Music and Mystery with NPR’s Alt.Latino

Music and Mystery with NPR’s Alt.Latino

My turn as a guest DJ on National Public Radio’s Alt.Latino show with host Felix Contreras has aired!

Click below to listen to the show or find it here on the NPR webpage which includes expanded audio excerpts of books we discuss on the show, including HAT DANCE, the second Detective Emilia Cruz novel.

I’d never taped a radio show in a sound booth before but it was easy to follow Felix’s lead as he sat in the sound booth on the other side of the glass wall. In this episode of Alt.Latino, Felix and I discuss Latino noir authors as well as music that reflects the genre and more specifically, the Detective Emilia Cruz series, of which he’s a fan.

We had a great conversation about some terrific Latino noir authors including:

Manuel Ramos, an attorney and author of the series featuring Denver lawyer Luis Móntez.

Ernesto Mallo, author of the Inspector Lascano series about Argentina under the ultra-rightwing junta in the 1970’s.

Leonardo Padura, the Cuban author of the Havana series crime novels featuring the detective/writer Mario Conde.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II, the Mexican author of a multitude of books including MEXICO CITY NOIR and the series featuring private investigator Héctor Belascoarán Shayne.

and me, Carmen Amato, author of the Detective Emilia Cruz series set in Acapulco.

Playlist for Emilia Cruz

I brought a playlist of music for the Detective Emilia Cruz series to the Alt.Latino show and asked Felix to pick a theme song for Emilia. He nailed it with Maná’s Eres mi religion.

Listen to NPR

Click the link at the top of this post or go to the page for NPR’s Alt.Latino show. Listen to the episode and surf  other episodes for compelling music and discussion. The show ranges across the Latino cultural landscape with guest DJ’s who are on the cutting edge of television, music, and literature. I’m thrilled to be in such good company.

Thank you, Felix for inviting me and for such a great experience.

Carmen Amato and Felix Contreras

Me and Felix, July 2016

Claim your copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

Romantic thriller with a paranormal twist hits #KindleScout

Romantic thriller with a paranormal twist hits #KindleScout

“She inherited a secret her soul doesn’t know.”

That’s the tagline on the cover of AWAKENING MACBETH, my latest romantic thriller.

I want your vote

Amazon’s Kindle Scout program allows readers to nominate books they would like to see published and AWAKENING MACBETH is one of the books competing to be nominated. Readers can only nominate 3 books at a time and a book has 30 days in which to garner votes.

Awakening Macbeth novel

Click to cast your vote

The nomination page for AWAKENING MACBETH went “live” today with the cover, a lengthy excerpt, and this romantic thriller description (limited to 500 characters!):

Shattered by her father’s death, professor Brodie Macbeth has terrifying nightmares. In her sleep, people will kill for a secret Brodie doesn’t know. It’s grief, everyone says, and when Brodie meets Joe Birnam, an Iraq War vet with his own demons, she’ll finally learn to love. Yet a colleague’s shocking claim and demand for her father’s secret makes Brodie realize that the nightmares are a real and deadly game. Joe’s immortal soul is the prize. But Brodie doesn’t know how to play, let alone win.

Nerves

This is my first book not set in Mexico and I’m a bit nervous to see how it will be received. Regular readers of this blog will remember that the novel was excerpted here last year. Since then, I’ve amped up the story and included more sizzle between Brodie and Joe.

So check out the nominating page, read the excerpt and please nominate AWAKENING MACBETH for publication with Kindle Scout.

Thank you

Thank you so much for walking with me on this writing journey from Mexico City to Acapulco and now to Virginia. My readers are smart, savvy people with a wealth of interests and I love connecting with you. Thanks to each and every one of you for your reviews, enthusiasm and great ideas.

All the best, Carmen

P.S. To be the first to know if AWAKENING MACBETH makes it to the Kindle Scout winner’s podium, subscribe to my newsletter.

Claim your copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

Exclusive! First chapter of KING PESO

The countdown to KING PESO is officially on!

