The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
A taut psychological thriller, Under The Harrow has been compared to The Girl On The Train and there are certainly similarities – a flawed and traumatized narrator who cannot clearly remember events from her own life and a sequence of false but tenuously connected trails that finally lead to a revelation..
Nora arrives at her sister Rachel's house in the country to find that Rachel has been brutally murdered. From this point on the emphasis is as much on understanding what has happened in Nora's life as it is on understanding what has happened to Rachel. She's an unreliable narrator with blanks in her past caused by reckless living and now those missing episodes seem suddenly important.
Flynn Berry's writing is not as rich as Paula Hawkins'. There are too many characters who are little more than names like Alice, the best friend who is often referred to but seldom seen or like Louise, the girlfriend of a young man who was killed in the town shortly before Rachel's murder. Louise's involvement becomes critical at the climax yet for most of the book she has been no more than part of the scenery. That felt a little too much like plot engineering to me.
What Berry is really good at, however, is depicting the effects of trauma. Nora is a very convincing narrator and the reader gets right inside her head, feeling her distress as she tries to fit the pieces of her disordered experience together, and understanding the way her anger flares at the casual betrayals and pointless violence that surrounds her. Spare and effective, Under The Harrow is a class above the average murder story.