I thought I’d read a book by Rick Riordan for a change. (LOL)
Rick Riordan’s debut novel, Big Red Tequila, tells the story of Jackson “Tres” Navarre, who has just returned to San Antonio from San Francisco. He spent ten years there, following the murder of his father, Jackson Navarre the Second. Now, he intends to solve this most personal case, long gone cold. However, when he starts to look into the mystery and his high school sweetheart goes missing, he wonders if there is more to his father’s death than he imagined. So he gets increasingly tangled in a strange tale, populated by struggling artists and the rich elite, blue collar workers and mob bosses.
While this book is far from bad, it also was not great, for me. I enjoy mystery books, but for some reason I didn’t connect with this one. I wasn’t quite as invested in the crime as much as I should have been, perhaps because I didn’t find most of the characters particularly interesting. There were too many of them, and only a few were developed strongly. The ones who were—Tres, Lillian, Maia, and Guy—were great, but others were less so. Also, I couldn’t keep track of who people were and how they were related. There was someone named Carl, and someone else named Carlon, and I wish I knew why. It just confused me. Tip to writers: Don’t name your characters so similarly, please, even if they’re minor side characters.
On the other hand, I really enjoyed seeing elements of life in San Antonio, which I’ve visited more than once. The geography, race relations, and politics of this city are where Riordan really shines. All these things, in their own way, inform the plot. Also, seeing Tres deal with these elements was fun—seeing him have to adapt to different environments and adjust his behavior around different people made him an interesting and versatile protagonist.
In the end, this book was fine, but nothing exceptional. For a debut novel, it’s well-written but not amazingly so. The characters are not particularly complex but also aren’t entirely archetypal. The plot was interesting but not ground-breaking. I’m glad I read this, but I have now concluded that Riordan really found his stride when he started writing the Percy Jackson books.
Overall rating: 7.5/10