The Black Hour
Review: Ten months after being shot and severely wounded, Professor Amelia Emmet returns to Rothbert University to begin a new semester teaching the Sociology of Deviance and Crime, but her real objective is to try to understand why a student she didn't even know tried to kill her and then took his own life, in The Black Hour, a novel of suspense by Lori Rader-Day.
On her first day back, a new graduate student shows up at her office door. Nathaniel "Nath" Barber is looking for a teaching assistantship, and one of Amelia's colleagues suggested she might be in need of someone to help with her classes. Amelia is reluctant at first, but she sees in Nath an eagerness to learn and a willingness to work, and takes him on. Unknown to Amelia, Nath has already taken an interest in what happened to her nearly a year ago, seeing it as an opportunity to conduct practical research in his chosen field of study. Both are seeking answers to the same question, but their respective paths they take to get them will put them both in danger.
The Black Hour has a most intriguing premise but also has several problems executing fully upon it. The first, and probably the most difficult to overcome, is that Amelia Emmet is simply not a likeable character. She's aloof and rude and, yes, she's constantly in pain but she's also constantly letting the reader know it. It gets tiresome very quickly. Secondly, the pacing is incredibly slow, especially in the early going. The narrative structure of having several chapters from Amelia's point-of-view followed by several from Nath's works well (mostly by keeping Amelia out of sight for a while), but also adds a layer of plot complexity that isn't strictly necessary to keep the suspense level elevated. It isn't hard for the reader to guess what was probably supposed to happen the night Amelia was shot, but the why remains largely a mystery until the very end. Which leads to the third primary problem with the storyline, its resolution. With a number of characters having potential and credible motives for being involved, the one that is actually responsible is probably the weakest of the lot. On the plus side, the academic setting north of Chicago along the shore of Lake Michigan is well depicted and provides a solid backdrop to the action. Despite its drawbacks, The Black Hour definitely has merit as a creatively conceived and reasonably compelling suspense novel.
Acknowledgment: Seventh Street Books provided an ARC of The Black Hour for this review.
Review Copyright © 2014 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Black Hour: Chicago, Illinois
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The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: July 2014
List Price: $15.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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