cover image Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole

Mark Billingham. Atlantic Monthly, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5870-3

Det. Constable Alice “Al” Armitage, the narrator of this gripping if flawed standalone from British author Billingham (the Tom Thorne series), has a psychotic breakdown after witnessing her police partner’s murder and is admitted to the psych ward of London’s Hendon Community Hospital. Her drug and alcohol addictions contribute to her being “medically retired” as a cop. At Hendon, she’s popular with the staff members and the other patients because of her caustic wit and the allure of being an ex-cop. After a patient is murdered in his room, detectives swarm the hospital, and Al is furious when she’s not permitted to help with the investigation. She takes it out on the staff and sets out to interview all the patients in an effort to solve the murder. But when Al finds a senior nurse’s stabbed body in the women’s restroom, she becomes a murder suspect. Humor, uniquely eccentric characters, and a convincing portrayal of the mind of a complex lead elevate this thriller above the ordinary. Only the hurried, implausible ending disappoints. Hopefully, Billingham will return to form next time. Agent: David Forrer, InkWell Management. (Aug.)