Saturday, May 31, 2014

Just Jennifer

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day (Seventh Street Books, July 8, 2014)

Thirty-eight-year-old sociology professor Amelia Emmet is returning to the classroom on the Chicago campus where she was shot ten months ago.  The shooter, a student she never met, one with whom she had no contact with whatsoever, also shot himself.  While recuperating and rehabilitating for the last ten months, Amelia continued to ask herself Why?  Why did Leonard Lehane shoot someone he didn’t know, why her, and then why did he turn the gun on himself.  Nathaniel Barber, a graduate student and Amelia’s new teaching assistant, is obsessed with violence in society, especially in Chicago and is obsessed with Amelia’s case; Nath, as Amelia comes to call the awkward young man, hopes his dissertation topic will help Amelia answer some of her questions, but as he quickly grows to realize, Amelia also needs to heal, mind, body and soul, and there is only one person who can do that…Amelia herself.  Forming an uneasy, unorthodoxed alliance, the two work together, and separately, to uncover the answers to why Lehane chose Amelia to shoot, or did he? And why he took his own life.  As they begin their inquiries, they find themselves in some very dark places at the prestigious Rothbert University and some very dark places in their own lives, all leading to a very surprising conclusion, one that even after it seems finished has one last surprise for readers.  The sharply written prose and dialog seems to fit the crisp fall semester that is before Amelia and Nath.  Both have demons of their own, unrelated to the shooting that must be faced if each hopes to heal and move on with their lives.  A fast-paced narrative keeps the plot moving and the high-tension will keep pages turning until the shocking, and emotional end is reached. 

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