Harrow Lake

Harrow Lake
Written by Kat Ellis
Contemporary, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Published August 18th 2020
320 Pages
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia
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★★★★☆

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.

Soirees, premières and receptions celebrate acclaimed filmmaker Nolan Nox. Behind the abrasive façade is an overbearing father, placing his professional livelihood above the wellbeing of his daughter. Apart from the occasional industry gathering, Lola Nox is a recluse, forbidden to leave their New York City apartment. Nolan reminding Lola of how her mother abandoned their family. Lola is looking for adventure and against Nolan's wishes, leaves the apartment only to return home to a horrifying crime scene. Nolan has been brutally wounded and while his life hangs in the balance, Lola is sent to live with her estranged grandmother in Harrow Lake, where Nolan produced his infamous cult film Nightjar.


Lola is an interesting character. She's likeable but it becomes apparent that she's a product of her environment, living her life according to Nolan's rules. Rules which aren't necessarily to keep her safe but to control her. As Nolan recovers in hospital from his injuries, Lola has been sent by her father's friend and assistant to her estranged grandmother's house in Harrow Lake. It just happens to be the twentieth anniversary of the Nightjar film release, with the community celebrating each year with a festival.


Lola's estranged grandmother's property is surrounded by a gnarly forest and under the thick canopy, residents whisper the urban legend of Mister Jitters roaming the forest searching for a Little Bird, the community offering teeth to an ancient tree in the forest to keep their families safe. Much weird indeed. Although Harrow Lake is eerily atmospheric, there's an overwhelming sense of wrongness. It's no wonder Lola's mother Lorelei was so eager to escape when she met Nolan and played the role of Little Bird in the original film. 


The fairground is home to the carnival created for the Nightjar film, built amongst the landslide caused the mountain to collapse and bury the historical church in a sinkhole. Urban legend tells the story of Mr Jitters, a centuries old man who was said to have been buried alive and survived by cannibalism. The local folklore warns children of venturing into the forest or risk being captured by Mister Jitters. Mister Jitter's is the stuff of nightmares and even though the residents of Harrow Lake laugh it off as being superstitious, most of them believe something is lurking around the town. 


Strange happenings are afoot friends. Lola's suitcase disappears and she's forced to wear her mother's Little Bird costumes. The likeness is uncanny to the point where even her elderly grandmother believes Lola is Lorelei. Lola is staying in her mother's room where jitterbugs line the shelves and tremble sporadically. It's creepy as hell and made my skin crawl. Lola is determined to unravel the mysteries of her mother, why she was adamant in leaving Harrow Lake and why did she return before abandoning her only child? 


The most striking aspect of Harrow Lake is how the story unravels, a nonlinear narrative shared amongst the community as the history of Lorelei and their town is revealed. Unreliable narrators, those with alterative motives and those who are determined to safekeep the secrets of their strange, foreboding town. Kat Ellis has created a superb vintage horror that will enthral readers until the final page.

12 comments

  1. I am so going to have to add this one to my tbr. Books which nail the atmosphere down - especially the creepy, eerie atmosphere - always get the vote from me. I just love them! And I like the sound of things slowly unraveling to show how much wrongness, and deceit has really been fed to the reader. Sounds perfectly creepy!

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    1. Young adult horror is usually pretty mild but this creeped me out entirely and I loved every moment. Would love to see what you think of it Olivia!

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  2. Ooh I like how the story unfolds. I am really curious about this one, and even more so after reading your review. Thanks for your honest thoughts, as always!!! I'll have to try and get my hands on a copy soon.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. You'll really enjoy this one Lauren, it's creepy but you'll still be able to sleep at night which is a bonus. It made me a little jumpy though. So well written!

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  3. "offering teeth to an ancient tree in the forest to keep their families safe. Much weird indeed." Oh wow that does sound freaky!

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    1. Almost everyone is utterly paranoid and with so many unreliable characters, it really adds to the creepy narrative. Such a brilliant read!

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  4. Well this book sounds like a must read. I mean this would have been a perfect October read if I’d been reading books at that point. Great review because you know you’ve convinced me I need to buy this ASAP. The whole premise just has me all kinds of intrigued.

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    1. Yes, such a perfect Halloween read! I read it during October as well and enjoyed it tremendously more than I'd expected. Young adult horror and thrillers are typically fairly mild but this made my skin crawl. Would love to see what you think of it!

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  5. I felt the mood of this from your review, and it sounds really creepy

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    1. Oh it most definitely is! But also without keeping you awake at night. I love reading urban folklore in fiction, Harrow Lake is just utterly creepy. I think you'll really enjoy this one!

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  6. Oooh that cover is creeptastic! I'll have to check this one out.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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  7. That cover spooks me- no I stand corrected - everything about this book spooks me!

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