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)

Emilia Cruz Box Set books 1-6

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Books 1-6

Get the first six books in the Detective Emilia Cruz series as a single box set for your Kindle: CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, DIABLO NIGHTS, KING PESO, PACIFIC REAPER, 43 MISSING. BONUS! Includes the exclusive short stories "Acapulco Sugar" and "Emilia's Circle."

Narco Noir by Carmen Amato

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When a taxi driver's murder is captured by a security camera, Detective Emilia Cruz goes undercover working for an upscale cab company to find his killer. All clues point to an elusive extortion gang, but Emilia is soon driving in circles trying to find its members.

Before she can wrap the assignment, her worst enemy hops into the back of her taxi. Soon Emilia is not just undercover as a taxi driver. She's in front of a movie camera, playing the role of a lifetime.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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? 

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Unexpectedly put in charge of the investigation when her lieutenant is found dead, Detective Emilia Cruz uncovers his 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. 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.

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Five stories chronicle Emilia's first experiences as the first and only female police detective in Acapulco, including "The Beast" which previously appeared in The Huffington Post’s Huff/Post 50 Featured Fiction showcase curated by actress Rita Wilson.

Feliz Navidad from Acapulco

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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.

A Kindle Single novella.

The Listmaker of Acapulco

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Detective Emilia Cruz finds a black notebook filled with names after she stops a gang attack in an upscale neighborhood. Is it a list of dirty cops? How long until they come for her?

Sooner than you think.

A Kindle Single novella.

Spanish editions

Spanish editions of Detective Emilia Cruz novels.

Hecho en Acapulco Spanish edition

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The Spanish translation of MADE IN ACAPULCO, the prequel collection of Detective Emilia Cruz stories.

La Clavadista Spanish edition

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The Spanish translation of CLIFF DIVER, the first Detective Emilia Cruz novel.

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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.

Standalone thrillers

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 political thriller

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Longlisted for the 2020 Millennium Book Award

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

Awakening Macbeth paranormal thriller

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"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 . . .

Best of Mexican Holidays

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Celebrate life, death, and everything in between!

This collection of travel essays brings you all of it--the excitement and color and crowds and traditions--of uniquely Mexican holiday celebrations. From the rituals of the Day of the Dead to the historic grito of Mexican Independence Day to the magic of a Mexican Christmas posada, this is the real Mexico.

Twenty-two contributors banded together to share the magic of Mexican celebrations. We are writers, artists, educators, travelers, business owners and others who have fallen in love with a culture. Most are expatriates living in Mexico who have found both opportunity and inspiration there.


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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.

Carmen Amato at Spring Hill

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