The 4th Detective Emilia Cruz novel will be released for Kindle on 18 August and in paperback on 30 August.

While you wait to see just how hot it can get in Acapulco, read the first chapter.

In KING PESO, Acapulco is rocked by the execution-style murders of three law enforcement officers in as many weeks. When her partner Franco Silvio’s wife is killed, it’s obvious to Emilia that the murders are connected and she could be the cop killer’s next target.

She’s gambling on a task force to investigate but Emilia is reassigned instead. Her new police unit is a political time bomb championed by Acapulco’s ambitious mayor and overseen by shady union strongman Victor Obregon Sosa. Home is no refuge for Emilia; hotel manager Kurt Rucker has a shocking secret that could tear their relationship apart.

It’s just another day in paradise, where  Mexican drug cartels battle for control and politicians are bought with blood money. For Emilia, every spin of the wheel could be her last.

Check out the Detective Emilia Cruz series page or get a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library!

Get your #FREE Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

She’s the first female police detective in Acapulco

She can take the heat. Can you?

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

Countdown to KING PESO, the 4th Detective Emilia Cruz novel

KING PESO, the 4th Detective Emilia Cruz novel, is all about gambling and greed.

The high cost of building family and friends. How easy it is to tear them both apart.

In KING PESO, Emilia is shocked by the murder partner Franco Silvio’s wife, as Acapulco reels from the mysterious executions of 3 law enforcement officers in as many weeks. The entire city wants to find the nfamous El Trio killier. Despite the crisis, the chief of police plucks Emilia out of the detective squadroom and reassigns her to a new patrol unit.

Emilia hates the job and the clueless girl in charge. To make matters worse, shady union strongman Victor Obregon Sosa is involved and even provided the unit with its headquarters building.

A falsified report leads Emilia to moonlight as a detective and conduct her own quiet investigation into the El Trio murders, only to find a police cover-up and a fifth victim whose death can only be a direct message from the killer to her. Meanwhile, Emilia’s ongoing hunt for a missing girl leads to the El Pharaoh casino, a place she and Silvio know all too well . . .

Soon, every move Emilia makes is a gamble and the next spin of the wheel could be her last.

Even as she puts her life on the line to discover the truth, Emilia stumbles upon a shocking secret about hotel manager Kurt Rucker. How could she have been so blind?

Subscribe to my monthly Mystery Ahead update and get your Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

Film Rights to Acapulco Mystery Series Acquired by Screenwriter

I am thrilled to announce, after weeks of negotiations between lawyers, that a contract for the film rights to the Emilia Cruz mystery series has been inked. Screenwriter and director Emily Skopov (ever hear of a little series called Xena, Warrior Princess?) released the news yesterday:

PITTSBURGH, May 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Screenwriter and director Emily Skopov is pleased to announce the acquisition of film and television rights to the Detective Emilia Cruz series by mystery author Carmen Amato. The series, which includes the novels CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, and DIABLO NIGHTS, as well as a collection of short stories, features Emilia Cruz as the first and only female police detective in Acapulco. Physically tough yet emotionally vulnerable, Cruz must be her own moral compass as police investigations pit her against Mexico’s drug cartel violence, government corruption, and gender bias against a woman in a traditionally male occupation. A relationship with an American man in a high-profile position further complicates Cruz’s life.

Read the rest of the press release here: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/writerdirector-acquires-rights-to-groundbreaking-emilia-cruz-detective-novels-300084734.html

Join me in a virtual margerita! Hollywood, here we come.

Subscribe to my monthly Mystery Ahead update and get your Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

Inspiration for a Thriller

Inspiration for a Thriller

One of the most often-asked questions for a mystery and thriller author is “Where does your inspiration come from?” Funny you should ask . . .

Fateful dinner party

We were invited to a dinner party at the home of another expatriate family in Mexico City. I’d met the mom, Amanda, at a school function. Amanda was a writer and we both participated in an English-speaking writer’s group. Her boys were close enough in age to my kids for them to play together.

