When Rhonda Farr stops off at her local mini mart and petrol station she doesn't expect to witness a kidnapping. While having her car filled she sees a neighbor's little girl get out of her mother's car and trustingly puts her hands into the paws of a six foot tall white rabbit. It's so bizarre it doesn't register until both rabbit and girl get into a car, which pulls out, leaving her motionless until the girl's mother starts to scream for her child.
As the town of Pike's Crossing gears up for a manhunt Rhonda remembers another time in the past when her own friend, Lizzy also disappeared, though it doesn't seem likely there was any connection. Still, there was a time when her friend's father used to dress up as a rabbit at Easter, but surely there couldn't be anything similar as that was for fun and Daniel, Lizzies father also went missing before his daughter did. Despite that, Rhonda can't just stand back and do nothing. Her conscience wouldn't let her, especially when she's blamed for not stopping the abduction.
But the past keeps intruding on the present, especially since the missing child left clues behind in her drawings and her friends remember her talking about her friend, Peter Rabbit, who was taking her to Rabbit's island. Rhonda knows another Peter, her friend's brother and a childhood partner in many games, surely he couldn't be mixed up in anything so wrong, especially since he now has a daughter near little Ernie's age?
Revisiting the past.
I haven't read anything by this author before, but the book jacket looked interesting and the brief synopsis intrigued me. Surely a person dressed as a rabbit couldn't just drive away with a little girl, even in a small American town? Described as 'a smart mystery-thriller that grabs you by the throat and won't let go' I expected a good read from author Jennifer McMahon, whose debut novel was an instant success. Instead I got a mish-mash of a story that had moments of genius amongst long chapters of childhood memories and a girlish crush that the character carries into adulthood.
The author does handle the past and present well, but I had to keep reminding myself of who was related to whom, and this spoilt some of my enjoyment. The author tries to keep the time-lines apart by writing one chapter in the present of June 2006 and then looks back with a chapter from the spring and summer of 1993. There's some cleverly written overlap of characters and places that makes you think about the characters and formulate theories. There's certainly enough material for speculation but the rabbit theme soon got boring and I couldn't see where the title came from at all.
Rhonda is a woman in her twenties who is unemployed at the moment. She narrates most of the story and through her we see the other characters, but naturally, they are told from one person's perspective so can we believe her? The author has made her a bit of a loner, a strong woman in many ways, but handicapped by her crush on the adult Peter who lives with another childhood friend named 'Tock' a nickname she received when taking part as the crocodile in Peter's play (naturally it's about Peter Pan). Peter and Tock have a child Suzy, who's about Ernie's age. They both know about the rabbit and how much fun he is. Peter's sister Lizzy was Rhonda's best friend and the families are further mixed by their parent's marriages. I won't confuse this further as it does seem that Peter and Rhonda may have shared a father. If so, then why does Rhonda want to protect him when evidence shows he may have something to do with the abduction?
McMahon tries to draw past and present together through her characters and sometimes it backfires. She plays an interesting game with adding in the voice of the rabbit in a way that suggests the man is a psychopath, but it adds little to the story. I could see the way past and present weaved and the use of the children's plays, particularly using 'Peter Pan and the Lost Boys' as a metaphor for abduction, but to name them all Peter was asking for trouble straight away. I think we were supposed to care about the children and the way that Rhonda was pushed aside. Frankly I'd got to the stage when any empathy I might have had was gone by then.
Apart from the main characters, the author pulls in some nicely drawn characters in the form of Warren, the nephew who comes home from college and helps hunt for the girl. There's Pat, the woman who owns the garage and mini mart, her husband, Jim. Then there's Aggie, the town drunk who was once married to Rhonda's father. You can see the invisible links and the threads of possibilities, but they don't go very far.
I've tried my best to find things in the book worth reading. As a plot it sounds good but unfortunately the level of terror and suspense falls flat. Many of the main characters are hard to like or even understand. The past obviously is there to muddy the waters and suggest a link to present events, yet I could hardly see the faint connections. Whether the author tried too hard or I unraveled the strings too early, I didn't get enough from the story and therefore can't really recommend it.
At best the book might be classed as a study in motivations and the echoes of childhood friendship, but for a murder mystery there's no real substance. Worth a read if it's a rainy day, but for me I struggled to finish it and only did because I'd managed to get halfway though. The rabbit was the best part of the story and he ended up in a right old stew!
My copy was a library book. It's a paperback book with 255 pages and you can buy it for 1p plus postage used on Amazon. Published by Sphere in 2008.
Thanks for reading my review.
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