Her opponent’s flailing hand connected with the bridge of her nose and Emilia Cruz Encinos heard the snap before she felt the pain.

Her eyes watered and her muscles screamed as she twisted far enough to protect her face by pushing it into the mat.

Montez was at least 20 kilos heavier than Emilia but he carried too much of it in his middle. She knew he was tired and desperate. They’d each had four fights that day, slowly eliminating the other competitors. It was simple hand-to-hand fighting with few rules except to make the opponent tap the mat in surrender. Montez had opened the fight by trying to pull off her shirt, as had another male competitor earlier in the day. Both had been defeated by a combination of rubbery fabric, her heavy sports bra, and Emilia’s fist.

Emilia and Montez were both slippery with sweat. He arched his body, trying to break her chokehold or shake off the legs wrapped around his. Somehow Emilia managed to crank up the pressure on his throat while keeping his lower half pinned.

I’m a beast. A beast. The words circled inside her head. The voice of the referee and the shouts of the other cops in the gymnasium merged into an indistinguishable background roar.


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The Detective Emilia Cruz series

Imagine if you were the first and only female police detective in Acapulco, investigating crime in a city both deadly and breathtaking.

Mexico’s culture of machismo will try to break you. Mexico’s drug cartels want to kill you.

The story is full of non-stop action and suspense, but what really got to me in this book is the wide range of strong emotions I’ve felt with reading it. Carmen Amato knows how to bring Acapulco to life . . . Emilia is definitely a character that is close to my heart.


Consistently exciting . . . A clever Mexican detective tale that will leave readers eager for the series’ next installment.

Kirkus Reviews

From the moment I started the first one, I couldn’t put it down and it wasn’t until right towards the end that I started to suspect the killer. Her work touches on important issues affecting Mexico in a real, human way and is exciting, fast paced and utterly gripping.


The Hidden Light of Mexico City

Attorney Eddo Cortez Castillo’s unexpected relationship with housemaid Luz de Maria Alba Mora becomes a dangerous vulnerability when he investigates links between the Minister for Public Security and Mexico’s most elusive drug cartel leader.

As presidential elections near, Eddo uncovers a political double-cross fueled by drug money. The cartel answers with violence, forcing Eddo and Luz to find strength, not only to survive but to defy Mexico’s rigid social structure.

Amato combines marvelous detail about life in Mexico City with a poignant love story between the most unlikeliest of individuals, all of which is woven seamlessly into an enthralling political drama.

Literary Fiction Review

There’s more mystery ahead


King Peso: A Detective Emilia Cruz novel


Pacific Reaper: A Detective Emilia Cruz novel


Awakening Macbeth, a romantic thriller with a paranormal twist


Girl Meets Paris, a memoir in letters


We lived in Mexico City, an American family embracing a new culture, exploring a vibrant city, and meeting people who were to impact our lives for years to come.

Our house was at the start of the school bus route going home. My children had a 10 minute ride.

I met Marit when her chauffer-driven car parked in front of our house as I waited for the bus to bring the kids home. Marit got out of the car wearing a stylish dress, heels and ropes of gold chain. She introduced herself and explained that they lived at the end of the bus line. While she wanted her son and daughter to have the experience of riding on a school bus, it took too long. In future her children would get off at our house and be driven home by the chauffeur.

We spoke a number of times after that, me in my jeans on the stoop and she in her designer clothes from the window of the car. When she learned I was new to Mexico City she took it upon herself to give me a tour of the best shops and restaurants in our neighborhood. The children and I were invited to a midday meal with her husband and children. The event included a tour of their house including a stop in the kitchen to view the uniformed staff and present my compliments to the cook in her white jacket.

In return, Marit came for coffee before meeting the bus. Our housekeeper, a wonderful young woman whom we did not require to wear a uniform, met us in the living room. I introduced the two women, as I would anyone, using full names. 

To my surprise Marit immediately addressed the housekeeper using a common nickname rather than the housekeeper’s actual name. A grilling about work hours came next. It was an effective and not very subtle message: the housekeeper was getting above herself using her full name, not wearing a uniform, and leaving the kitchen instead of waiting to be assigned her work.

Marit called me the next day and took me to task for not making the housekeeper work more hours. According to her, a day maid should show up to work at 7:00 am at least. By asking the housekeeper to come at 10:00 I was only encouraging her to become lazy. I should note here that my husband generally referred to the housekeeper as the “Mexican Tornado” for her amazing work ethic.

There were no more coffee or lunches after that. The final break came when Marit called to ask if, as an American, I could get her maid a visa. The family wanted to go to Disneyworld and take their maid to look after the children in the evenings. The visa process took alot of time, Marit said. If the maid had to stand in line at the US Embassy she’d miss work.

I replied that I had no ability to obtain a US visa for her maid and I never heard from Marit again. The car no longer stopped in front of my house to pick up her children.

Mexico City was home to many other women like her. In an odd way they inspired me to write a book to explain what I saw. There’s a caste system in Mexico that bottles up more people than just the Mexican Tornado. So escape it, people will mule drugs or risk an illegal crossing into the United States. Or both.

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