December 9, 2014

Book Review: "The Black Hour" by Lori Rader-Day

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The Black Hour, by Lori Rader-Day

The Black Hour
By Lori Rader-Day
Seventh Street Books
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

So first, let me get my bias out of the way, that I am not a big fan of crime novels in general (today's book is being reviewed specifically because the publisher sent me a copy, not because I sought it out on my own), and that things that make me annoyed within this genre are many times things that won't bother a heavy crime fan at all. But that said, even I know that the main thrill of the average crime novel is that it has a more heightened pace than most other types of books, and a storyline where a lot happens in just a short period of time; and that's unfortunately the biggest problem with local author Lori Rader-Day's The Black Hour, is that the simplistic premise carries the story for way too long, the entire first third of the manuscript to be specific, with not really much of a payoff once the plot does start finally rolling along. The tale of a good-looking middle-aged professor of violence and sociology at a small liberal-arts college in the north Chicago suburbs, who gets shot by a random student one day for reasons that no one can figure out, this is basically the one mystery that fuels the entire rest of the book, why he picked her in particular before then turning the gun on himself; and while if the investigation into that question had begun in chapter two, it could've maybe turned into quite an interesting story, that investigation unfortunately doesn't begin until well after the setting and character exposition has been beaten nearly to death, leaving me skimming through entire sections just to see if anything of import ever happens or not. And it does, finally, near the end, in an explanation that left me sort of half-heartedly shrugging my shoulders; but in the meanwhile, what I believe is supposed to be a long middle section of complex character-building simply doesn't work as the author intended, merely because the characters aren't complex enough to support that many pages of text, and their dialogue I found to be guilty of what I call the "Joss Whedon Effect" (in which you can't quite put your finger on what's bothering you so much about the slightly immature, sorta bad-jokey things that the characters are glibly saying to each other, but it annoys the hell out of you nonetheless). Like I said, I suspect that this will be much better received by existing heavy fans of crime novels, which is why it's still getting a so-so score today; but certainly I do not recommend it for a general audience, and I also caution you to keep your expectations low.

Out of 10: 7.1

Read even more about The Black Hour: Official site | Amazon | Goodreads | LibraryThing | Shelfari

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, December 9, 2014. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |