Book Review: The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day

The Black HourThe Black Hour        
Lori Rader-Day
Seventh Street Books, July 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61614-885-0
Trade Paperback

A dark, disturbing novel that will leave many readers wondering and seeking safe places. One usually assumes that except for urban campuses, colleges can be considered almost bucolic, homes away from home. It isn’t true today, if it ever was. This intense crime novel is set on a private college on the shores of Lake Michigan. It is about a journey, a difficult, painful, psychological and physical journey of one college sociology professor and her attempts at personal rehabilitation. Amelia Emmett faces physical pain, issues of mobility, and pain over the disruption of her career and her mounting need to publish.

She is a victim, first of her own uncertainties, questioning her role in academic life. She is then forced by circumstances to deal simultaneously with abrupt change in her physical circumstances when she is shot in the hall outside her campus office. Ten months of recovery have left her psychologically and physically damaged. The college and her former lover would have her resign and leave town.

The story unfolds with several intriguing threads when she takes on a graduate assistant for her classes in the study of violence in our society. Her graduate assistant, and others in the campus community, become more and more obsessed with peeling back any hidden facts as to why she was shot by this particular student, who else might have been involved and why, at the same time, is she so resistant to any further intrusion into her personal life. Meanwhile, her graduate assistant, Nathan, is having difficulties of his own.

It is a turbulent, engrossing novel, at times excruciating in its insight, mesmerizing in its carefully laid out reveals. It’s all here, obnoxious students, unkind faculty, uncaring administrators, strange rules and turbulent secret relationships. The Black Hour is hard to lay aside.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.