Under the Harrow is Flynn Berry's debut novel.
Nora is traveling to her sister's home for the weekend. She's a bit late, but when she arrives Rachel isn't there to meet the train. Nora instead walks to the house where she finds Rachel and her dog - brutally murdered.
Rachel was attacked as a teenager and the crime was never solved. Since then, she and Nora have always combed the crime reports, attended trials and more in an attempt to find the man who assaulted Rachel. Could he have found her after all this time? Is it someone in the village? A lover? A jealous wife? A stranger?
"Rachel said there was something wrong with the town, only a few weeks ago"
The search for answers consumes Nora - she stays in the village, unable to return to her own life. She becomes obsessed, certain she can find the killer as she feels the police aren't making any headway.
Under the Harrow is of course a mystery - there are many suspects offered up. And I liked that I was kept guessing until the very last pages.
But Under the Harrow is also an exploration of the relationship between the two sisters. How well do we really know those we love? How well do we know ourselves? What does such a calamitous event do to a person's psyche? For me, this was the strongest part of the book. Berry puts us in Nora's head - her staccato thoughts, memories, hazy recollections and fractured thinking is mirrored in her dialogue and actions. The reader is kept off kilter, trying to keep up with Nora's galloping 'stream of consciousness' thoughts. And I began to question Nora's memories. Are they true or her remembered truths?
The title? It's a C.S. Lewis quote from A Grief Observed:
"Come, what do we gain by evasions? We are under the harrow and can't escape."
This was a strong debut and an author I would pick up again. Read an excerpt of Under the Harrow.