Book Reviews

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day

18666094[1]“For Chicago sociology professor Amelia Emmet, violence was a research topic–until a student she’d never met shot her. 

He also shot himself. Now he’s dead and she’s back on campus, trying to keep up with her class schedule, a growing problem with painkillers, and a question she can’t let go: Why?

All she wants is for life to get back to normal, but normal is looking hard to come by. She’s thirty-eight and hobbles with a cane. Her first student interaction ends in tears (hers). Her fellow faculty members seem uncomfortable with her, and her ex–whom she may or may not still love–has moved on.

Enter Nathaniel Barber, a graduate student obsessed with Chicago’s violent history. Nath is a serious scholar, but also a serious mess about his first heartbreak, his mother’s death, and his father’s disapproval.  Assigned as Amelia’s teaching assistant, Nath also takes on the investigative legwork that Amelia can’t do. And meanwhile, he’s hoping she’ll approve his dissertation topic, the reason he came to grad school in the first place: the student attack on Amelia Emmet. 

Together and at cross-purposes, Amelia and Nathaniel stumble toward a truth that will explain the attack and take them both through the darkest hours of their lives.” ~ Goodreads


The Black Hour (July 8, 2014) is a strong debut for Lori Rader-Day. The mystery and suspense from this novel will keep you turning pages to find out not “who done it” but “why”.

I didn’t love Amelia. It was hard to connect with her at times while she spiraled out of control in the aftermath of the shooting. (I could empathize with her but would have liked to know what she was like before the shooting.)She was terribly injured and would suffer with pain and a disability her entire life. She was becoming addicted to pain meds as well as frequented the local campus bar to drink away her sorrows. Everyone knew what happened and students even enrolled in her class to stare at her in awe of her “celebrity” status. Faculty side eyed her and gossip surrounded her with people wondering why this student shot her and then himself. Did she know him? Were they involved? Did she provoke the shooting? Was it random? Why had this happened at this esteemed university? What did the shooter’s parents think? What was he like as a child?

There were so many layers to this novel regarding the topic of a school shooting and the characters who played a part were equally invested in the story. The victim/survivor Dr. Amelia Emmett and her teaching assistant Nathaniel Barber were the two narrators and both on a mission to find out more about Leonard Lehane and why he acted out in violence. And when I found out what the title meant, it was pretty cool! I like those ambiguous titles that don’t revel their meaning until halfway through the story.

If you enjoy slow building suspense mysteries give Lori Rader-Day’s debut novel a try. I honestly didn’t predict the outcome and for as many characters involved, it flowed well without confusing the reader. Just don’t plan to do much while you obsessively page turn to find out what happened.

Thank you to Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books and Edelweiss for the ARC. I was not compensated or required to review this title.

Lori Rader-Day’s site                         Add To Goodreads

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