Lorna’s looking for a place to have her wedding, and nothing is quite right. That is, until she finds Black Rabbit Hall, a rambling, mysterious, falling-apart house in Cornwall. Her fiance is skeptical, to say the least, but Lorna feels a connection with the place that she just can’t shake. As Lorna digs into the history of the house, she uncovers the tragedies that occurred there, the repercussions of which have rolled into the present day.
There are a few things I like in my gothic mysteries. First, atmosphere. I want them oozing with atmosphere so thick you can bite into it. I want a good family mystery, with intrigue and twists and turns galore. I want a huge, ghostly house (actual ghosts are optional, but it needs to have character such that ghosts are a possibility). And I want characters that are a mess—they can have it together on the surface, but they need to be a jumbling mass of emotions underneath. I was thrilled to get all of that and much more with Black Rabbit Hall.
Lorna is a mess in both the best and worst possible ways. It’s apparent she has ghosts in her past she hasn’t laid to rest, though what they are only becomes clear later in the novel. Her obsession with Black Rabbit Hall is puzzling, to say the least, and frustrating in many ways. Though readers do get the sense that the house was once beautiful, its flaws are apparent. Lorna is filling a hole inside herself by losing herself in the romanticism of the house, and it’s intriguing to watch it unfold before you.
Characters don’t always have to be likeable, but the reader has to care about what happens to them. This line is tricky and difficult to walk, and yet Chase does it very well in Black Rabbit Hall. None of the characters are fully likeable; they’re all complex, with their own selfish motivations and confusing reasons for acting the way they do. But the reader cares about what happens to them all, even after discovering the worst about them. It’s very well done, the way they leap off the page.
If you love gothic mysteries as much as I do, Black Rabbit Hall should definitely be on your list. The mystery is very satisfying, predictable at times and wildly unpredictable at others. This is a story that will draw you in, and you’ll want to read it in one sitting. I recommend taking your time savoring the rich atmosphere Chase writes, though; you won’t regret it.