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The Black Hour Paperback – July 8, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* After 10 months spent recovering from a gunshot wound, sociology professor Amelia Emmet returns to the classroom, delivering lectures on her now disturbingly familiar specialty: the sociology of violence. But Amelia’s welcomes are laced with an undercurrent of suspicion about her role in the shooting. How could the shooter, a troubled student who committed suicide at the scene, have been a stranger to her? The truth is, Amelia doesn’t know. Nathaniel, a new graduate student hoping to share Amelia’s dark area of study, snags his dream job as her graduate assistant. Amelia’s erratic behavior and battle to manage her pain make her a challenging boss, but he’s dedicated to her, especially since he secretly plans to study her shooting for his graduate thesis. Separately, Amelia and Nathan seek answers about her attacker’s motivation, goaded along by Rory McDaniel, a newspaper reporter. This accomplished debut bears favorable comparison to the work of Gillian Flynn (more Sharp Objects than Gone Girl), Cornelia Read, and S. J. Watson. Chicago writing instructor Rader-Day ably manipulates the elements that constitute academia’s dark side (competition, campus politics, quests for identity, and, of course, sex) without the overlong academic digressions these settings sometimes court. Amelia Emmet is a sympathetic, yet jaded and darkly witty main character. An unputdownable read. --Christine Tran



"An exceptional debut
.... An irresistible combination of menace, betrayal, and self-discovery."
—Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW

"An unputdownable read."

"Captivates from page one.... This reviewer was bowled over by the novel's alternating points of view, superb storytelling, and pitch-perfect take on academia."
Library Journal STARRED REVIEW

“This first novel about two broken people is a psychological thriller like the best of Alfred Hitchcock. Amelia Emmet is a professor desperately trying to recover from a gunshot wound, and Nathaniel Barber is a student struggling to come to grips with his mother’s death and a lost love. Their journey, told in alternating chapters, is riveting and full of surprising discoveries. Highly recommended.”
—#3 LibraryReads Pick, July 2014

“Rader-Day’s addictive prose is atmospheric and laced with dread. Rothbert’s lakeshore campus in the shadow of Chicago drips with dark secrets, and as in all good mysteries, every character is enigmatic and fascinating. A perfect thriller for the summer, THE BLACK HOUR transcends the tropes and formulas of the mystery genre while deftly portraying academia and the city of Chicago as characters in their own right.”

"An unusual protagonist, a timely crime, and outstanding writing make Lori-Rader-Day's The Black Hour a stand-out debut."
SARA PARETSKY, Mystery Writers of America Grand Master and New York Times–bestselling author

“You know how wonderful it is to find a novel that you hate to put down? Lori Rader-Day’s debut was just such a book for me. From its breathtakingly beautiful prose to its artful, escalating suspense, The Black Hour kept pulling me back for just one more page, one more chapter.”
JULIE HYZY, New York Times–bestselling author
“A terrific whydunnit! This dark page-turner of a puzzle—well-written, with bite and style and edge and simmering conflict—will keep you riveted from page one.”
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN, Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark Award–winning author
“A riveting, ingenious first novel. . . . The Black Hour will linger with you weeks after you’ve read it.”
SCOTT BLACKWOOD, Whiting Award–winning author of See How Small

“Utterly compelling. The question at the heart of The Black Hour is original and engrossing, and I defy anyone not to devour the book to get to the answer. . . . A triumph.”
CATRIONA MCPHERSON, author of As She Left It

The Black Hour is the rarest of mysteries: one that wants to keep you turning pages in a cold sweat, suspecting every character you meet of both the best and the worst motives; and also one that has something complicated and important to say about the forces that impel us toward death . . . and life. It’s an extraordinary debut, marking the arrival of a major new voice in literary suspense.”
CHRISTOPHER COAKE, PEN/Bingham Award–winning author of You Came Back
 “Lori Rader-Day’s debut The Black Hour is the perfect thriller—smart, tense, and foreboding. Every page left me hungry for the next.”
CLARE O’DONOHUE, author of Life without Parole

“In her debut psychological thriller Lori Rader-Day joins the ranks of Barbara Vine and Sophie Hannah. Examining the deep complexities of damaged people, she teases and tempts the reader as she leads to her harrowing conclusion.”
TERRY SHAMES, author of The Last Death of Jack Harbin
“So often, mysteries set in academe are populated by ivy-draped eccentrics with a terminal case of the cutes. Lori Rader-Day’s Rothbert U is anything but cute: The atmosphere, for faculty and students alike, is ruthlessly competitive and mistrustful. Her characters, beginning with Amelia Emmet, are complex, capable of surprising both themselves and us. Like Barbara Vine [Ruth Rendell], Rader-Day is as interested in the why of evil things as in the who.”
JINCY WILLETT, author of Amy Falls Down

"The Black Hour
is a brilliant suspense debut, rich in psychological nuance and the cold, terrifying places where our worst fears—and darkest desires—reside. Let’s hope this is only the first of many from this talented newcomer.”
LYNNE RAIMONDO, author of Dante’s Poison


