Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

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Penguin, 2020. ISBN: 9780241397046.
(Age: 15+) Recommended. Ideal for Halloween, this thriller/horror story is one that will keep readers glued to the page as they follow the trials of Lola Nox, the daughter of a horror filmmaker. With her father is founded with multiple stab wounds, she is sent off to stay with the grandmother that she has never met. The rural town of Harrow Lake was the setting for Nolan Nox's most famous horror film and the place where her mother was brought up. The town has used this setting as a tourist attraction and each year there are unexplained disappearances which are never solved. Some bizarre occurrences, a strange puppet like creature called Mister Jitters, legends about cannibalism and weird tapping noises set the scene for some very scary moments as Lola tries to find out what happened to her mother Lorelei who abandoned her as a young child.
The pace is fast, and the book is hard to put down, indeed it is one that many readers will want to finish in one or two sittings, holding their breathes as they read. There are some truly memorable scenes like a dead tree that has hundreds of teeth hanging from it, and a frightening group of caves, housing a derelict church.
Lola is not a person who the reader will readily identify with in the beginning but as the story unfolds, the reader will get to know what her life has been like with a totally controlling father and will begin to sympathise with her. It is hard to tell the truth from what could be her wild imaginination. Is her friend Mary Ann really appearing to her? What is the meaning of the secrets that are written on bits of paper and hidden and why did Lorelei collect strange bug like creatures? Is someone stalking her? Can she trust Carter the young man who has befriended her? What is her grandmother hiding and where has Lorelei disappeared to?
Fans of thrillers and horror stories will find Harrow Lake difficult to put down and will have fun working out the truth in Lola's unreliable narrative and enjoy the horror tropes of a scary town with strange people, stalkers, dark woods and horrifying puppets.
Pat Pledger