Under The Harrow by Flynn Berry


I’ve been on a mad tear of devouring thrillers lately. They are my “go to” genre when I become distraught, which I am a wee bit right now. Facing the start of a new school year amid typical August heat in Illinois is only one of the things on my horizon. So, instead of reading more thoroughly for Paris in July, or Spanish Lit  Month as I have in prior years, I am buried in psychological thrillers which do not disappoint.

Under The Harrow by Flynn Berry is fantastic. It has the enigma I crave, along with the quality of writing I adore. One is not sacrificed for the other as so often happens in this genre.

When Nora arrives at her sister Rachel’s, expecting polenta and coq au vin, she finds instead the dog hanging from the banister on his tangled up lead and bloody handprints on the wall. Her sister has been stabbed numerous times and is lying dead upstairs in blackened blood. We come to find out that she had been attacked several years earlier on the way home from a party, and subsequently wonder if the two incidents are related.

But there are several other threads which cause dismay. One is the absence of their father whom they haven’t seen, nor does it appear that Nora wishes to see him, in a long time.

Our dad has not turned up. As far as I know, the police have not found him yet, but this is the funeral of his eldest daughter. He might learn of it somehow. He might limp up the aisle and settle in next to me and start to offer theories. The church doors are shut now, and I wonder if anyone would mind if I locked them.

And, there is the presence of Stephan, an old boyfriend whom Rachel did not seem to wish to marry.

Stephan has arrived, I realize with a shot of terror. He comes up and kisses me on the cheek. He smells of whiskey and from this morning, not last night…

They almost got married. Close brush, she said. He still wanted to.

I am only halfway through; this book will keep me pleasantly occupied tonight. I just had to tell you how much I’m enjoying it, how it appears to be one of the best thrillers I’ve read in years. Seriously.

No wonder it has been named one of the best books of summer by Elle, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, The Huffington Post and more. Even Claire Messud said, “Once I started reading Under The Harrow, I couldn’t stop. It’s like Broadchurch written by Elena Ferrante.”

10 thoughts on “Under The Harrow by Flynn Berry”

  1. Crime fiction tends to be a safe haven for me as well, especially if I’m in the mood to chill out with something that’s gripping but not too taxing or ‘intellectual’ if you get my drift. Broadchurch sounds like a good reference point here, but I think I might find the opening scene with the dog a bit too disturbing…

    I hope things calm down for you soon, Bellezza. 🙂


    1. The dog was upsetting to me, too, and thankfully it was “only” one paragraph. The part that’s so good, besides Berry’s writing and ability to create atmosphere, is that there is more going on here than the crime. The characters are so enigmatic and so intriguing, and they are multi-dimensional rather than flat, as I found with The Couple Next Door in my last review.

      Thank you for your soothing thought at the end of your comment. xo


  2. How funny that the schoolyear is nearly ready to start for you, while in the UK it was the first day of the summer holidays yesterday! Frantic as I am too at the moment, though, I can completely understand that a good old page-turner is just what’s required!


    1. We have been out of school since the last day of May, which is quite unusual. And school doesn’t begin again until mid August. It’s the anticipation of needing to get in there again, face the heat the schedule and the endless meetings that is starting to daunt me. You know, my
      typical end of summer whine. But, I am looking forward to meeting my class! 🙂
      And, reading is such a respite to me now in the midst of greater anxiety than going back to work (which in keeping rather private).


  3. This sounds like an engaging thriller! Like you, these are my go-to reads when I can’t concentrate on anything meatier. Summer reading isn’t what it should be for me. There’s far too much going on and I find it difficult to focus on a book when I’m on vacation, entertaining house guests, messing about in the garden or sweltering on the front porch, sipping a beer and, yes, wishing for winter. So, I’ll have to add this to my list, although I’m really trying to tackle the existing stacks in my house.

    I’m listening to The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens and think it’s one you’d enjoy. It’s well-written and the reader is outstanding. It’s been a long time since I’ve read such an intelligent and compelling mystery!


    1. This one is really, really good. But, isn’t it crazy how neither of us is reading as we would like this summer?! There are far too many things taking mental energy in my life right now, particularly with my son, and I am unable to concentrate as I would like. And you are busy seeing wonderful places and visiting with wonderful people and supporting your wonderful writer husband. Thanks for The Life We Bury, though; I’m always looking for a good recommendation.


  4. Thrillers are my go-to in the summer holidays too. It’s impossible to focus on anything deeper with kids, relatives, swimming, dog walking, and so on. This sounds like a great thriller and I have to add it to my TBR list.


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