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Seventh Street Books (July 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616148853
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616148850
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #362,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lori Rader-Day's debut The Black Hour received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her new mystery, Little Pretty Things, was released in July. Born and raised in central Indiana, she now lives with her husband and dog in Chicago. Her fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, The Madison Review, and others. Best-selling author Jodi Picoult chose one of Lori's short stories for the grand prize in Good Housekeeping's first fiction contest. Lori is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Visit her at or on Twitter at @LoriRaderDay.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By melissa winter on July 8, 2014
Format: Paperback
I admit I'm not normally a fan of "thrillers," so really liked that the violence has (mostly!) already happened when the book starts. The suspense comes from going along with the two protagonists Amelia and Nath as they search for the answers to why Amelia was shot in the first place -- and question their own motives every step of the way. I loved how the sections alternate between the two points of view, so you get to see the same situations from different perspectives (which was really well done). The characters have depth, and Amelia is someone I'd want to be friends with. I was rooting for her and Nath as I devoured every page.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By K. Rader on July 8, 2014
Format: Paperback
Lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC of this. Clear your day once you start reading, because you won’t want to put this down. Here are some of my favorite things about this book… 1. Characters full of flaws. Who wants to read something with perfect, unrealistic characters? Better to be able to identify with their fears and snarkiness. Especially the snarkiness. Right? 2. At one point in the book, I suspected EVERYBODY. WTF? I love it when I can’t predict where a book is going. 3. The fast-paced, thrilling climax. This is when you don’t want to put the book down people. Let me tell you, I was reading this at lunch. And someone came in and interrupted me right at the end of Chapter 43. Once you read this, you will realize why I was considering lunging across the lunch table. I ended up having to finish it on my commute home. My train arrived when I was so close to the end that I sat in my car and finished it before I left the station. Definitely reminded me of some of my favorite authors… Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, Sophie Hannah.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hoffer on July 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It has been a while since I've gotten so engrossed in a book that I nearly missed my metro stop, but that happened when nearing the end of Lori Rader-Day's well-written and compelling The Black Hour. Luckily I looked up just as I realized where we were!

Dr. Amelia Emmet is a sociology professor specializing in the study of violence at a prestigious Chicago university. She is well-respected and driven. Then one day the unthinkable happens—a student shoots her and then kills himself. No one understands what drove the student to violence, although most are quick to believe it was something Amelia did, that perhaps the two had an illicit relationship that caused him to try and kill her. But Amelia never knew him, and has no idea why this student would shoot her before taking his own life.

Much to the surprise of her colleagues, Amelia returns to school 10 months later. She's struggling emotionally and physically, and isn't sure if she can muster the enthusiasm to teach again, but she needs to be back at work. Maybe she's a little dependent on painkillers, maybe finding out that her ex-lover has gotten married has thrown her for a bit of a loop, but she can handle it, can't she?

Nathaniel (Nath) Barber is a graduate student who comes to Chicago because he's obsessed with its violent history—Al Capone and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, to name a few. And he's a little too interested in what happened to Amelia, which leads him to become her teaching assistant. Nath has his own emotional issues, stemming from his mother's death and the end of a relationship, so he understands the darkness that might lead someone to take their own life. But he also begins to realize that Amelia needs more help than she's willing to let on.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By MydogSamwise on October 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Black Hour has been on my wish list since its release date, I just had to work my way thru other books already in my reading queue. I won't rehash the synopsis too much because what the summary tells you is enough to give you the basic idea of the plot. What I will say is that I enjoyed the writing style the author chose of alternating between the two main characters and giving you their perspective for several chapters at a time. You get to spend enough time with Amelia and Nath in each section that it connects you to both people, as opposed to single character style where you only see one side/angle of the story. The plot and mystery resolves very rapidly at the end, which makes up for the slight drag I felt in the beginning. Just occasionally there was an overload of details or conversation that felt out of place. However, looking back after the "solve" it was just a new author's attempt to lay seeds and hints for the reader.
Definitely a strong debut novel, I enjoyed 99% of it and will keep an eye out for future works. Recommended for fans of mysteries or character driven fiction with some drama.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By col2910 on July 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
Another debut novel for me here and another mystery set in the world of academia, with the fictional setting of Rothbert University, a prestigious establishment at its heart.

Our story is delivered by dual narrators. Firstly, Amelia Emmet as we pick up with her on her return to work, 10 months after being shot by a student, who then turned his gun on himself. Emmet is interesting as a character. She’s by turns, deserving of our sympathy as she struggles with the realities of her physical disability in the aftermath of the incident as well as the emotional distress she feels, especially returning to the scene of the crime. At other points she irritates and annoys with her treatment of those around her. On the whole mostly sympathetic, by virtue of her victim status but not really likeable. She’s flawed which is what makes her credible.

Our second narrator is Nathaniel Barber. He’s a post-graduate student, who has a bit of an obsession with violent crime and a fixation on Amelia’s shooting in particular. He wrangles his way into a job as Emmet’s teaching assistant. This comes across as a bit creepy, until we learn more about him. He’s a bit of a loner, is dis-connected from his father and still dealing with the aftermath of his mother’s death a year or so ago and the more recent break-up with his girlfriend. Less interesting than Amelia, but more sympathetic.

At the heart of the mystery is the quest for an explanation behind the shooting, which the police have decided was random. Both our narrators seek answers and have a common purpose in finding answers.

We are introduced to other professors and students at the university.
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