A dozen guests sipped cocktails on the patio, then went into a dining room glowing with fine crystal and china. A lovely gazpacho started the meal, prepared and served by the family’s new maid. Itzel was about 18, wearing a stiffly starched uniform and a nervous smile.

We waited quite a long time after the soup for the main course. Amanda excused herself and went into the kitchen. A few minutes later she asked me to come with her.

The main course was fish. It wasn’t cooked. Amanda looked close to tears as she contemplated the ruin of her dinner party. She didn’t understand Itzel’s frantic explanation.

But I did. Itzel had turned on the heat and put the pan of fish in what she thought was the broiler. Nothing had happened, she wailed, and began to cry.

I nearly laughed. She’d put the fish into the storage drawer under the oven.

We found a frying pan and some butter. Ten minutes later the guests were eating trout almondine while Itzel recovered in the kitchen.

Itzel and I talked after that. This was her first job as a maid. Itzel was from a small town near Veracruz and had never lived with electric appliances, air conditioning, or flush toilets. The young girl went home every other weekend and supported her mother and siblings.

Itzel’s story became that of Luz de Maria Alba Mora, the central female character in THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY. I left out the part about the oven, however.

Books as Inspiration

Itzel’s story was only one source of inspiration. Two books also guided the narrative.

Ken Follett’s THE KEY TO REBECCA has always been a favorite, for its characterizations, pacing, and points of view. I wanted HIDDEN LIGHT to have that same sense of developing danger–whether from the drug cartels or Luz’s risks–and for readers to have the same insight into the hero as the villain. An excellen thriller.

The other book which provided inspiration was THE EAGLE’S THRONE by Carlos Fuentes. Mexico’s power players are forced to conduct their political intrigues via letters and the book is a tribute to cunning craftsmanship. But more importantly, from my optic, the book perfectly captured the tone of Mexico’s politics. I wanted to portray the same sense of mistrust, intrigue, and constant one-upmanship.

Musical Interlude

Many authors talk about music they play as they write. I like silence–my head is always crowded with dialogue so things are noisy enough as they are. But I like to match music with characters.

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass was one of the first Latino music superstars. The Lonely Bull is one of my favorite albums. If HIDDEN LIGHT is ever made into a movie, that title song will be the theme of the main male character Eduardo Cortez Castillo.

Putting it All Together

Pinterest is where all my inspiration for THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY comes together. There’s a board called “Inspiration for a Thriller,” with tons of pictures and videos that reflect the book and the elements that inspired it. If you’re on Pinterest, please follow along! https://www.pinterest.com/carmenconnects/inspiration-for-a-thriller/

 

“A rivetingly dramatic tale of politics and corruption, and a man and a woman from opposite ends of the social spectrum who fall in love.”  Literary Fiction Reviews 

10 Lessons from Killer Nashville

The Killer Nashville International Writer’s Conference was the first of its kind I’ve ever attended.  I didn’t know quite what to expect but tried to put my best foot forward: Served on 3 panels (Writing Spies and Espionage, Settings, Witness Reliability),...

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Heading to Killer Nashville

I'm heading to the Killer Nashville mystery writer's conference, where 43 MISSING, the 6th Detective Emilia Cruz novel, is a finalist for the Silver Falchion award for Best Procedural. The award has multiple categories and many of the finalists are very...

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Department Q and The Keeper of Lost Causes

THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES, the first Department Q novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, has toppled Jo Nesbo from the top of my Nordic Noir favorites list. And I didn’t even know I wanted to go to Denmark. Some series take a few books before all the pieces are...

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Get your #FREE Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

The first female police detective in Acapulco can take the heat.

Can you?

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

An Excellent Liar

Big lies, white, lies, pretty little lies–Acapulco Detective Emilia Cruz is an expert at all of them. But in the Emilia Cruz police procedural mystery series, she hardly ever lies to the people she cares about.

Hardly ever.

Meet the main character blog tour

Emilia’s lying habits are just the tip of a literary iceberg.  I’ve been tagged to describe my main character in a blog tour. Fellow mystery writer Billy Ray Chitwood tagged me in his tour post talking about his Bailey Crane series. I recently reviewed his 6th and last novel in the series A COMMON EVIL, which you can read here.

