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Black Rabbit Summer

Review

Black Rabbit Summer

In the sultry heat of the summer, Pete Boland is lethargic and disinterested in doing much of anything. He sleeps late and then hangs around the house as his school vacation days pass uneventfully. Then one day, Nicole Leigh, an old friend, calls to invite him to a reunion of his old buddies on Saturday night. Nicole and her twin brother, Eric, will be moving to Paris soon, and they have a whim to meet up with their friends in the old den they built in the woods. Before they drifted apart, the group spent all of their time together.

Although Nicole doesn't mention Raymond Daggett, Pete points out that Raymond was a part of their group. Pete loves Raymond in spite of the fact that Raymond, who is emotionally attached to his pet rabbit to the point that he believes it communicates to him in words, is distinctly strange. When Raymond's current Black Rabbit dies, he replaces it with another one that he is convinced is somehow the same rabbit. Pete is protective of Raymond, who has a dreadful home life but maintains a childlike open heart.

Nicole reluctantly agrees that Raymond can come, too. They should all bring liquor to share, and afterward they can go to the carnival.

Nicole's invitation is unsettling. She and Pete enjoyed a few intimate encounters ages ago, and now he feels quite off-kilter over the prospect of being with her again, especially when she makes it clear that he can spend the night with her after the reunion. Pete is excited about the group getting together again, but he is also frightened of the idea.

When Pete invites Raymond to the reunion, Raymond is troubled at the news that Pauly Gilpin will be there, too. Although Pauly was once one of the group, he now hangs around with a scary group of tough kids headed by the infamous Wes Campbell. However, Pete reassures Raymond that only the five old friends will be at the den: Nicole, Eric, Pauly, Pete and Raymond.

Saturday finally arrives. Pete meets Raymond, and they head for the den in the woods. Raymond is pale and quiet. He blurts out, "The star's going out tonight." When Pete questions him, Raymond says that's what Black Rabbit told him that afternoon. Their discussion breaks off when they see Pauly in a group that includes the dreaded Wes Campbell. Pete knows that Raymond is spooked, but so is Pete. Wes acts hostile but tells Pauly that he'll see him later on.

In the den, the group share bottles of alcohol. Pauly rolls a joint. Pete begins to hallucinate; he sees Nicole's face as a series of patterns. Her skin seems to ripple with energy, and his head whirls with sensation when the two are alone and she touches him. However, things go awry between them, and Nicole leaves angry. Finally, Pete finds his way alone to the fair where the evening continues to unfold in a series of nightmarishly disorienting vignettes.

Pete finally finds Raymond with local teen celebrity Stella Ross. Stella is making Raymond the butt of a continuing joke until Pete intervenes. Pete drifts with Raymond into the fortune teller's tent where Madame Baptiste's prediction about Raymond's fate makes Pete's skin crawl. Not long after, Raymond vanishes, another person is missing, blood is spilled and the police are questioning Pete.

BLACK RABBIT SUMMER is a gripping page-turner with a brooding and unnerving atmosphere. Pete is such a sympathetic main character that readers won't be able to put the book down until they come to the end of his story --- which is part thriller and part coming-of-age saga. While some will be disappointed that one major thread of the tale is left dangling, others may well argue that the lack of a tidy ending makes for more realism.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on July 1, 2008

Black Rabbit Summer
by Kevin Brooks

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2009
  • Genres: Mystery
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Push
  • ISBN-10: 0545060893
  • ISBN-13: 9780545060899