On the Bookshelf...

Harrow Lake

Kat Ellis

The daughter of a horror film director is not afraid of anything--until she gets to Harrow Lake. Things I know about Harrow Lake: 1.It's where my father shot his most disturbing slasher film. 2.There's something not right about this town. 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 some thing--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.

Harrow Lake is a YA thriller that wouldn't be out of place as an 80's slash movie. The book told from the point of view of Lola Nox, the daughter of an 80's film producer. When he gets injured, she's sent to live with her maternal grandparents in Harrow Lake. The story picks up here...

I first heard of Kat Ellis after reading Blackfin Sky. It was different from the usual run of the mill teenage thrillers and made me want to read more. I loved the way the initial reader copies had been wrapped as if they were a Blockbuster rental video. (would have liked one of those). It added to the theme of the book, pity retail copies didn't come like that. This book reads like a homage to those 80's slash fests. Think RL Stine but a hundred times better and you have what this book is like.

Cleverly written, we find out about Lola's past at the same time as she does. Something isn't quite right about the town of Harrow Lake. The tension builds up slowly as she wanders around the town finding out about the back story. It's a town that celebrates her father's masterpiece, Nightjar with an annual festival. When Lola's clothes go missing on the first night, she's forced to wear her mother's old clothes, clothes that make her look exactly her disappeared mother. Then she finds out about Mr Jitters...

This is an extremely well written book. It draws you in slowly, giving small snippets that keeps you hooked into the story. As the plot reveals itself, you feel the horror as she wanders through the forest, finds the horrific tooth tree, and delves deep into the mountainside. Excellent writing makes you feel the emotions of the protagonist. Horror is never far from Lola as she starts to realise what the true story is behind her mother's disappearance. There in the background, and in my dreams, was Mr Jitters.

So, this is a five-star book, no doubts. A wickedly delightful horror romp by a very accomplished author. Warning though - don't read at night on your own or you'll be hearing Mr Jitters crawling up to you.

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Review by
AJ Steel
January 16, 2024

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