The Detective Emilia Cruz series
Emilia Cruz is the first and only female police detective in Acapulco, Mexico's murder capital. Every day, Emilia faces drug violence, official corruption, and Mexico's culture of machismo. Plots are torn from today’s headlines: missing persons, money laundering, drug violence, cartels, crooks, and official corruption. More about the series
(books in order newest to oldest)
After surviving a deadly ambush, Detective Emilia Cruz is back in Acapulco trying to put her life back together. But when her mother’s husband is kidnapped and a Russian guest is murdered in the luxury hotel managed by boyfriend Kurt Rucker, Emilia faces both a family and a job crisis.
Former partner Franco Silvio is now her boss, grumbling over paperwork, airport thieves, and the city's rising homicide rate. They'll join forces when evidence of Russian collusion leads to Mexico's oil and gas industry . . . with explosive results.
Based on the true events of September 2014, when 43 college students disappeared after a night of violence in the Mexican state of Guerrero, Emilia Cruz is detailed to a national task force to investigate such a crime. She’s the junior member and the only woman.
As tensions within the task force soar, a diplomat from the United States embassy offers Emilia $50,000 to end the investigation into the missing students. The diplomat claims it is delaying the extradition of a famous jailed cartel leader known as the Barrel Bomber, who escaped from prison in Mexico twice before. If the extradition doesn’t happen soon, chances are he’ll escape again.
The money could help Emilia hunt the criminal El Acólito. But it ends any chance of bringing the truth to the families of the 43 missing students. When the task force heads to the scene of the crime, Emilia knows her loyalty, conscience, and very future will be put to the test. Read Chapter 1
In the remote Coyuca Lagoon reserve, Detective Emilia Cruz Emilia and her partner Franco Silvio find an elaborate altar to Santa Muerte next to the body of a known gang member. Prayers to the so-called Skeleton Saint deliver a dire warning to the death saint’s enemies. When a rival gang retaliates with mutilations and public messages, warfare sweeps across the city.
Emilia’s investigation is soon a maze of unholy clues. At the same time, everyone close to her has a brush with death. Bad luck? Or is the Skeleton Saint’s curse coming true?
From a beachfront hostel to a voodoo market, the closer Emilia gets to the truth, the worse things get. When she goes undercover as a Santa Muerte worshipper on the eve of the Day of the Dead, her life will be stripped of everything she holds dear. Read Chapter 1
When partner Franco Silvio’s wife is killed, Detective Emilia Cruz is terrified that it is connected to the recent murders of three senior law enforcement officials with whom she worked. The El Trio murders have the Acapulco police is disarray but there are few clues.
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. Meanwhile, Emilia’s ongoing hunt for a missing girl leads to the infamous El Pharaoh casino, a place she and Silvio know only too well . . . Corruption and paranoia rule the day. Each spin of the wheel could be Emilia’s last. Read Chapter 1
Detective Emilia Cruz stumbles upon a religious relic from Mexico's Cristero War at the same time as she and 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 destinies of Ora Ciega, the religious relic, and a rookie detective 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. Read Chapter 1
Emilia must catch a violent firebomber and find a missing girl before the iconic beach city is destroyed. Neither investigation is easy, because the influence and impact of Mexico’s drug war is everywhere, just like the salt breeze coming off the ocean. Emilia’s police work is soon hijacked by savage political rivalries, a corrupt Vice cop, and a woman in prison who knows more than she’ll say.
As Acapulco screams for an end to the flames, the arsonist evades Emilia’s sting operation. Meanwhile, the missing girl’s trail leads to Acapulco’s famous lucha libre fighters. Inside the coliseum, the heat of the investigation ignites into an inferno. If Emilia’s only
chance to survive is to dance with the devil, will she take it? Read Chapter 1
Unexpectedly put in charge of the investigation when her lieutenant is found dead, Detective Emilia Cruz uncovers the lieutenant’s sordid sexual past as well as his role in a kidnapping double-cross and counterfeit money scheme.
Reputations are threatened by her discoveries and truth is for sale. Emilia becomes a pawn in an ugly game of power and corruption played by Acapulco’s ambitious mayor and the powerful police union. Rival police detectives try to sabotage Emilia’s investigation. Their ringleader is a prime suspect. A norteamericano hotel manager, Kurt Rucker, has some helpful advice for Emilia but the heat between them is too hot to handle.
Feeling like one of Acapulco’s famous cliff divers hoping not to crash on the rocks below, Emilia must choose between truth and survival. But no matter what choice she makes, she won’t be ready for the shock of the water. Read Chapter 1
MADE IN ACAPULCO
Five stories chronicle Emilia's first experiences as the first and only female police detective in Acapulco:
"The Beast" captures Emilia’s struggle to become the first female police detective in Acapulco. It previously appeared in The Huffington Post’s Huff/Post 50 Featured Fiction showcase. "The Disappeared" sees Emilia search for a friend who goes missing. Those who have gone missing amid Mexico’s drug war violence is a continuing theme throughout the mystery series. "The Artist" was inspired by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia’s efforts to bring awareness to the plight of families impacted by the drug war violence and references photos of some of the rallies held in Mexico in recent years. "The Date" explores the downside of a job that pits Emilia against Mexico’s enduring culture of machismo, while also drawing on real events that occurred in a nightclub in Mexico in 2006. "The Cliff" is the original Emilia Cruz story. Written for a literary critique group, the story was initially entitled So Far From God and introduces hotel manager Kurt Rucker. The story became the basis for the first Emilia Cruz novel, CLIFF DIVER.
