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Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis #BookReview

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 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. 

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis book cover

Title: Harrow Lake | Author: Kat Ellis | Publisher: Penguin | Pub. Date: 9 July 2020 | Pages: 320 | ISBN: 9780241397046 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Starred Review: No | Source: Publisher

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Harrow Lake Review

‘Harrow Lake’ is a surprisingly effective and at times very creepy young adult horror novel. Given the target audience, I wasn’t expecting anything that was going to unsettle me, but actually this got to me on more than one occasion. It’s not perfect, but when it’s good it has a lot to recommend it, especially some really disturbing imagery.

This being YA, the protagonist is a teenage girl, Lola. She’s the daughter of a notorious horror movie director, Nolan Nox, who made a star of her mother when he filmed his most famous film, ‘Nightjar’, in her home town of Harrow Lake. Years later Lola travels to stay with her grandmother in the town when her father is brutally attacked.

Things get creepy fast. Kat Ellis’ depiction of a small town middle America that is stuck in past is both entertaining and subtly critical. The residents of Harrow Lake are obsessed with the film that their town famous, as well as with a mining disaster decades earlier that claimed scores of lives. Through in a batty grandmother, an inappropriate local man who drives Lola about and some authentically disturbing local folklore and you’ve got the makings of a decent horror tale.

Ellis clearly knows a bit about the genre and the number of movie references is a lot of fun. That fandom seeps into the rest of the book as well and the result is definitely gripping, but can feel a bit derivative at times. ‘Harrow Lake’ is a bit like a YA mash up of Marisha Pessl’s novel ‘Night Film’ and ‘The Wicker Man’. That works fine for about 85% of the book, but unfortunately the ending let it down for me. As is often the case with this kind of thing, the reality of what has actually been going on doesn’t match the promise of the build up.

It’s a fun book though. Definitely one to stick in the hands of any teenagers you might know who have an interest in the genre, and a fine way to while away a few hours for old adults too.

Content Warning:

Suicide, child abuse

You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at Bookshop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.

Published inHorror Book ReviewsUnstarred Reviews

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