Is there a better setting for a mystery with a whiff of the supernatural than an English country manor house? From Thornfield Hall to Manderley, literature is replete with spooky old homes: places that pulse with untold dangers, where secrets and horrors from the past whisper from the shadows.
The eponymous estate in Eve Chase’s debut novel, Black Rabbit Hall, is one such place, though this wasn’t always the case. During the 1960s, it was the Cornish holiday home of the Alton family. Under the watchful eye of their beloved mother, children Amber, Toby, Barney and Kitty would spend lazy summers and school holidays reveling in the pursuits of childhood. But in the present day, the house sits shuttered. To stave off financial ruin, its owner has agreed to rent out the property for weddings, which brings Lorna Smith and her fiance to its gates. Although Black Rabbit Hall is entirely unsuitable for entertaining, Lorna is immediately captivated by the place and can’t shake the feeling that she has visited it before. Curiosity turns into obsession, and Lorna soon finds herself desperate to uncover Black Rabbit Hall’s tragic history.
Chase’s pacing and world-building are excellent, thoroughly setting the scene and bringing her characters to life. There is a dreamy quality to the writing that gives the novel the tenor of a Gothic fairy tale, and although there is a sense of malice and danger that thrums beneath it all, Chase’s achingly beautiful investigation of her characters’ inner lives results in a story that is haunting rather than scary. For fans of Kate Morton and Daphne du Maurier, Black Rabbit Hall is an obvious must-read, but it is sure to please any reader who delights in devilishly thrilling dramas.