Ramos (My Bad: A Mile-High Noir, 2016, etc.) kicks off a new series about a Latino detective who gets involved with a Colorado Rockies star and pretty much every lowlife in Denver and beyond.
Rockies All-Star center fielder Joaquín "Kino" Machado’s past has caught up with him. Alberto, the brother who left Cuba with him 10 years ago, is seriously in debt to mobbed-up Havana restaurateur Miguel "Hoochie" Almeida, whose brother, boxer Claudio Almeida, Kino just happens to have killed before leaving the island. Since Kino can’t just wire Hoochie the $500,000 he demands, he arranges to smuggle the money into Havana and ask ex-con private eye Agustín "Gus" Corral to travel with Alberto and hold his hand while he turns over the money. Ignoring the newspaper headlines about a shooter aiming at cars on I-25 and shaking off retired cop Leo Hudgens, who wants to hire him to track down Dominick Alito, the former partner who turned Hudgens to the dark side, Gus packs his bags for Cuba. What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything, and quickly, too. The van in which Kino’s sister, Lourdes, picks up Gus and Alberto at José Martí International Airport is ambushed by heavily armed fake cops; when Gus drives the van away, he hits an ox in the road, crashes the van, and loses the money; the U.S. Consular official who interrogates him about the accident and the money turns out to be equally fake. Just when you’ve settled in for a whimsical tour of the dark side of post-Castro Cuba, Gus abruptly returns home, where he spends the second half of this helter-skelter tale tamping down runaway subplots that flare up as suddenly as wildfires.
Ramos plots with all the coherence of an unusually antic comic strip. But the Cuba sequences are gripping, and it’s hard to resist a hero who observes, “I’ve never had a positive experience with a man who carried a briefcase.”