Dangerous Ends by Alex Segura is the 3rd Pete Fernandez mystery—a fast-paced, hardboiled and surprising novel that pushes Pete Fernandez into a battle with a deadlier, more complex threat, as he tries to shake off the demons haunting Miami's own, sordid past.
The 3rd installment in the Pete Fernandez books has arrived, and Dangerous Ends does not disappoint. Pete’s as close to having his life together as we’ve ever seen him—working steadily both at the bookstore and his investigation business—so of course things are about to go off the rails.
This time, it’s his reporter friend, Kathy, who brings trouble to Pete’s door in the form of an old murder case that was supposed to be firmly closed. So closed, in fact, that the suspect’s been convicted, spent years in prison, and is slowly running out of appeals as well as hope. His daughter, at the end of her list of options, has hired Kathy to write a book about her father’s case. She hopes that in doing so she’ll find something that exonerates the man. Kathy enlists Pete, despite Pete’s misgivings.
Kathy and Pete’s relationship continues to be a plus in that they work well together, give each other a good amount of hell, and recognize that they’re friends without trying to make their relationship anything else.
“Why would he want you dead, Pete?” she asked. “He hired you. Haven’t you learned by now? The easy answer is very rarely the answer. I don’t disagree, though, something does seem to be going on. I apologize for not joining your chorus of panic immediately.”
“I appreciate your humble recanting,” Pete said.
“So, what shall we do if, say, I join you on this random trip back to the bong-water swamp that is South Florida?” Kathy said.
“You’re coming, then?”
“I can’t let you dive back into this by yourself,” she said, trying not to smile.
That “bong-water swamp” continues to be a major character in its own right, from the suburbs of Weston to the diners of Perrine. From “giant peach-colored parking lot[s]” to “cheap-ass Broward storage facilit[ies],” Segura continues to season his novels with the essence of South Florida—especially the parts the tourists miss. Only the best strip-mall food and worst dive bars (even sober) for Pete Fernandez.
Pete’s Miami feels real in a way that good Los Angeles noir feels real. It shows the uglier—not just the grittier but also the more boring and more suburban—areas of the city, the parts ignored by vacationers. Pete’s Miami is the Miami residents go to work in every day, the one where people can go weeks and months (even years) on end without seeing the ocean. It’s the Miami where going to South Beach is a hassle you only get yourself talked into if there’s just no other way. It’s the Miami where the glamorous apartment that cruise shippers dream of as they’re leaving port turns into a boxy light-brown stucco thing sandwiched between the turnpike and strip mall.
Pete’s Miami is also the specter of Cuba and thinking the northern half of the state is “Nowheresville.”
One of the biggest influences on the culture of Miami is the Cuban and Cuban-American population that call the area home, and Dangerous Ends brings more of the Cuban political flavor to Pete’s story than previous books. It begins with a glimpse at Diego Fernandez, back in his home in Cuba just as Castro changed the island’s history.
Diego’s world was unraveling fast. Yet he continued his routine as best he could. Instead of well-kept lawns and bustling storefronts, he now drove past burning cars and looters on his way to work at El Capitolio. The casinos were empty. Just a few weeks before, they’d been the heart of Havana. At night, Diego kept his gun on the bedside table, along with his usual novel, always within reach.
It’s not just Cuba’s past that affects Miami, though, and Segura touches on that as well in ways big and small. For many in the United States, the changes in travel restrictions make Cuba just another potential tourist destination, but in a place where a large part of the population has stories similar to fictional Diego Fernandez’s—either firsthand or from relatives and family friends—Cuba is hardly just another tropical island.
“I can’t wait to go to Cuba. That’s my dream. I wanna see all the old cars and visit the house where my mom grew up.”
Pete gave her a civil smile. He knew a political discussion would derail any chance of this interview being productive. The idea that Cuba, still under Communist rule and the thumb of a Castro, was now just another cool, hip destination for a second-generation Cuban like Stephanie Solares to add to her passport collection irked Pete more than it should. He tried to let it slide.
It’s not just the setting that’s bigger, spread out along the Gulf Stream, but also the body count—and the stakes. As Pete and Kathy dig, they find that it’s not just their client’s life on the line, and that his isn’t the only case they have a chance at resolving.
All told, it’s an enjoyable read. Segura has risen the bar for himself again, and I’m eager to see what he does next.
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Neliza Drew lives in South Florida with her husband and too many cats. When not writing, she teaches kids how to punch each other. Her debut novel, All the Bridges Burning, has been called “a triumph.” She can be found online at nelizadrew.com and on Twitter and Instagram as @nelizadrew.