What happens when the private eye has lost his way? That’s where the fifth book in author Alex Segura’s hardboiled Pete Fernandez series picks up the trail with its broken hero.
EW has the exclusive cover reveal and excerpt from Miami Midnight, in which Fernandez is recovering from the emotional and physical wounds from tangling with a dangerous cult in the previous book, Blackout.
A year has passed, and Fernandez is out of the sleuthing business, toiling at a used bookstore in Miami. That’s when a local gang boss recruits him to help solve the murder of his jazz musician son.
After sprawling across time periods in previous books, and linking up history, crime, and politics, Segura says this Pete Fernandez changes course, delving into the detective’s personal life, his struggle with alcoholism, and even leading him closer to learning about the murder of his mother.
“I wanted this book to feel more intimate, and really explore Pete’s journey — not only as a detective, but as a person in recovery, and the roadblocks that crop up along the way,” Segura says.
Earlier books delved into Fernandez’s history with his father, a former Miami homicide detective who died while Pete was still lost in the depths of alcoholism, leaving his son with regret, guilt, and heartache.
“But over the last four books, he’s managed to carve out a place for himself apart and outside of his dad’s shadow,” Segura says. “The one story we’ve never told was about Pete’s mother — and it’s honestly been the one I’ve been saving. I knew that at some point, I’d have to circle back to it and reveal that what Pete was told, that his mother died of a sudden illness when he was an infant, might not be the truth. But that raises the big question: What happened to Pete’s mom?”
In addition to the new novel, Segura is also the co-creator of a scripted crime fiction podcast called Lethal Lit — A Tig Torres Mystery, collaborating with comic book artist and scribe Monica Gallagher (best known for Assassin’s Roommate).
It is iHeart Radio Originals’ first scripted podcast and follows a woman returning to her small town to investigate the old serial slayings of the Lit Killer. “While the town feels like the case is closed, and her Aunt Beth is to blame, Tig knows there’s a deeper truth, and she’ll do anything to uncover it,” Segura says. “It’s a dark, haunting mystery that I hope people will check out and enjoy.”
The first episode just premiered on Oct. 29, and new installments of the six-episode series will be released weekly.
For now, here’s an excerpt from Miami Midnight, which Polis Books will debut on July 16.
Excerpt from Miami Midnight by Alex Segura
January 1, 1984
“You don’t want to go in there, Osvaldito.”
The words seemed to float in the air between the homicide detective and the entrance to the room. The deputy that uttered them backed away. Osvaldo Valdes knew he had little choice in the matter. He had to walk into the dim, dank motel room that was already being cordoned off by yellow tape. The stuffy hallway, reeking of cheap cologne and sweat, was cramped with uniforms and a forensics unit, but the room itself was empty aside from the body splayed out near the far window.
The woman — skinny, brunette, hair cut short but not boyish—looked to be in her late 30s, maybe younger, and was laying on the floor at an odd angle. Her head twisted up, as if trying to look out the dirty, smudged window that was the only source of natural light in the motel room. Osvaldo did his best to keep his footfalls light. He’d been on the Miami Homicide team for a little over six months. His partner, Tino Vigil, was catching another body downtown. That left Osvaldo here, in Overtown, feeling itchy and hot in the decrepit Hampton House Hotel, checking on a body. The owner had called it in—complaining that the man who’d rented the room had bailed, leaving him fifty bucks short. He’d prattled on about the noise, too, the screaming. More than your usual Overtown kerfuffle complaints. More than your usual New Year’s Eve partying complaints, too. Serious wailing. Thuds. Boom-boom-crash. Real loud, then dead quiet. Too quiet.
Osvaldo motioned over his shoulder for one of the forensic guys, a kid named Mosher, to come in behind him.
“Don’t touch anything yet, okay?” Osvaldo said. “I wanna get a feel for it first.”
He stepped further into the room, his arms out a bit, palms open, as if trying to catch something, a sign of what happened here. Static. Nothing.
But then, something, as he stepped closer, and a sliver of the New Year Day sun fell on the woman’s face, bruised and bloodied, illuminating the long gash across her neck, dried blood caked down toward her collarbone. Past the marks and cuts and injuries, Osvaldo recognized something. A flicker of familiarity snapped at him.
“F-ck,” he said, his eyes scanning the woman’s face once more. Not just a woman. Not just a Jane Doe. Not anymore.
He wheeled around. He felt himself heat up, a sheen of sweat spread over him, prickling his back, his face. This can’t be right. But he knew it was true. Mosher stood behind him, a few inches too close, shadowing his movement. He jerked back, surprised by Osvaldo’s quick pivot. The detective looked at the younger man, with his trimmed beard and eager eyes. Those will fade soon, Osvaldo thought. You’ll become a zombie, just like the rest of us.
The ones that survive.
“Get everyone out of here except the people that have to be around,” Osvaldo said, his tone flat, eyes locked on Mosher, who nodded. “And then get Pedro Fernandez on the phone. Fast.”
March 15, 2018
Isleño Novo pulled his small suitcase from the overhead bin and waited for the people in front of him to disembark from the Newark-to-Miami flight. The trip had been pleasant enough. He’d even had an empty seat between himself and the lady at the window. That was best, Novo thought. He didn’t do well with small talk.
As the group filtered off the plane and through the gate into Miami International Airport, Novo veered right as the majority went left, toward Baggage Claim. He pulled the small, black burner phone out of his coat pocket and dialed the number from memory. He already felt the tropical heat coating him, like a brush soaked in oil. He hated Miami.
“Aqui estoy,” Novo said. The voice on the other line was flat and muted. Their exchange was brief. Less than a minute. Numbers and a few words.
Novo closed the phone and tossed it into the first trash bin he passed on his way out of the airport. He’d memorized the address. The people that had summoned him, paid for him to fly down to this festering hellhole, would have a car waiting for him outside. The sign would read “Batista.” He’d get in the forgettable black sedan and nod at the driver. On the way to meet his bosses, short-term bosses—Novo worked for himself, mostly—he’d piece together his weapon. The gun—or ‘ghost gun’—was made of untraceable parts, all bought via mail-order and cobbled together by his partner Darien back home in Union City. It wasn’t Novo’s favorite tool. But it was easy to transport and got things done up close. And Novo only worked up close these days. His time as a long-range sniper, picking off Castro’s goons in the mountains, or, later, from within Havana, trying to shoot his way back to freedom, were over. He was a legitimate businessman. Older, respected. Sometimes, when he laid his head down on his pillow and turned off the lights, he could see himself living a life purely financed by his “legitimate” earnings—the bodega on Central Avenue, the hardware store a few blocks north—but then he’d laugh, because he knew that day would never come. No matter how carefully Novo cleaned his money, or how much he scaled back his “real” work, he’d never be out of the game.
And this assignment was just too good to ignore. It was one he’d savor.
So, he’d build his gun. He’d trade the long, black coat for a Miami Dolphins shirt and a pair of dark, reflective glasses. Then he’d make his way toward his target. He’d find the perfect time to sidle up next to the man. And, if he could, he’d whisper in his ear before he pulled the clunky trigger of his puzzle-piece gun:
“The DeCalvacantes say hello.”
Then he’d kill Pete Fernandez.