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: I must answer seven (7) questions about the main character in one of my novels (I choose DIABLO NIGHTS, the 3rd Emilia Cruz mystery.) Then, I nominate five (5) authors to answer the same seven (7) questions about the main character in one of their novels. Mention the person who nominated you (Thank you, Billy Ray Chitwood!)

1. Tell us a little about this main character. Is he fictional or a historic person?

Detective Emilia Cruz is an excellent liar, a fast thinker, a determined investigator, and a mean kickboxer. An Acapulco native forced to grow up too fast, she’s been a cop for nearly 12 years and a detective for two; a strong woman in a squadroom that didn’t want her and is still trying to break her. But Emilia isn’t afraid to defend herself and get what she’s rightfully earned. She’s a Latina who knows that many women in Mexico don’t get the chances she’s had. The proof is in a log she tracks of women who have gone missing–Las Perdidas, the Lost Ones.

But she doesn’t know how to handle gringo Kurt Rucker, the manager of a luxury hotel in Acapulco. A former U.S. Marine, he has the confidence and leadership qualities she admires. A triathlete, he’s calm under pressure and knows what he wants. But does Emilia?

2. When and where is the story set?

There’s the Acapulco that tourists know: luxury hi-rises, candlelit nights on the beach, the sweep of the most beautiful bay in the world, the majesty of the clear blue Pacific. There’s also the Acapulco that is a prize to be fought over by drug cartels–the city that is home to hookers and thieves, the streets where life is cheap and poverty is as pervasive as the wind off the ocean. Both of these versions of Acapulco claw at each other and force Emilia to survive between them.

3. What should we know about her? 

In DIABLO NIGHTS, Emilia is still trying to sort out her life. She lives with Kurt Rucker on the weekends at the most luxurious hotel in Acapulco. But during the week she’s with her mother in a small concrete box of a house far from the bay and tourists. Her partner, senior detective franco Silvio, is a perpetual pain in the you-know-where. To further complicate matters, Emilia is assigned to train a college boy whose family money has bought him his fantasy job.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

Emilia is challenged by Mexico’s drug cartels. Their influence and violnce is pervasive and crippling, extending into the ranks of Acapulco’s police force, union officials, and civil authorities. Anonymity is a cop’s best friend and Emilia does her best to stay off their radar screen.

5. What is her personal goal?

Emilia want to find out what happened to local Acapulco women who have gone missing amid Mexico’s drug violence. She keeps a notebook of missing women, whom she calls Las Perdidas–the Lost Ones. Her hunt for missing teen Lil Jimenez Lata is a continuing subplot throughout the Emilia Cruz novels. Will she ever find Lila?

6. What are the titles of your novels, and where can we read more about them?

The Emilia Cruz series includes:
Cliff Diver (Detective Emilia Cruz Book 1)
Hat Dance (Detective Emilia Cruz Book 2)
Diablo Nights (Detective Emilia Cruz Book 3)
Made in Acapulco: The Emilia Cruz Stories

You can check out all of my books on Amazon (both paperback and ebook formats) or here on this site.

7. When can we expect your next book to be published?

Two more Emilia Cruz novels are in the works for 2015: the first, SHATTERED SIESTA, will be released in late spring.

Nominations:

I’d love to hear more about the main characters created by these fellow thriller and mystery writers:

  • John Scherber, author of the Paul Zacher series
  • Jerry Last, author of the Roger and Suzanne mysteries
  • Sandra Nikolai, author of the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott mystery series
  • Norm Hamilton, author of FROM THINE OWN WELL
  • Brian Benson, author of TWIN KILLING

In other news

The latest edition of Writer’s Digest magazine features an article quoting Frances Caballo. Frances was one of the first people I “met” on Twitter and she interviewed me about my use of social media. She is a social media expert and coach for authors. Check out her website http://socialmediajustforwriters.com/

