Book review: Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham

Tuesday, August 17, 2021 Permalink

I tend not to buy books if I don’t get them for review because I just have too many books in my TBR pile. I’m also usually either bitterly disappointed if I’ve missed something I’ve requested; or petulant to the point I decide I’m never going to review another book again. #realmature

The blurb for Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham leapt out at me when I saw it advertised but I was very worried I’d missed it until I had it in my fat little (well, medium-sized) hands. It certainly seemed to be offering something quite new and as soon as I started reading I fell in love with the way Billingham has written this book – from the point-of-view of Alice – who’s resplendent with quirks and a smidge of ‘crazy’.*

Book review: Rabbit Hole by Mark BillinghamRabbit Hole
by Mark Billingham
Published by Sphere
on 03/08/2021
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9781408712443
Pages: 388

They were meant to be safe on Fleet Ward: psychiatric patients monitored, treated, cared for. But now one of their number is found murdered, and the accusations begin to fly.

Was it one of his fellow patients? A member of staff? Or did someone come in from the outside?

DC Alice Armitage is methodical, tireless, and she's quickly on the trail of the killer.

The only problem is, Alice is a patient too.

I’ve read a few of Billingham’s books including some of the series featuring Detective Tom Thorne. I also VERY much enjoyed a previous standalone, Die of Shame.**

It’s impossible not to be drawn to Alice. She’s honest and fastidiously obsessed with ensuring her account of events is factually correct. Of course she also implies she’s not always truthful and often forgetful so, she’s the perfect flawed protagonist.

Although Alice is the star of this book it’s Billingham’s writing that allows her to be. His prose (ie. her storytelling) is informal, droll and irreverent but insightful at the same time. I was hooked from the moment she introduces herself to us.

As for the plot, it probably lost me a smidge at the end although I’m not quite sure what I would have done differently. There are several twists – in terms of the whodunnit and then… after.

I wouldn’t have expected the final twist HOWEVER the blurb about this book from Goodreads (NOT used above) hinted at the scenario, so I was a bit more suspicious throughout the book than I would have otherwise been. It’s disappointing really as I don’t think it would have occurred to me otherwise so would have made that final twist more shocking. I didn’t mind the revelation but of course the pragmatist (and former undergraduate psych student) in me didn’t think it would/could have panned out that way… in a therapeutic sense.

It’s hard to say much about this book without giving stuff away. Alice is determined to investigate her fellow patient’s murder but is most certainly a tad obsessive and wonderfully subjective. She’s also told of many things she does that she has no recollection of doing and alternates between being overly cocky, muddled and quite afraid. All of which means when there’s a second death – of someone she suspected of the first murder – the finger’s being pointed at her.

I noted Billingham mentions in the Acknowledgements that this was difficult to write and then says something again later, implying it was tougher than usual. I worked in mental health but don’t really have any experience with in-patient units but I appreciated the way Billingham portrayed the patients. We’re given some information about them and their backgrounds in a way that felt respectful and viewing them as individuals rather than case studies; in addition to Alice’s irreverent thoughts about them, their illnesses and issues. Of course she’s not being judgemental, as she’s the same towards the staff and not one to beat about the bush or suffer fools gladly.

This is an excellent read and I was particularly taken with Billingham’s writing – his portrayal of Alice’s world, and of her every thought. As I said, I was hooked from the beginning and happy to remain there.

Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

* I know this is derogatory / inappropriate but in deference to Alice and her own irreverence and sense of humour I’ve gone with it.
** See also my review back in the days I was reviewing for Queensland APN (regional newspaper chain)


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