Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Review: Silent City

Silent City Silent City by Alex Segura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is why I don’t do favors for people at work. First, it’s just loaning them a pen, and the next thing you know you’re trying to find somebody’s missing daughter which pisses off a mysterious killer.

Pete Fernandez is a guy who once had a lot of promise, but he’s been on the skids since the death of his father. His drinking is out of control, his wife left him, and he’s barely clinging to his job on the sports page of the Miami newspaper. That’s when a coworker asks him to look for his missing daughter, Kate. She also works for the paper and Is an acquaintance of Pete’s so he agrees to take a look to see if Kate may be in trouble or if she is just ignoring her estranged father. However, after finding her apartment ransacked and learning that Kate was researching a story about a legendary hit man nicknamed The Silent Death, Pete has plenty of reasons to regret that decision.

This first book in the Pete Fernandez series is enough to get me hooked. Alex Segura is a writer who has been on my radar for a while, and after seeing him at Bouchercon last year I made a point of moving up my to-read list. He had a lot of interesting things to say, and I thought it was cool that he splits time between writing crime novels and working on Archie comics.

I’m particularly impressed with the way that Pete is depicted. This is a character who is a flat out mess. In the wrong hands Pete could be an insufferable loser who wallows in self-pity, but Segura makes him a tragedy. He knows he’s screwing up, but he can’t figure out a way to change his circumstances so he just goes to the bar every night without realizing that’s a big part of his problems. He’s not the kind of character you hate, he’s the kind you root for even as you want to tell him to get his shit together.

The plotting does some zigging and zagging so that it doesn’t play out in typical fashion. Another nice aspect is how it manages to keep Pete in the midst of this mess without coming across as him being overly stupid or seeming contrived. What looks like a simple favor becomes quicksand that Pete can’t escape from once he dips a toe in even though he is not trying to play the hero.

Overall, it reminded me a lot of the ‘90s crime novels I loved, and it was no surprise to see Segura credit writers like Pelecanos, Lehand, and Ellroy in the acknowledgements because you can see the influence even as he is finding his own voice. It’s a great start to a promising series.

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