I was honored to have all the Emilia Cruz novels reviewed on mysterysequels.com in the past few weeks. The reviews on this website are thoughtful and honest and I love that the books were read in order. In fact the entire website is organized so well that it is a pleasure to page through to find great mystery series. Here are the reviews of the Emilia Cruz books:

Besides the review on mysterysequels.com, DIABLO NIGHTS has received some wonderful reviews on Amazon, scoring it a rating of 4.9 out of 5 on Amazon. Vine Voice reviewer James Ellsworth wrote: “It is one of the two or three best books in this genre I have read this summer. And as a Vine Voice, I get asked to read quite a few of them. Put this series on the top of your list for airplane and hotel reading or for that ‘reading’ weekend of escapism.

 

Subscribe to my monthly Mystery Ahead update and get your Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

Reshaping the Acapulco Skyline

Acapulco has alot to offer: beautiful beaches, water sports, cliff divers, iconic skyscrapers, swimming with the dolphins. Get off the beaten path and you can add gun violence, murder, cops, and drug seizures. All that’s missing is a skycraper that looks like a corkscrew.

Ahem. Let me clarify.

In DIABLO NIGHTS, the third Emilia Cruz novel, Acapulco itself is as mch of a character as Emilia, her partner Franco Silvio, or her lover, Kurt Rucker. The action moves from Kurt’s hotel on Punta Diamante on the city’s far eastern edge, to the cruise ship docks near the old fort of Fuerte San Diego on the west side of the bay. Connecting those two sides of the horse-shaped bay is the wide boulevard named Costera Miguel Aleman. La Costera borders the ocean and is the major artery pumping cars, locals, and tourists around the waterfront.

DIABLO NIGHTS Reshaping the Acapulco skyline

The F&F Tower, downtown Panama City, Panama

All of the picture postcard shots of Acapulco’s downtown area show this road and the tall white skyscrapers that soar along it. In DIABLO NIGHTS, there is one more skyscraper, the fictional Torre Metropolitano. It’s a work in progress and the construction is pivotal.

  “The site of the half-built Torre Metropolitano loomed ahead as the road curved into the eastern side of the bay. When finished, the tower would be another one of Acapulco’s iconic skyscrapers rising from azure ocean, defiant and modern against a backdrop of iron mountains. Its innovative spiral design had been hotly debated in the news last year. Some said it would become Acapulco’s most famous landmark, others argued that the design was inherently unstable. But a consortium of investors had pushed it through.

The building would be 25 stories when done and about half had been erected. Steel and glass cladding rose into the sky, topped by a mammoth yellow crane. The whole structure was partially hidden by temporary construction barriers of corrugated steel. A picture of the Building’s final state was repeated on the barriers, as if miniature Torre Metropolitanos were strolling down the street, interrupted by the royal palms along the avenue.” — DIABLO NIGHTS

Related post: Blame it on Panama

The Torre Metropolitano is modeled after the F&F Tower in Panama City, one of the coolest–and scariest–buildings I’ve ever seen. Why this particular building? Well, you’ll have to read DIABLO NIGHTS to find out!

The Kindle version is out now, with paperback release in August. Happy reading, but if you are afraid of heights, well, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Subscribe to my monthly Mystery Ahead update and get your Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

DIABLO NIGHTS Cover Reveal and Kindle Release

The third installment of the Emilia Cruz mystery series, featuring the first and only female police detective in Acapulco, is out on Kindle!  The paperback version will be available in August.

And finally–the Cover Reveal! The final cover, shown here, is a slight variation of the winning cover which was one of four offered in a reader poll three weeks ago.

DIABLO NIGHTS is more of a psychological thriller than the previous two Emilia Cruz mysteries, CLIFF DIVER and HAT DANCE. Emilia’s is pulling threads and following leads and reacting to the news she gets at every turn. The emotional toll on her is high, but it leads to a new understanding of the resources available to her.

Here’s the Amazon description.

A religious relic lures Emilia Cruz, Acapulco’s first and only female police detective, into a labyrinth of drug cartel smuggling and revenge killings in DIABLO NIGHTS, the third novel in the explosive Emilia Cruz Mexico mystery series.

