cover image Black Rabbit Hall

Black Rabbit Hall

Eve Chase. Putnam, $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-399-17412-4

This leisurely paced modern British gothic is the debut novel from journalist Chase. Thirty-two-year-old schoolteacher Lorna and her fiancé, Jon, a carpenter who works for his family construction business, are Londoners in Cornwall to inspect possible venues for their marriage celebration. One place fetching Lorna’s eye is the estate Pencraw Hall, better known as Black Rabbit Hall, which has seen better days. Upon their arrival, Lorna feels a close kinship to the sprawling manor house, but Jon has serious reservations and wants to leave. Lorna chats with the current owner, Caroline Alton, an aristocrat who is nearly broke. The book has a second narrative that takes place three decades earlier, further engaging the reader. Hugo Alton lives with his wife, Nancy, and their four young children at the same estate. After Nancy dies in an equine accident, the bereft Hugo introduces his family to his old American friend Caroline Shawcross, a widow, and her son, Lucian. When Hugo and Caroline marry, Hugo’s eldest daughter, Amber, falls in love with the older Lucian, and their taboo relationship causes a dark scandal that the Altons go to painful and cruel lengths to shield from the public eye. Lorna accepts Caroline’s invitation to stay at the manor house and then gets busy putting together the pieces to discover her ties to the Altons and Black Rabbit Hall. Her exposé of the family secrets paves the way to the upbeat resolution. Chase deserves high marks for her atmospheric setting and vivid prose, and fans of old-fashioned gothic stories will find this a winner. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, Inkwell Management. (Feb.)