First published in 2016
My rating: 3.5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads
The Short Of It:
"Black Rabbit Hall" was a decent read with enough intrigue to keep me turning pages, but nothing really set it apart from the (rather large) pack of books set around mysterious, aging English mansions.
The Long Of It:
I've had a thing for rabbits since I was a toddler, so I was powerless to resist a book called "Black Rabbit Hall," which features a crumbling old English mansion tucked away in Cornwall (another weakness of mine).
Chase's debut novel spins the stories of two women in two time periods, the late 1960s and present day. Amber Alton's and Lorna Dunaway's tales are separated by nearly 50 years, but they're linked by Black Rabbit Hall -- an old English manor that's seen better days even in the 1960s, but still exudes a particular charm and pull.
The Altons are a picture-perfect family: debonair businessman father; vibrant, lovely, full-of-life mother; two beautiful 14-year-old twins, one of whom is our narrator Amber; and two adorable, joyfully happy younger children. They escape the bustle of London to the wild freedom of Black Rabbit Hall during summers and school holidays, and that's where they are in April 1968 when tragedy strikes and alters the trajectory of every member of the Alton family.
Meanwhile in present day, Lorna and her fiance Jon are in search of a wedding venue and, though Jon doesn't particularly care for the dilapidated old mansion tucked far out in the English countryside, something about Black Rabbit Hall keeps tugging at her. She has an eerie feeling that she's been there before, a familiarity prickling at her memory. When the lady of the house, an elderly Mrs. Alton, invites her to stay a few days to get know the property, Lorna jumps at the chance to spend some time exploring the mysterious old manor -- and trying to discover why it keeps tugging at her mind. Little does she know, she's in for a large dose of secrets, skeletons in closets and familial drama; past and present collide as Lorna uncovers the terrible chain of events that befell the Alton family in the 1960s.
"Black Rabbit Hall" revolves around tragedy and long-kept family secrets, and the book has a ring of Kate Morton to it -- though it's not nearly so complex, well-written or deftly done as one of Morton's novels. I found "Black Rabbit Hall" to be entertaining and adequately written, though nothing mind-blowing. But it was, after all, Chase's first novel, and I'll be interested to see what she writes next.