After the curious death of a hospital patient on Fleet Ward, Alice Armitage jumps at the chance to get her teeth into another case, to prove her worth. Trouble is, this isn’t any ward and Alice isn’t any copper. Fleet Ward is a psychiatric unit.
And Alice is one of the patients.
Drawn to the chilling book cover by morbid curiosity, I was compelled further by her deliberately chosen name, and the title linking it to the strange world of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. Therefore, I was expecting a twisted and terrifying novel that really would keep me up at night as guaranteed in the book description. However, Rabbit Hole appears more cosy crime than killer thriller but devoid of any cosiness and comfort. Slightly slow and calm throughout, even the climax was no big contrast with the big reveal not as dramatically shocking as possible. I read on, waiting for that trademark tempo increase when drama drastically hurtles towards the finale, but never quite got there. That said, the ending tied up nice and neatly leaving me feeling satisfied and then, of course, I read the epilogue…
On the other hand, true to the promise of a good crime novel there wasn’t one character I didn’t suspect as Billingham had me second guessing my every thought. Although slow, it was rife with twists and the bombshell dropped in the epilogue was no different.
Despite the bleakness suggested by the synopsis, there is no shortage of humour as Alice dryly documents the day-to-day life of the ward and its patients. Not your typical protagonist, I often felt torn between deep sympathy towards her and dislike for her callous actions. But the depth and heart each character had, I could easily imagine us brushing shoulders in the street or sitting nearby on the train. That is, if most of them weren’t being detained under the Mental Health Act.
Perhaps a little anticlimactic for those crime novel aficionados, yet very engaging and neatly written. Mark Billingham’s Rabbit Hole will have you frantically guessing until the very last word.