In his debut novel, Blackout, Marco Carocari takes a number of familiar crime fiction tropes and skews them ever so slightly, thereby breathing new life into each of these familiar constructs, and ultimately leading readers to a fresh and unique conclusion.
The opening scene of Blackout takes place in Manhattan on July 13, 1977. Historians will know this is the date most of New York City suddenly lost electricity for almost twelve hours. It is at the beginning of this chaos that Marco Carocari introduces readers to Francesco DiMaso and his young son, Franco. In a city that is about to devolve into a dangerous and unpredictable pandemonium, Francesco – an off-duty police officer – finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, desperate to keep his child safe. With this extremely evocative opening tableau, Carocari hooks readers immediately and leaves them longing for more.
From here, the action jumps forward to 2016 with a scene that echoes Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window and/or the many works that film has already inspired (among them The Bedroom Window and The Girl on the Train.) A now adult Franco is “entertaining” his latest trick on the rooftop of the building where he resides, when the hot stud he found via the MeatUp app offers him a joint. Unaware that his mind has been altered by the possibly-laced drug, Franco believes he sees an extremely violent argument taking place in one of the apartments across the street. Before he knows what hit him, the police are questioning why he is passed out on the street and Franco has no memory of his actions following the rooftop tryst the night before. He tries to convince the authorities of the possible murder he witnessed, but their investigation fails to turn up any evidence of a commotion or, for that matter, a body.
Days later, things take a turn when a body is ultimately discovered in a different location and traced back to the apartment Franco highlighted. Only problem: Franco knows the victim and it turns out his fingerprints are all over that crime scene. Now Franco is an everyman, tangled up in a mess that is far beyond his control. As the investigation into this current crime advances, Marco Carocari weaves flashbacks to the night of the NYC blackout into the narrative like walnuts in a trendy vegan brownie. Crime fiction fans will know that these two cases will eventually converge – fortunately in completely unexpected, but absolutely plausible, ways.
Marco Carocari populates his story with likeable characters who are realistically flawed and infinitely relatable. Peppering the narrative, Carocari provides just enough humor and romance to keep things from becoming too heavy or morose, without leaving any doubt that crime and corruption are the centerpiece of the novel. All of this action takes place against the backdrop of New York, a city that experienced unfathomable change between the late-seventies and the modern-day.
Blackout is the chance for readers to jump in on at the starting point of Marco Carocari’s career. No matter whether he continues Franco’s story as a series and ventures into more stand-alone territory, this is an author to keep your eye on.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.