It’s a pleasure to meet you

I’m Carmen Amato. I’m a mystery and suspense author, best known for the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco. The series draws on my 30 years with the Central Intelligence Agency and knowledge of the war on drugs. I retired as head of a U.S. national intelligence tradecraft school.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world, collecting the ideas, characters, and inspiration that infuse my books. I’ve survived 3 earthquakes (Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Nicaragua) and one train derailment (France). I once spoke French well enough to crash a Givenchy fashion show. Spanish came later and with more of a struggle. Now and then I blog about these travels. Look for the #truestory hastag.

As an author, giving back is part of my business model. Income from my books helps support, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and St. Jude’s Research Hospital.  

For more about my books and writing, see the FAQs.


One of life’s little turning points

Historian by training and observer by habit, when we moved to Mexico I found myself wondering at the varied lives we saw there. Mexico showed me extreme contrasts. Arrogant wealth and abject poverty. Corruption and kind hearts. 

But above all, I was entranced by the country’s rich culture. Art, food, architecture. Mexico has much to offer, yet drug cartel violence has the power to erode these cultural gems. When a drug addict disrupted our Christmas Eve church service, I saw the impact of the violence firsthand.

My way to make sense of it was to write  about what was happening to Mexico’s society and culture. But it had to be gripping enough to attract a wide audience.  

Mexico’s contrasts, history,  seemed ready-made for mystery. My first novel, THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, was a labor of love, with all of Mexico’s contrasts, structural tensions, and fragility of the country’s civil sector, combined into a political thriller with a thick streak of romantic suspense. Read THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY Chapters 1-2

The Detective Emilia Cruz series

The Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series came next and is the chronicle of the fictional first female police detective in Acapulco.  My goal is to bring the reader shoulder-to-shoulder with Emilia, hearing her heart pound and helping her calculate the odds of survival.

Emilia’s challenges are pulled right from the headlines in Mexico. There’s no need for me to make up bizarre serial killers when cartel violence and corrupt politicians provide more than enough inspiration. For example, Emilia’s perpetual hunt for women who have gone missing—referred to as Las Perdidas or the Lost Ones–was inspired by the hundreds of women missing from the Juarez area.

Acapulco is almost another character in the Detective Emilia Cruz series. Once one of the most glamorous tourist destinations in the world, the city has fallen on hard times, thanks to the drug trade. Acapulco is a prize being fought over by rival drug cartels. Tourism continues to be the city’s lifeblood but Acapulco has two faces; one of luxury and one of poverty. Both claw at Emilia and force her to survive between them.

As a female and a cop in Mexico, Emilia lives in a pressure cooker. It’s hard to know who she can trust and harder still to have a normal relationship when she’s immersed for so much of the time in a stew of paranoia and danger.

Subscribe to my newsletter and get a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library.

The famous Furla bag

When I’m not writing, drinking coffee, or otherwise getting into trouble as a mystery author, I am a reluctantly recovering Furla handbag addict. 

My favorite black Furla handbag, seen in a number of pictures on this site, was purchased in the Rome airport because there are no seats and so travelers are forced to shop in designer boutiques while jazzed on coffee from the standup trattoria. I have similar valid excuses for how the other Furlas came to live in the closet as well.


The official biography

Carmen Amato is the author of romantic thrillers and the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco. Her books pulse with the international risks, power plays, and high octane relationships she navigated during a 30-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency. Carmen is a recipient of both the National Intelligence Award and the Career Intelligence Medal.

Her Detective Emilia Cruz series pits the first female police detective in Acapulco against Mexico’s official corruption, drug cartels, and culture of machismo. KIRKUS REVIEWS called the books “Consistently exciting” (CLIFF DIVER) with “Danger and betrayal never more than a few pages away.” (KING PESO) Based on Mexico’s most notorious crime, her novel 43 MISSING was a finalist for the Silver Falchion award for Best Procedural of 2017 from the Killer Nashville International Mystery Writer’s Conference.

Originally from New York, Carmen was educated there as well as in Virginia and Paris, France, while her experiences in Mexico and Central America launched her fiction career.

Her family tree includes a mayor, a Mensa genius, and the first homicide in the state of Connecticut with an automatic weapon. The perpetrator, her great-grandfather, eluded a state-wide manhunt after killing two people–one of whom was his wife. He was never brought to justice.

Visit Carmen’s website at to get a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library. You’ll see why Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp wrote: “For pure entertainment and a gripping story likely resulting in nail biting, read Carmen Amato’s addictive prose. She knows this territory like a jaguar!”

Carmen receiving CIM, 2016

With my Career Intelligence Medal on the Great Seal, shortly before Christmas 2016

starter library

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