The relic, from Mexico’s Cristero War, also surfaces a long-hidden personal secret that Emilia cannot share with the man in her life, hotel manager Kurt Rucker.

The relic’s authenticity is in doubt, however, as Emilia and her partner, senior detective Franco Silvio, find a murder victim aboard a cruise ship. The victim’s pockets are lined with Ora Ciega, a rare heroin strain from Colombia that promises more drug war violence for Acapulco’s already bloody streets.

The Ora Ciega trail leads Emilia to a second body; that of Yolanda Lata, the mother of a girl for whom Emilia has been searching; as well as to a dead Customs official who had valuable information about the cruise ship murder. When stalkers shadow Emilia, the only conclusion is that she’s getting close to the Ora Ciega smugglers. Meanwhile, she’s assigned to train a rookie detective with friends in high places.

The destinies of Ora Ciega, the religious relic, the rookie, and the missing girl merge into a fateful trip into the hills above Mexico’s Costa Chica coast south of Acapulco. In a lonely place where vigilante groups have replaced civil authority and the crash of surf competes with gunshots, Emilia will face the biggest challenge of her police detective career. But it’s nothing compared to the shocking climax waiting for her back in Acapulco.

THANK YOU

I’ve gotten so many emails asking when the next Emilia Cruz novel was coming out adn can finally say “Here it is!” Thank you to all the readers who have enjoyed the series so far. I appreciate all the mail and the generous Amazon reviews, too!

2016 Update

Like the rest of the Detective Emilia Cruz series, DIABLO NIGHTS got a redo this year with a new cover and new description, which you can see here. The 4th novel in the series, KING PESO, was released in August and the television and film rights were sold. Emilia could be coming to a screen near you!

Again, thank you for reading and staying connected!

Subscribe to my monthly Mystery Ahead update and get your Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

The Lure of the Open Notebook

Maybe it’s a sickness.

Yesterday, as I was cleaning out my den (also known as the writer’s cave, Mom’s office, and a total mess) I found a COMPLETELY VIRGIN hardcover spiral notebook from Agatha Ruiz de la Prada. The rush of excitement was intense.

Paper Snob

I love the notebooks from Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, a Spanish designer whose paper products I first found in Greece. The notebooks have bright colors and the pages have color coded edges. But the important thing is that both front and back are hard laminated cardboard, which makes it very easy to scribble notes.

But why was I so excited?

Because a blank Agatha is an open invitation to write another book.

notebook mystery series 001

A scribbled scene from DIABLO NIGHTS between Emilia and her cousin Alvaro, since deleted from the final manuscript

The rush of ideas

I write many scenes, as well as my outline, longhand. At least one notebook is dedicated to every book. When I wrote THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY I used a dozen before the manuscript was completed, labeling them and taping peso coins to the covers for good luck. Don’t ask me why.

So I stood there, in the den/office/cave/mess clutching my Agatha, knowing that I suddenly had the tool needed to start the next book, even before DIABLO NIGHTS, the 3rd Emilia Cruz novel set in Acapulco, was out the door. When I finished DIABLO NIGHTS several weeks ago, I felt wrung out. To some extent it had been hard going.

The latest Emilia Cruz mystery deals with some heavy issues–religion and martyrdom, drug smuggling, Mexico’s vigilante problem, and being honest to your significant other. Emilia contends with the first 3 but suffers from the last.

Notebook Carmen AmatoMy reaction caught me by surprise. It said “I’m ready.”

Yes, the next book will be the 4th Emilia Cruz mystery. Several scenarios are already circling around, each biting at my imagination like a shark.

First things first

A few things need to happen before that new notebook gets used, however. DIABLO NIGHTS, the 3rd Emilia Cruz mystery novel, will be hitting the shelves soon–my subscribers will be the first to know the exact release date, so sign up if you haven’t yet.

Second, I’d better clean the den. Gotta find a pen.

Subscribe to my monthly Mystery Ahead update and get your Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

If You Went Missing, Who Would Know?

