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Blackout: A Pete Fernandez Mystery


Blackout: A Pete Fernandez Mystery

Pete Fernandez is a complex character. He is a recovering alcoholic who, as with many in such a state, is wracked with guilt from multiple sources past and present. The ups and downs of his life have been chronicled in three previous volumes --- SILENT CITY, DOWN THE DARKEST STREET and DANGEROUS ENDS --- but it is the newly published BLACKOUT that is the darkest and grimmest of this mesmerizing quartet.

Author Alex Segura is known for his sudden twists and unusual vision when dealing with otherwise familiar topics --- his contemporary take on the Archie comic universe earned him critical accolades and a re-examination of the traditional roles of the characters themselves --- and BLACKOUT is an excellent example of this. The story begins and ends in New York, but the meat of it brings Pete back home to Miami where he finds himself to be an unlikely fish out of water. Miami has been the place of triumph and disappointment for Pete, with the latter far outweighing the former. Of particular danger is that a Cuban criminal organization known as Los Enfermos has a longstanding score to settle with him. A couple of factors draw him back, work ostensibly being the primary one.

"[T]he true star of the book is Miami. I haven’t been to the city in decades but felt it calling to me after reading Segura’s warts-and-all vision of it."

Florida state senator Trevor McRyan and his wife, Ellen, want Pete to locate their wayward son, Stephen, who has gone off the radar just as Trevor is about to announce his candidacy for governor. Pete’s reluctance to take the case is overwhelmed when he realizes that Stephen was a key witness to the disappearance of a high school student named Patricia Morales. Pete was one of Patricia’s classmates and among the last people to see her alive. He also was the one who discovered her remains several years later, and the matter has haunted him for years. Stephen, who claimed to have knowledge of what happened to Patricia, disappeared before the police could talk to him. Pete believes that if he can locate Stephen, he can find out who murdered Patricia and why.

The McRyans were referred to Pete by Jackie Cruz, an old friend of Pete who is assisting them with Trevor’s campaign. Returning to Miami will allow Pete to renew acquaintances with Jackie, as well as with Mary Bentley, his former business partner and occasional lover. One can almost see the wheels going off Pete’s plan within a few moments of his returning to Miami. There is collateral damage wherever he goes, even with the best of intentions. Pete has too many enemies holding over from his past residency. When his investigation leads him to the remnants of a formerly powerful and still influential (and dangerous) religious cult, things get apocalyptic. The novel subjects him and his friends to a number of deadly twists and turns, leaving few of them intact. Pete gets the answers he has sought for so long, but at great personal cost, one that he cannot really afford.

BLACKOUT contains a complete story --- two of them, actually --- but ends ambiguously, to say the least. While this is the fourth in what was conceived to be a quartet, its ending may or may not lead into yet another installment. It would be a shame to consign to literary limbo whatever characters survive the conclusion. That said, the true star of the book is Miami. I haven’t been to the city in decades but felt it calling to me after reading Segura’s warts-and-all vision of it. Check it out.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 11, 2018

Blackout: A Pete Fernandez Mystery
by Alex Segura