Review: Rabbit Hole, by Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham has earned his reputation as one of Britain’s best crime writers due to his series featuring Tom Thorne, a detective serving with the Metropolitan Police. From time to time, he writes books that are not part of that series, and sometimes these feature Thorne and other characters from his series in walk-on roles. Rabbit Hole is that kind of book. If I were to choose one word to describe it, that word would be ‘claustrophobic’. Set entirely inside a closed mental health ward in a north London hospital, the characters are pretty much all either hospital staff or patients who have been ‘sectioned’ (forcibly hospitalised) under the Mental Health Act. A murder takes place and one of the patients, a former police officer named Alice (she of ‘rabbit hole’ fame) decides to investigate. In his final remarks, Billingham mentions how difficult it was to write a book like this, and it sounds like he knows a bit about what life is like in these wards. Or rather more than a bit. Claustrophobic for sure, but also brilliant story telling and a wonderfully-drawn character in Alice.