Donde estan? The question amid all the shoes in the picture is Where are they? This is the cry of those who search for and mourn the missing who are the casualties of Mexico’s drug war.

But calculating just how many are missing is a bureaucratic–and political–war of its own. The Emilia Cruz mystery series captures it in fiction. But it’s a fact.

missing in Mexico shoes of the lost

The numbers game

Many reports claim that as many as 80,000 people have gone missing over the last 10 years in Mexico, victims of drug cartel violence and corrupt officials. In 2012, CNN reported, in an article subtitled “Bodies for Billions” that just since 2007, 48,000 people had died dead and another 5,000 were missing, even while admitting that it was hard to be firm on the numbers as mass graves kept being found.

BBC reported in October 2012 that “According to figures released earlier this year by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, 16,000 bodies remain unidentified and a total of 24,000 people are missing.”

If you were missing: Posters of the missing. Picture courtesy of CBS news.

Posters of the missing. Picture courtesy of CBS news.

In early 2013, CBS news reported that shortly after President Pena Nieto moved into Los Pinos, a new list was created with data from local prosecutors across Mexico, including information about people reported missing for any reason during the previous administration. The new list proclaimed that slightly over 26,000 people were missing. The controversial list didn’t include information collected after November 2012.

Most recently, AP and ABC News reported that “Mexico has recalculated the number of people who have gone missing since the start of the country’s drug war in 2006, saying a total of 8,000 are unaccounted for.” Wow, what a big change. If the government spokesperson is to be believed, 14,700 of the missing from the previous administration have been found alive and about 750 have been confirmed dead. The big discrepancy between this year and last is that “people who had filed missing persons reports didn’t update them when their relative re-appeared.”

If you went missing: Pictures of missing outside a mortuary in Acapulco. Picture courtesy of BBC.

Pictures of missing outside a mortuary in Acapulco. Picture courtesy of BBC.

Las Perdidas

In the Emilia Cruz series, the issue of those missing in Mexico is kept alive in Emilia’s binder of women who have gone missing in the Acapulco area. It’s a small way of shedding light on the issue.

In the mystery series, Emilia’s log of the missing is a binder of information on the missing women she calls Las Perdidas. (The Lost Ones) There are more than 40 names in the binder and one name represents all of them: Lila Jimenez Lata. Lila is a teen who ran away from home. Her trail will alternate between hot and cold throughout the series as Emilia hunts for her.

If you went missing: Pictures of the missing on the side of a bus. Picture courtesy of Reuters.

Pictures of the missing on the side of a bus. Picture courtesy of Reuters.

Who else is looking

Last year I wrote about a new agency created to look for the missing  by Mexico’s Attorney General.  The weight of the issue called for some action–in 40 percent of the disappearance cases tracked by Amnesty International, Mexican law enforcement officials failed to open a criminal inquiry, according to Amnesty International

But the private sector is bringing the most attention to the plight of the missing. Rallies, posters, press attention, websites–these are the tools available to grieving families. Will websites such as http://missingfrommexico.com/ help? With enough attention and participation, anything is possible.

If you went missing: tortilla wrapper

Tortilla wrapper featuring image of missing persons. Picture courtesy of BBC News bbc.co.uk

In other news

The third Emilia Cruz mystery novel, DIABLO NIGHTS, is slated for a late June release. Subscribe to my updates and find out exactly when it will be available.

In the meantime, check out this blog post on Padre Pro, the Mexican Catholic martyr who helped inspire the DIABLO NIGHTS plot. His religious relic will lead Emilia into a labyrinth of drug smuggling and revenge killings. At the same time, a case involving a dead drug dealer on a luxury cruise ship is snatched away from Emilia and her partner Franco Silvio before they can make an arrest. Complications include a rookie detective, a series of stalkers, and a secret Emilia refuses to share with the man in her life, hotel manager Kurt Rucker. Will Emilia need a prayer to survive?

Subscribe to my monthly Mystery Ahead update and get your Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

A Counterfeit Money Mystery

Have you seen the new US 100 dollar bill? Compared it to the old bill of the same denomination?

