Friday, August 6, 2021

Rabbit Hole - Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham pens one of my favourite crime series - the Tom Thorne books. But he also writes standalones -  the latest is Rabbit Hole

Now, what do think when you hear the title? Merriam Webster defines a rabbit hole as "a complexly bizarre or difficult state or situation conceived of as a hole into which one falls or descends." 

Alice Armitage find herself in a rabbit hole. She's a "medically retired" police officer. After witnessing the death of her partner, she develops PTSD and starts self medicating with drink and drugs. Which lands her sectioned into a secure psychiatric unit.

"A murder isn't really anything to write home about in a place like this, not when you think about it. It's almost inevitable, I reckon, like the noise and the smell. You ask me, a murder's par for the course."

Uh huh, a patient is murdered and Alice, as police, decides to work the case from inside. Great premise! Oh, Alice is a wonderfully unreliable narrator! She has memory issues, is paranoid and takes a boatload of meds every day - as does everyone she lives with. The killer could be any one of the residents. 

There are a number of supporting players in Rabbit Hole - both residents and staff. The book is told from Alice's point of view and that's how we get to know the others. I have to applaud Billingham's description of those residents and their illnesses, as well as the setting and the every day life on the ward. We learn bits and pieces of what came before for Alice from interactions with some ex colleagues, friends and family. There's some dark humour scattered thoughout.

As to the 'investigation - I was just as stymied as Alice. I was with her as she pieced together answers that seemed quite logical, but changed often with new observations, memories and occurrences. I truly (and happily) had no idea who the killer would be. I thought things were being wrapped up in the run up to the final pages, and was caught off guard by an unexpected twist. Nice ending!

In my opinion, the idea for Rabbit Hole was really different (in a good way), the setting jumped to life, the characters were intriguing and really well drawn and I couldn't solve the mystery myself. Well done Mark Billingham! I'll be waiting for your next book. Read an excerpt of Rabbit Hole.

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