The Wicked Hour is the second Detective Natalie Lockhart procedural thriller by Alice Blanchard. Released 1st Dec 2020 by Macmillan on their Minotaur imprint, it's 320 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.
This is a character driven procedural thriller. The plot and character motivations are heavily dependent on the fallout from the first book, and as such it didn't work as well as a standalone. The mystery revolves around the abduction and murder of violinists in and around a prestigious music academy. Detective Lockhart (who is still suffering psychological aftershocks from the occurrences in the first book) pulls a homicide case when the nude body of a young violinist is found in a dumpster after the town's annual Hallowe'en festivities.
There's a lot to unpack here. As stated, the heavy dependence on previous unresolved plot threads from the first book left me feeling somewhat confused and wrong-footed for much of the book. I also got whiplash from how quickly main character Natalie switched emotional gears. She's still suffering brutal emotional trauma and alternately pushing away and trying to repair her relationships, but it was just awkward for me in several places, especially her interactions with her friend/maybe love interest Luke.
The writing is competent throughout and there are glimmers of compelling style and prose to be found. They're not a majority of the book, but they are there. I liked that Natalie is strong, flawed, and actively trying to work through her trauma and grief. I found it somewhat difficult to really invest myself in the characters apart from Natalie.
There is a fair bit of graphic description of violence and some (more minor) mentions of self-harm, suicide, sexual assault (GHB, rohypnol), and rough language.
I plan to continue with the series, but I would strongly recommend readers come into this book having read the first book.
Three and a half stars.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.