When I read a P.I. novel there are certain expectations I have, but I’m not a monster as I hope these tropes to be played with, twisted and even destroyed. Even though Alex Segura’s “Blackout” is marketed as a detective novel, it’s not a P.I. novel, it’s a thriller where the protagonist happens to be a P.I. rather than a spy or something along those lines. Thinking back to Segura’s “Dangerous Ends”, the Pete Fernandez Mystery series does lean more toward the thriller genre.
And action-packed “Blackout” is with the mob chasing Fernandez, a Miami gang still gunning for him, political intrigue, assassinations, trigger-happy cult followers, Fernandez’s best friend framed for murder, a hurricane fast approaching, and a dead teenage girl from 20 years ago. For me, a bit too much, but I don’t know as thrillers aren’t my bag.
Luckily, I love detestable characters and “Blackout” has Pete Fernandez who is a douche of the highest order–there’s no debate about this. Fernandez’s alcoholism had him destroy all his relationships, Florida is filled with ex-friends and lovers who are pissed at him. Even in New York where “Blackout” begins, we find that Fernandez has walked away from a relationship with a client turned girlfriend and he even disregards good advice from his AA sponsor. Fernandez doesn’t burn bridges when he’s passed them, he lights them afire when he’s walking across.
I liked Fernandez in “Dangerous Ends”, but in “Blackout” he’s digressed to that guy at work that you avoid at all costs. There’s something ballsy about writing a character as abhorrent as Fernandez is in “Blackout”–a character I couldn’t even like. The problem is that I could not find anything to make me root for Fernandez and a reader needs that connection to a protagonist even if it is the thinnest of threads. I’m not looking for a hero, but Fernandez’s unrelenting dickish demeanor was impossible to get past and I don’t know how thriller fans will get by it either.