The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day is one of those books that made me want to buy a whole bunch of copies to distribute to my friends. If you’re looking for a perfect gift for that reader in your life, check out The Black Hour.
The crime novel opens with sociology professor Amelia Emmet attempting to resume her academic career while still recovering from a violent attack from a student—a student who shot and killed himself after shooting her. With the identity of the shooter known, the central mystery of the novel is not “whodunnit?” but “whydunnit?”
As Emmet re-acclimates to her university life, she finds her colleagues suspicious and awkward with her victim status. It does not help matters that her memory of the attack is clouded, confused, and completely lacking in details that will help provide an explanation or even a coherent narrative. For a professor who studies violence, her inability to understand and process the attack is as frustrating as the physical limitations she faces in the wake of her injuries. Graduate student Nathaniel Barber, Emmet’s teaching assistant is equally curious about the motive behind the attack. Academic research quickly gives way to investigative legwork as the pair try to learn more about the shooter and his possible motive for wanting to kill Emmet.
The skillfully constructed plot and characters are complex enough to keep the reader engaged and intrigued without feeling overwhelmed and confused. Rader-Day’s prose is crisp and concise, never losing sight of the central storyline. Her ability to alternate point-of-view is masterful as is her ability to subtly reveal the subtext of her characters’ behavior in a realistically constructed academic setting; it is hard to believe this is her first novel. Violence and depression loom large in the narrative, but the characters are written with such clarity and purpose that the darkness never fully envelops them (or, thankfully, the reader). It’s one of those books you can’t put down and are sad to see come to an end. Reading the novel is a thrilling ride that comes to an end satisfactorily, though all too quickly.
For more information about Lori Rader-Day, check out her website.