Book Reviews

Blackout by Marco Carocari at Level Best Books

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller / Fiction
Reviewed by ParisDude on 04-May-2021

Book Blurb

Strait-laced forty-something Franco definitely picked the wrong night to get freaky. A hook-up with a hot guy on his Manhattan rooftop, and a joint he’s unaware is laced, leaves him dazed. And—if memory serves him—the sole witness to a murder across the street.

Except, the cops can’t find a crime scene or a body, and Franco’s perforated recollections and conflicting testimony leave the detectives unimpressed. When days later the mutilated body of a philanthropic millionaire is discovered, he’s not only shocked to learn he knew him, but with Franco’s fingerprints all over the crime scene, he quickly graduates from unreliable witness to prime suspect. And the random trick who could alibi him has vanished into the anonymity of the Internet.

Unsettled, and confronted with forty-year-old memories, when Franco’s father was murdered in front of him during Manhattan’s infamous blackout, a shocking revelation finally unmasks the man who pulled the trigger that night. And painting Franco the perfect suspect.

With a target on his back and time running out, the truth will set Franco free, or earn him a toe tag at the morgue.

 

Book Review

Franco DiMaso is your average forty-something-year-old gay New Yorker. He’s a talented photographer who cannot live on his photos alone, so makes ends meet by working in the restaurant of his best friends Gino and Carmine and also tending bar in another friend’s nightclub. He works out in the gym, and he hooks up with other guys thanks to what modern mobile apps provide. His last long-term relationship ended up in disaster some time ago, and his last lucrative photo shoot, although successful and lauded, hasn’t been followed up by any new contracts. Late one night, he meets up with an anonymous lover on the rooftop of the Manhattan flat he rents for next to nothing. The sex turns out to be quite underwhelming, probably because the joint Franco shared with his hook-up must have been laced. He has little recollection of what really happened; he isn’t even sure what he witnessed in a flat across the street is more than a figment of his imagination. But somehow he’s sure he wasn’t dreaming. No, there were two men struggling in the window, and one of them did strangle the other to death.

 

The police officers he somehow manages to alert despite his being so dazed are less sure, though. Mostly because there’s no body to be found. And because Franco still seems to be under the influence of the drugs. But things become stranger still. Some days later, someone breaks into the town house where Franco is living and hurts one of his landlords downstairs. This time, the two NYPD officers do believe him. More or less. Detective O’Shea, an obnoxious and homophobic drunkard, immediately inclines towards suspecting him, of course. But his partner, handsome Aidan Torrance, is more willing to believe Franco’s version. Even more so when some days later the mutilated body of a millionaire is found hidden in a corner nearby. The problem is, the same millionaire was the one who commissioned Franco’s last photo job. Moreover, Franco’s fingerprints are all over the flat where the supposed murder has taken place. And then there’s the money Franco suddenly discovers he has been bequeathed by the murdered millionaire, and Franco’s past resurfaces: his father, a NYPD officer, was killed in his presence when he was a kid. Nothing seems to add up, everything seems to be just an incredible mess all of a sudden…

 

If I had to summarize this book in only a couple of words, I’d say: a stupendous surprise because it’s stupendiously good. A clever page-turner plot, authentic-feeling and engaging characters, great writing style, witty dialogs, turns and twists aplenty, and a whodunnit so well constructed and multi-layered that I never saw it coming who might be the culprit. To a certain extent, the book had the feel of a film noir-classic like Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”, from which the idea of involuntarily witnessing a murder from across the street might have been borrowed. But this novel is no pale copy-pasting nor a simple contemporary remake of a well-known story. It offers so much more. I really loved this book, which I consider a must-read for any aficionado not only of M/M murder mysteries but of murder mysteries period.

 

Franco is a sweet and sassy young man (at forty we are still young, right?) who tries to be a good person and to live his life as best he can. I loved his repartees and his droll bantering not only with his besties (a bunch of endearing side characters who form Franco’s family so to say) but also with the police force. He is not disrespectful, but never awed or cowed by authority or money either, which made for some truly delicious scenes.

 

Detective Aidan Torrance comes with a past, which I discovered toward the end, and seems very wary at the beginning. Yet, it was obvious almost from the get-go that he and Franco are meant to find each other and fall into each other’s arms, investigation rules be damned. I won’t tell you if they do or not—don’t want to spoil your reading pleasure—but theirs is one of those “relationships” that add even more tension to an already tension-laden thriller. That Torrance’s partner O’Shea is simply a pain in the a**, pardon my French, amplifies this further. The ramifications of the storyline are just another thing that made me read on with bated breath. In fact they lead way back to Franco’s traumatic childhood experience when his dad was shot dead by a drug junkie whose identity was never found out.

 

Whatever further details I could give would be spoilers as one thing leads to another in this book, and everything is connected even though I couldn’t see why and how until the author deigned to present me with an explanation that was as unexpected as it was obvious. Everthing fell into place at last. Which is as clever as you can get when writing a thriller, so kudos to Marco Carocari for not falling into the traps of an easy or unbelievable solution nor producing a last-minute deus ex machina who takes all the blame. Enjoyable from start to end. Lovers of well-written, well-paced murder mysteries with a pinch of sass and romantic feelings, treat yourself to a copy—you won’t regret it!

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the author. This book has been provided by the editor via NetGalley for the purpose of a review.

 

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 337 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 30-March-2021
Price $5.99 ebook, $17.95 paperback
Buy Link https://www.amazon.com/Blackout-Marco-Carocari-ebook/dp/B08WBQDTFS