Jennifer Palmer has read crime fiction since her teenage years & enjoys reviewing within the many sub-genres that now exist; as a historian who lectures on real life historical mysteries she particularly appreciates historical cime fiction.
Nora arrives at her sister's house in an Oxfordshire village to find that her sister has been murdered; Nora is unable to go back to her life in London and pursues whoever killed her sister Rachel with determined obsession.
The shock of finding the body of her sister, Rachel, brutally murdered in her own home sends Nora on a spiral of grief and despair. The whole book becomes a coruscating picture of the effects of sorrow on a close relative when there is a violent death. Nora tries to investigate what happened to Rachel as she feels that the police will not find the killer. Her mistrust of police relates to a previous assault in their joint past that was unsolved. This whole tale is Nora's story, combining her reactions to the horrible death of Rachel with her own psychological problems and the unsettling memories of their relationship from their younger days. At times the story is incoherent with blackouts and irrational actions fixated on potential killers. The rollercoaster of Nora's emotions become more violent as she uncovers aspects of her sister that were hidden from her. The possibility of discovering Rachel's murderer becomes Nora’s sole purpose in life; and the reader is mainly involved in watching whether she can achieve this.
The book provides a good read as it unmasks the ways sibling live and how their sibling rivalry works. However, the detection by Nora is received by the police detectives rather more sympathetically than I would have expected. The other characters, whether police, friends, acquaintances or suspects don't really come to life. Even Nora and Rachel seem to be behind a veil - though this could be deliberate. The title Under the Harrow is apparently a reference to an image of being oppressed and endangered by the harrow as an animal might have been in a field. Certainly Nora is distressed, making irrational responses and endangered; though I’m unsure that a whole novel on the subject is really justified. There is a pattern to Nora's discoveries about her sister, and a final conclusion to her investigations is eventually achieved.