Black Rabbit Hall tells two stories: one of a family torn apart by death and secrets, and the other of a newly-engaged couple planning their wedding. The two narrators for these stories are 15-year-old Amber and 32-year-old Lorna respectively. I love a good multi-narrator story, and this one did not disappoint.
Lorna and her fiancé, Jon, come to Black Rabbit Hall to check it out as a wedding venue. Lorna falls in love with the house. She feels drawn to it, although she doesn’t know why. When she’s invited by the owner, Mrs. Alton, to come stay at the house and visit, she accepts, but gets more than she came for.
Amber has a twin brother named Toby, and two younger siblings, Barney and Kitty. The four children and their parents share a relatively happy life together until their mother’s untimely death. Their mother’s death causes a strain on their relationships, made even worse by the arrival of a new stepmother and stepbrother for the children.
Mystery novels are always a challenge for me, a “can I figure this out before the characters do?” sort of thing, which I enjoy. I have to say this one through me off at one point. I had suspicions early on about how it would end, and though I was mostly right, I did question myself in the middle and got a few things wrong, which, I’ll admit, is sort of rare for me.
Though I really enjoyed the novel overall, I didn’t care for the antagonist. I usually love the villains. Their backstories are usually so well-developed, drawing you in and making you sympathize with them, even if you know it’s wrong. But the stepmother, Caroline, is shallow and cliché. She is somewhat humanized in the end, but not enough to change the reader’s mind about her. It seemed sort of a copout to me to write the tired “evil stepmother” archetype, when there are so many other options out there. The other thing I didn’t love was the ending wrapped everything up in a neat little bow, which I can’t stand. It’s not realistic. Even if the rest of the book is about magic or monsters or things that don’t exist, for some reason, a perfect ending seems more unrealistic to me than anything else.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves mysteries, novels about family relationships, or young love stories.
By Liz Dobson