Silent City by Alex Segura (Polis Books, Mar. 15th) – Miami is no stranger to crime fiction. Books, TV, and movies have used the city to great effect in order to tell the hard-edged tales seeping from its underbelly. With that said, with Alex Segura’s debut novel, Silent City (being re-released this month from Polis Books), it’s a pleasure to read a Miami story with not only local perspective but a Cuban perspective. And no, Scarface doesn’t count.
Silent City brings us into the world of Pete Fernandez; alcoholic, career failure, and crummy friend. He’s back home in Miami after his father’s death and dragged feet first into a strange case when a co-worker asks him to locate a missing daughter. Needless to say, all hell’s going to break loose and Peter’s not going to walk away from this without scars.
It’s no small feat to start a detective series with a character that is already at rock bottom. Segura presents us with a man who in most cases would be effectively done. He’s a burn out, selfish, and not the most likable fellow, Pete, but as the story careens forward we see the very best of him begin to peek out. This is where Silent City shines, where Segura grants us those glimpses of who Pete really is. Those are the moments where we root for him as readers and the promise those glimpses make are engaging enough to make devotees of many first-time readers.
There’s a strong supporting cast here as well. Relationships don’t feel hollow and many of those moments of melodrama that would normally feel overdrawn aren’t. There’s a tension Segura provides, primarily through Pete’s alcoholism that remains realistic and pervasive. That problem poses the larger threat; not the case or the cast of villains in the shadows. It works in the story’s favor whenever Pete makes the mistake of taking a drink on multiple levels.
Of course, no proper PI novel can go without a proper representation of their stomping grounds and Segura delivers a down home rendition of Miami that’s a little subversive of the mainstream representation. Not everything is neon lights and thongs on the beach. There are local haunts, great places to eat, and invisible sectors—the places in the shadows that the bright lights cast. That approach lends itself well to providing many of the book’s more thrilling scenes work.
Overall, if you haven’t read Alex Segura’s debut, I highly recommend you do. Especially with its sequel, Down the Darkest Street, coming very soon (I’ve read it and will be reviewing soon. Spoilers: it’s great). Pete Fernandez is on pace to becoming one of the more exciting modern series characters I’ve read in a very long time and I’m excited to see what’s next for him.