Years ago, fictional screenwriter and director Nolan Nox created a horror movie known as Nightjar. The film was about a small town that is nearly destroyed by a landslide. Trapped inside the town, the residents begin eating each other to survive. Nightjar became a cult classic built off the tragedy associated with the film. Nolan shot the movie in a small Indiana town called Harrow Lake, a place where he met his wife, Loralei. During the filming, a crew member disappeared within the town's complex cave system. Fans link this unfortunate disappearance with the film's terrifying plot.
Ellis demands the reader's attention within the first few pages of Harrow Lake. In these non-linear pages is an interview with Nolan about the film, the tragedy and the fact that his own daughter, Lola Nox, has gone missing in the mysterious little town. After this interview segment, the author begins the narrative by going back one year before the interview takes place.
Lola's mother ran away from her and her father years before. Lola and Nolan have a great relationship, but that is put in jeopardy when Lola finds her father stabbed on their apartment floor. With a long rehab at the hospital, Nolan sends Lola to Harrow Lake to temporarily live with her grandmother.
Once Lola arrives in Harrow Lake, strange things begin happening. Her quirky grandmother keeps mistaking Lola for Loralei. Lola finds a strange girl always watching her. There's a myth that a creature called Mr. Jitters haunts the town. Beyond physical things, Lola talks to an imaginary friend named Mary Ann, but she could be a ghost. Things in Harrow Lake are very, very odd.
As a 300-page hardcover, Ellis mostly keeps the reader engaged through a small-town mystery surrounding Lola's mother and her mysterious relationship with Harrow Lake. There's a looming problem regarding Lola's grandmother and some hints that the Mr. Jitters myth is a legit supernatural creature. Enhancing the narrative are Harrow Lake residents that Lola befriends, although she's very introverted and private. Throughout the story, Lola's communications with Nola are severed, creating a sense of isolation and abandonment.
My main issue with the book is that it is written in present tense. This style of narration has gained in popularity, but is an acquired taste. I like the first-person narration, but I don't necessarily want to be in the moment with Lola as she's living this rather abstract existence before my very eyes. This isn't to suggest Kat Ellis isn't a good writer or that the narrative is lacking, it's just not my preference. The presentation subtracted from the overall enjoyment. Otherwise, Harrow Lake is interesting, slightly scary and often disturbing.