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BONUS! You also get the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library: 2 novellas and 3 chapters combined into a single downloadable PDF.

Join the Mystery Ahead community with over 3000 mystery lovers.

I’ll introduce you to emerging authors, review recommended reads, take you behind the scenes of the writing craft, and include the latest Detective Emilia Cruz series news.

Mystery Ahead is a delicious bite of mystery in your inbox twice a month.


Top of the month:


Updates on the Detective Emilia Cruz series and other mysteries from Carmen Amato.


Walking and talking with awesome mystery and thriller authors.


Comments and questions from the Mystery Ahead mailbag.

Bottom of the month:


Book reviews of mysteries, thrillers, and other irresistible reads.


Clues about writing for readers who love whodunnits and writers who love their readers.


Book sales and new release news.

Sample a little Mystery Ahead


Nothing makes for a good mystery like crackling dialogue. It can seem effortless to readers, but writers know it’s hard to create verbal ping pong. Here are 3 ways to do it:

  1. Do your characters have competing agendas? Make them joust or talk past each other.
  2. Plot out the trajectory of the conversation before writing any dialogue. Does the dialogue start out happy and end up angry or vice versa? If you plan to introduce a clue, where in the dialogue will it appear and how does that timing influence the interaction of the characters?
  3. Use setting to influence the conversation. Don’t make your characters speak in a vacuum.

DV Berkom, author of the Leine Basso and Kate Jones thriller series, stopped by the blog last week. Her books have been topping Amazon’s category charts lately and I’m impressed with her ability to write two series at the same time. Here’s what she said about developing her complex yet relatable characters:

“Perfect characters are {yawn} so boring. I don’t want to invest my precious time reading about someone who can’t do any wrong. How is that compelling? Strong, flawed women are all around us—you just have to look . . .

“I believe that we’ve all got that strength inside us, and I love to tap into the character’s reserves to find out what she’ll fight for and what she won’t. It’s a deep well.”

The Blackhouse by Peter May

The setting is the remote, windy, and rainswept Hebrides islands off Scotland’s western coast. The murder is gruesome and mimics a recent killing in Edinburgh being investigated by police detective Fin McLeod.

Fin’s young son has just been killed by a hit-and-run driver. His lukewarm marriage has fallen apart. So he heads to the Isle of Lewis, where he was born and raised, to vent his grief and see if the two murders are connected.

The Blackhouse is rich, dense, and real. More than just a typical whodunit, I got the feeling it was written to illustrate a unique place few have seen and fewer still have truly experienced. Life in the Hebrides is remote and difficult, squeezed between rock and ocean and constantly buffeted by winds which have scoured trees off the land.

While the setting sets The Blackhouse apart from the majority of tartan noir novels, May also uses flashbacks unlike any mystery author I have read. The book is written in third person, with Fin as the central character. But Fin also narrates many flashbacks of his youth on the Isle of Lewis, which mostly deal with his childhood friend Artair, whose father tutored both of them, and Marsiali, the woman Fin alternately loved and discarded until she finally left him and married Artair.

Fin’s flashbacks don’t come at us in chronological order but are seemingly random (but highly relevant, as we will see) memories prompted by present-day encounters. Fin runs into the unhappily married couple Artair and Marsiali. Artair is now an abusive drunk and his son has gotten a girl pregnant. Donald, another friend, is a clergyman and father of the pregnant girl.

The big climax comes with a hefty dose of local Lewis custom: the annual 12-man trip to a tiny and remote rock in the Atlantic to kill guga sea birds, considered a local delicacy. The custom has been going on since time immemorial and to be included in the guga hunt brotherhood is a rare honor.

It is at this point, we realize what a master storyteller May truly is. He draws all the threads—both from the flashbacks and the present-day murder investigation—into whole cloth as thick and durable as the Harris tweed still woven on the island. The ending is huge and heart-pounding.



43 MISSING, Detective Emilia Cruz Book 6, will be available to pre-order on Thursday 9 November at the discount price of $1.99 for Kindle. The preorder price will be in effect ONLY for a week. The price goes to $4.99 on 16 November when the book is published. If you preorder the Kindle version, it will appear on your Kindle on 16 November.

The preceding book in the series, PACIFIC REAPER, is also available for $1.99 until 16 November. The action in 43 MISSING takes up where PACIFIC REAPER left off. Emilia’s battle with Santa Muerte, Mexico’s forbidden saint of death, is far from over, even as she investigates the disappearance of 43 college students.



Reader Becky A. sent me an email suggesting that the Detective Emilia Cruz covers would make great puzzles on After all, what mystery lover can resist a puzzle?

I took her advice and now CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, DIABLO NIGHTS, and KING PESO are all online puzzles you can find here. The puzzles increase in difficulty. Will you be the first to finish the KING PESO puzzle with 216 pieces? If you solve it, let me know!

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Ready to dive into the Mystery Ahead?

The twice-monthly Mystery Ahead newsletter delivers author interviews, mystery book reviews, and my own book release and sales alerts.

As your gift for subscribing, I'll send you the exclusive Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library!

2 novellas, 3 chapters, 1 unforgettable woman

all in a single downloadable PDF

© 2018 Carmen Amato.


I'm author Carmen Amato. I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco. Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.  More

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