Title: Harrow Lake
Author: Kat Ellis
Date: 9 July 2020
Blogtour: April 16th -May27th
Comment: I was given a free ecopy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Part of @the_writereads blog tour.
Welcome to Harrow Lake. Someone’s expecting you . . .
Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her.
But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot.
The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.
And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.
The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her.
The opening pages are the transcript of an interview with the revered filmmaker, Nolan Nox.
The interviewer asks questions about his critically acclaimed masterpiece NightJar and then the mysterious disappearances of both his wife and his daughter from the town where the horror movie was filmed. Nolan shuts this line of questioning down abruptly and the prologue ends.
The first chapter opens with Lola Nox coming home to find her father stabbed. She is then taken, against her will, to Harrow Lake to live with her grandmother.
She just so happens to arrive around the time the locals do their yearly homage to the movie that put their town on the map. They do this by staging parades, doing re-enactments and wearing the same period clothing so as to give the tourists value for money. This starts to blur the lines between reality and fantasy.
Lola starts to unravel before our eyes as she fights with secrets from her past, her father’s legacy and the real explanation of what happened to her mother.
A whole town obsessed with monsters and the hysteria surrounding NightJar tip her closer and closer to the edge of madness. But is it in her head or is there really something out to get her?
When we are first introduced to Lola she is disobeying her father and speaks very much like every put upon teenager. I thought this would be just another teenage rebellion story and was disheartened. But very quickly it is apparent that her father’s behaviour is what has led directly to her own and we have more sympathy and understanding. I think from that point I was pretty much captivated.
I know the citizens of Harrow Lake were supposed to come off as odd in order to add to the sense of foreboding and the general atmosphere of unease but, to be honest, I found some of them to be cliché to the point that I didn’t resonate with them at all.
The small-town Sheriff with a hidden drinking problem and the lecherous creep who hangs around her grandmother didn’t seem to have anything going for them other than to be a caricature of their roles. That said, I did like Carter and Cora and their different relationships with Lola.
The rest of the characters were well rounded, eccentric and very compelling. Nolan, despite being absent for the majority of the book, was so well fleshed out by his actions that you almost forgot that he wasn’t there. Her grandmother was sympathetic and took turns being both victim and villain in such a great way.
The actual story was excellent and really kept you gripped all the way through. There were twists and turns and secrets revealed and red herrings and was the best kind of murder mystery/ horror where you weren’t entirely sure what was coming but were definitely enjoying the journey.
Obviously, due to the opening prologue, we are aware that Lola will, eventually, go missing and so we are on tenterhooks, trying to piece together the mystery. But most of the fun was in untangling the skeins of mystery, superstition, lies and diversions.
I did make the mistake of reading this late at night while the crickets were chirping outside and then had to get my husband to escort me to the bathroom because I’d freaked myself out. I had to put it away and read again during daylight hours so as to be able to sleep.
Just as a little aside I do think I like the bright yellow book cover best. I think this one is the UK version and the one on the left is the US cover.
I loved the writing style and the final ending was a surprise and yet very satisfying. I really felt immersed in the world of NightJar and Harrow Lake.
Although I REALLY could have done without the cake scene.
Great review. I felt much the same about the citizens. I couldn’t connect with the side characters at all.
[…] reading Harrow Lake by Kate Ellis last year, I knew I wanted to read more of her books. She has a fantastic way of using the town to […]