“Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends” – William Shakespeare, “Henry VI, Part I”
When I last left Miami P.I. Pete Fernandez, he was venturing “Down the Darkest Street.” Some time has passed and now I find him up to “Dangerous Ends.” His best friend Kathy Bentley has published not one but TWO best-selling true crime books based on his exploits, and so it’s no surprise when he’s contacted (and contracted) by Maya Varela, the daughter of a notorious murderer; she means to exonerate her father, who was convicted on relatively slim evidence for a murder that, Maya insists, he never committed.
But then a jury can’t be expected to stay too rational when a man is accused of hacking his wife dozens of times with a machete, that most Cuban of sharp implements. ( The “Mambi” guerrillas that fought for Cuban independence in the 1860s-1890s had few rifles and often had to resort to what had essentially been a forest-clearing, sugar-cane cutting tool until then.)
Pete’s Cuban ancestry has been a very subtle element in the series, but in “Dangerous Ends,” that Cuban past bluntly intrudes upon the present- as it often does on Miami streets. We learn that Pete’s grand-father Diego was exiled from the island after Fidel Castro’s 1959 take-over; several interludes fill-in the story of the Fernandez family, as Diego becomes an influential, anti-Castro radio personality in Miami.
Does Pete’s abuelo tie to the Varela murder? What about the brutal death of Rick Blanco, the husband of Pete’s lost love, Emily? And who exactly are Los Enfermos, the mysterious drug-running Miami gang that may have ties to the Castro regime?
As the novel asserts at one point, “It’s all connected.”
“Dangerous Ends” is the smoothest Pete Fernandez novel so far, and the one that truly announces Segura as an assured practitioner of the noir. Here, all the elements gel: theme, style, setting, plot, and character working together. The dark and sunny complexities of Miami’s history are explored in terse prose. The plot barrels forward confidently, taking several surprising twists, and opening quite a few possible doors for the next installment. (I can’t wait to read more about the history of Los Enfermos!) The ensemble finally comes into its own too: Kathy goes from foil to full-on no-nonsense partner; Dave Mendoza, the brawn in Fernandez’ investigating team, becomes more psychologically interesting (and more violently volatile?); and a former rival, retired FBI agent Robert Harrass, makes a welcome return, this time as the voice of experience and wisdom. As this series plays with continuity, (major characters fade in the distance; small characters re-appear, and may not be so small next time around) we’re aware that Pete’s world is still in flux, and that any of his peripherals may hide interesting secrets, or may switch allegiances or, you know, may get killed.
P. S.: Like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Pete Fernandez is a music lover, (we get a dutiful visit to Miami’s legendary Sweat Records) and so Sonic Youth and Neil Young and the Jam are alluded to- but it’s the Elena Burke allusion that his grandfather Diego might appreciate. Burke was a remarkable singer of Cuban boleros, great at squeezing longing from each note of her torch songs and somehow transforming that pain into joy. (Daughter Malena Burke is also a major Cuban icon; and grand-daughter Lena is a Latin Grammy nominee. Watch for Ena Burke to play Cuban music on the Moon in 2040.)