HECHO EN ACAPULCO
The Spanish translation of MADE IN ACAPULCO, the prequel collection of Detective Emilia Cruz stories.
THE ARTIST/EL ARTISTA
The English/Spanish dual language version of the short story "The Artist" from MADE IN ACAPULCO, intended as a language learning resource.
Winner of the 2019 Silver Falchion Award for Best Short Story/Collection.
FELIZ NAVIDAD FROM ACAPULCO
Detective Emilia Cruz and her partner Franco Silvio go undercover as an elf and Santa Claus to catch a dangerous drug smuggler. With unexpected humor and lots of action, Christmas will never be the same.
Emilia's first holiday novella takes place within the series between DIABLO NIGHTS and PACIFIC REAPER.
These novels vibrate with the same risk, power, and corruption as the Detective Emilia Cruz police series. Expect sinuous plots, psychological tension, heart-pounding action, and relationships with heat.
THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY
"Rivertingly dramatic tale of politics and corruption" -- Literary Fiction Review
Wealthy Mexico City attorney Eddo Cortez Castillo and housemaid Luz de Maria Alba Mora were never supposed to meet. He investigates official corruption; she cleans toilets, trapped at the bottom of Mexico’s ladder of inequality.
When Eddo discovers an attempt to buy the Mexican presidential elections with drug money, he'll be plunged into a maze of smuggling and money laundering right up to the Mexican border with the United States. There he’ll find the beating heart of Mexico’s drug culture, where violence buys loyalty, votes are for sale, the odds are against survival, and only a woman whose name means Light of Mary can guide him out. Read Chapters 1 & 2
"A page-turning paranormal romance"--KIRKUS REVIEWS
After the death of her father, University of Virginia professor Brodie Macbeth begins to have terrifying nightmares in which her life is threatened. It's grief, Brodie reasons.
But when Brodie falls for Iraq War vet Joe Birnam, she'll find out that the dreams are a real and deadly game. The prize is Joe's soul. But Brodie doesn't know how to play, let alone win. Read Chapter 1
And then I took a break from making things up . . .
THE INSIDERS GUIDE TO THE BEST OF MEXICO
The Insider's Guide to the Best of Mexico is a unique and free collection of insider stories that you won't find anywhere else. It's your passport to a country full of color, culture, and contrasts. Forty-two writers, artists, educators, travelers, business owners and others share their experiences inside today's Mexico. Most of those who contributed stories are expatriates who have found opportunity and inspiration in Mexico.
From hidden beaches to one-of-a-kind art to historic gems, The Insider's Guide to the Best of Mexico offers both recommendations and revelations. These stories are neither formal guidebook, social commentary, nor a substitute for unbiased news. They are an effort to share a landscape and lifestyle that have found a place in the hearts of so many.
READ THE REVIEWS
Carmen Amato has created a character that deserves to be recognized as an equal alongside well known favorites created by Hammett, Larson and Padura. I can’t wait to spend more time with Detective Cruz. - Felix Contreras, host, ALTLatino, National Public Radio
For every clue that falls into place, the price is paid in danger and blood. - author Vee James
Amato brings her characters to life with her vivid writing style and sets them on the streets of a Mexico steeped in Catholicism and corruption . . . Unique and gripping. - OnlineBookClub.org
The story is full of nonstop action and suspense, but what really got to me in this book is the range of strong emotions I've felt while reading it . . . Emilia is a character that is close to my heart. - MysterySequels
Consistently exciting . . . A clever Mexican detective tale that will leave readers eager for the series' next installment. - Kirkus Reviews
Amato weaves an intricate assortment of themes into a vivid tapestry that depicts both the beauty and ugliness of Acapulco. Her attention to clothing, food, and other details of the cityscape bring life to her characters. - Kirkus Reviews
Amato spins a taut tale, keeping the reader off balance and guessing just as much as Cruz does. The pace is swift and the action is realistically and unflinchingly portrayed. - Jim Nesbitt, author of the Ed Earl Burch series
Astounding . . . a haunting page-turner . . . The tragedy of decent members of society caught in the crossfire stayed with me long after I finished the book. - Nightstand Reviews
A brilliant character-driven detective story. - Artisan Book Reviews
She tells about interesting characters striving to improve their lives in the difficult environment of modern-day Acapulco, rendering a story far richer than the thriller factories of the big publishing houses. - LibraryThing