Money and Mystery

The changes in the $100 bill drive the plot of “The Cliff,” a short story from MADE IN ACAPULCO: The Emilia Cruz Stories. “The Cliff” later became the beginning of the full length Emilia Cruz novel, CLIFF DIVER.

In the story, Emilia meets Kurt Rucker and together they discover that a vehicle seized by the Acapulco police for a traffic infraction is loaded to the hubcaps with counterfeit money.

    Three hours later they were staring at six million green Estados Unidos dollars piled on the floor in her uncle Raul’s auto repair shop. The rear body panels of the Suburban were off, exposing the ingenious system welded into the car frame to accommodate brick-sized packages. Even the four-wheel drive mechanism had been cannibalized to create more hidden hauling capacity.

   “Money in, cocaine out,” Emilia said. “The Hudsons are mules.”

   Rucker fingered one of the dollar bills, his forehead furrowed with thought. The hotel manager had worked side-by-side with Tío Raul as if he repaired cars in a greasy garage every day. His beautifully starched shirt had been cast aside, revealing a white singlet undershirt and muscular arms. Both the white undershirt and khaki pants were now as dirty and oil-spotted as Tío Raul’s coveralls.

   “These are brand new bills,” he said.

   “So?” Emilia got him a glass of water from the big jug of Electropura purified water. Tío Raul had gone to the one-bedroom apartment over the shop to tell Tía Lourdes to make them all some breakfast.

   “A couple of years ago they changed the design of American money.” Rucker spread several bills on the tool bench. “Made the image bigger. Added a tint. New watermarks.” He took a swallow of water. “But these are the old design.”

   Emilia ran her finger over the crisp paper. “You think it’s counterfeit?”

Comparing

But I have a confession to make: I wrote the story before I ever held both an old and new $100 bill in my very own hands. This week, however, I was finally able to compare them side-by-side. I actually scanned two bills in order to create a featured image for this post, only to get a SERIOUS warning from Photoshop about altering scanned images of currency. Yikes. Hence the “Specimen” images from newmoney.gov, the website set up to tell the public about the changes to US currency.

Old US bill

US $100 bill, issued 1996 – 2013

The new bill, which entered circulation October 2013, “incorporates new security features to deter counterfeiters and help businesses and consumers tell whether a note is genuine,” according to the newmoney.gov website. According to a newmoney.gov press release, “The redesigned $100 note includes two new security features: a blue 3-D security ribbon with images of bells and 100s, and a color-changing bell in an inkwell” to help Washington “stay ahead of counterfeiting threats.”

new bill

New US $100 bill, issued Oct 2013

The US Secret Service has a great page on detecting counterfeit money, which you can read here. You can also read more about the changes in the US $100 bill in this 2010 USAToday article.

It worked in the story

But not the way you’d expect.

Of course not, because the story is set in Emilia Cruz’s Acapulco. It’s the Acapulco that tourists know; the sweep of the most beautiful bay in the world, the majesty of the clear blue Pacific, candlelit nights on the beach, and luxury hi-rises. But it is also the Acapulco that is a prize to be fought over by drug cartels–the city that is home to hookers and thieves, the streets where life is cheap and poverty is as pervasive as the wind off the ocean. Both of these versions of Acapulco claw at each other and force Emilia to survive between them. No investigation will be easy, no crime will be simple.

But there is one thing Emilia can always count on when she is investigating: money is involved.

In other news

Last week I reported that the Writing for Water team has now provided 10 people with clean water for life so far in 2014 with donations to Water.org based on book sales. Our goal is 25 for the year.

All this is made possible by readers like you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

If you are an author who would like to join us, we want to hear from you! Read more here and please contact me via email: carmen@carmenamato.net.

Also, on Thursday, subscribers to my monthly updates will get the the entire first chapter of the next Emilia Cruz mystery, DIABLO NIGHTS, delivered straight to their inbox. Get on the list and don’t miss it!

All the best, Carmen

Subscribe to my monthly Mystery Ahead update and get your Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

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