel’s body and while the police launch their investigation, Nora secretly begins one of her own. She’s convinced Rachel’s past had come back to haunt her: seventeen years ago her sister had been assaulted and though she gave a detailed description of the man, the police never fully believed her and her attacker was never found.
As Nora digs further into the mystery of her sister’s death, she comes to realize Rachel had several secrets of her own – why had she been looking to purchase another home, why had her dog been highly-trained as a guard dog?
Clocking in at 219 pages, Under the Harrow is a whisper of a novel that packs a hefty punch. Berry doesn’t waste any time getting the wheels in motion – within the first few pages Rachel’s body is discovered. NOTE: also within those first few pages there’s an animal death that’s described in pretty graphic detail and referred back to several times over the course of the novel. I have no problem with gore (give me blood and entrails all day and I won’t bat an eye) but the gruesome death of a beloved pet? That part was definitely unexpected and hard to handle. Readers, beware.
Berry does a FANTASTIC job – through Nora – of slowly feeding the reader information and where I can typically take a mystery and solve it early on (Colonel Mustard in the Ballroom with the Candlestick) here I was just as lost as Nora. Her excruciatingly unreliable nature certainly aided in that as well as the fact that she doesn’t seem all there. Nora is prone to long-winded meanderings, going off on numerous tangents halfway through a sentence, only to finally circle back around to the original train of thought several pages later. Her suspects became my suspects (she herself become the suspect in my mind) and her barely-there reasoning kept me guessing like crazy!
When the story reaches its all-too-soon ending and the final secrets are revealed, it was done so nice and neatly and wrapped up perfectly. Naysayers of open/ambiguous endings, have no fear!
While I could have done without the horrific animal death, Under the Harrow had been one of my most anticipated releases of 2016 and it didn’t disappoint! Blindingly quick to jump right into the mystery, bursting to the brim with twists and turns, and a narrator that definitely kept me on my toes all combined to make this one deliciously entertaining read. Don’t just take my word for it – Claire Messud, author of The Woman Upstairs compared Under the Harrow to Broadchurch and the phenomenally talented Rosamund Lupton (I recently flailed over her latest, The Quality of Silence) said she devoured this book in a single sitting!
Penguin wants YOU to enjoy this awesome book too! ONE lucky winner (US ONLY, please!) will receive a copy of Under the Harrow. All you need to do is fill out this form. Easy peasy! I’ll announce the winner June 21. GOOD LUCK!