Harrow Lake

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

A must-have thriller that will keep you gripped, keep you guessing, and keep you up all night.

“A captivating and creeping mystery full of brilliantly twisting turns and dark secrets. You will race through this chilling, thrilling book.” –Holly Jackson, bestselling author of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

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 quickly 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 IndieMuse Review

Babadook meets Sinister

Harrow Lake tells the story of Lola, teenage daughter of a renowned horror film director, who met Lola’s mother in the town of Harrow Lake on the set of one of his most famous films. Her mother left when she was young and, following the hospitalization of her father, she is sent to stay with family in the town now infamous as a result of the film.

When Lola arrives, something immediately strikes her as unusual about the town. The locals all seem to know her, despite never having met her. Her grandmother seems aloof and distant, and the town itself seems to have changed little in the 20 years since the film was shot. Lola soon befriends a local family who tell her the towns legend of Mister Jitters; a creature who comes down from the caves at night to kill and feed upon anyone who crosses his path. Lola’s obsession with Mister Jitters, coupled with her desire to find out more about the mother she barely remembers, leads her toward discovering long kept secrets the town of Harrow Lake would rather stay buried.

I picked up this book on the strength of the premise. Horror films, spooky towns, mysterious monsters that may or may not prey upon said town’s inhabitants… The book hits a lot of my sweet spots in that regard. It was a let down to find that, ultimately, the book fails to really sell itself in any of these areas.

There is so much going on in this book that it ends up relying on the readers knowledge of standard horror tropes in order to tick that box and move onto the next. Strange town-folk? Check. Strangers stood outside bedroom windows in the night? Check. Creepy woods and an abandoned fairground? Check. It feels like the writer is throwing stuff on the page and seeing what sticks, the end result being very few set pieces or events being particularly memorable.

It is a shame, because Kat Ellis is such a strong writer. Her prose is succinct and vivid and you get such a clear sense of what she is portraying without reliance on lengthy details or descriptions. Her prose is peppered with pop culture references and the dialogue feels genuine and easy. A pity that the dialogue comes from such unsympathetic characters.

Throughout the book, I struggled to connect with Lola, who is our narrator for all but the brief Prologue and Epilogue (cleverly set out in the form of an interview). Her inner monologue is too consistently self-absorbed, and her constant tick of describing things based on how ‘optimal’ they are becomes very grating very fast. A weak plot is easy to forgive with strong characters, but I can’t say Harrow Lake particularly excelled in this regard either.

The twist ending is heavily signposted very early on and came as no surprise and, while there was a lot to like that comes before it, there’s not a lot to recommend it as anything more than an enjoyable enough, but forgettable and, ultimately, faintly disappointing read. While I would happily try another book by Kat Ellis, I can’t say Harrow Lake is the one that will be winning over new readers.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

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