Book review: AUNTIE POLDI AND THE SICILIAN LIONS

AUNTIE POLDI AND THE SICILIAN LIONS by Mario Giordino is a delicious whodunit, yet for this book review, it defies easy categorization. It’s one part Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri and one part Don Camillo series by Giovanni...

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Book Review: le Carre’s A LEGACY OF SPIES

A LEGACY OF SPIES is the long sought-after backstory of le Carre’s first bestseller, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD (henceforth THE SPY), a slim volume that taught many readers how the Cold War was fought. This week's book review is all about connecting...

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Louise Penny’s KINGDOM OF THE BLIND

In Loise Penny's latest Armand Gamache mystery, KINGDOM OF THE BLIND, the Canadian crime fighter has been suspended from his job as head of the Sureté, the top law enforcement agency in Canada’s French-speaking Quebec province. The storyline is a...

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Two awards

The first quarter of 2019 has been an exciting time. Two recognitions have come my way, for which I am both surprised and grateful. CrimeMasters of America The Detective Emilia Cruz series won the Poison Cup award from CrimeMasters. I was quite overwhelmed...

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Book review: Sherlock Holmes, twice as nice

A KNIFE IN THE FOG and DUST AND SHADOW are both sensational thrillers. The two books have a few things in common, including exceptional historical research, an investigative trio, and a satisfying conclusion, yet each offers an original take on Victorian...

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Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

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The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

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Welcome to the opioid crisis

I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

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The Ayotzinapa tragedy 4 years later

My most recent book, 43 MISSING: Detective Emilia Cruz Book 6, was inspired by the events of September 2014 when 43 students from a teacher's college in the town of Ayotzinapa, near Acapulco in Mexico's state of Guerrero, disappeared in the nearby town of...

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7 Life-changing books to read right now

Fall is here. Our New Year’s resolutions petered out long ago and the holidays, with overspending and family drama, loom on the horizon. In this season between what-might-have-been and what-will-overwhelm-us-soon, dive into one of these life-changing books. You'll get...

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Meet WHEELS UP thriller author Jeanine Kitchel

 Do opposites attract? Meet Jeanine Kitchel, author of WHEELS UP 1) Carmen Amato: Jeanine, we first met as collaborators putting together THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF MEXICO and now find ourselves writing two halves of the same story set in Mexico. I write a...

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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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Author Bernard Schaffer debuts new cop series

Bernard Schaffer's new book THE THIEF OF ALL LIGHT is the debut of a tension-filled new police procedural series. This interview first appeared in the Mystery Ahead newsletter, which you can subscribe to here. 1  Carmen Amato: Bernard, thanks...

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Book review: RED SPARROW by Jason Matthews

RED SPARROW by Jason Matthews is a gripping Cold War espionage thriller in the style of John le Carré’s thrillers. Except longer. SPARROW starts with a heart-pounding and authentic scene of spy tradecraft in Moscow. Nathaniel “Nate” Nash is...

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Dan Petrosini and the Detective Frank Luca series

Dan Petrosini, mystery author and wine afficionado, was featured last month in the Mystery Ahead newsletter. His latest is THE SERENITY MURDER--just the name gives me the shivers. If you like police procedurals as much as I do, here's a replay of our chat....

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Season of change, complete with koi pond

It's the season of change. After years as professional nomads, we finally bought the Dream House. The move to a new state was a 60-day exercise in logistics and determination during which we sold Old House, bought Dream House, packed up, and drove caravan-style for 2...

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Straight Shooting with Mystery Author Mike Faricy

I just finished THE OFFICE, the 17th entry in Mike Faricy's addictive Dev Haskell series and immediately scooped up his Dev Haskell boxed set. The books are like Pringle's chips--you can't read just one. In this chat, which originally appeared in my...

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El Cid: A literary hero’s literary hero

Everybody has heard of Don Quixote. The image of the fictional tilter-at-windmills is everywhere in Mexico, which has long adopted Spanish literature and legends as its own. But when I went looking for the literary hero for my fictional Mexican hero in THE...

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The worst writing advice ever. Not kidding.

“But the novel is set in Mexico,” she said. “All the characters are Mexican.” “That’s right,” I replied. “Lives of the people fighting the drug cartels. And Mexico’s class structure.” More than 5 years ago, I was speaking on the phone to a well-known American author...

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5 Excellent Phrases to Sound Busy and Important

Some time ago, I took a break from mysteries and read BRIDGET JONES: MAD ABOUT THE BOY by Helen Fielding. It was time for some mind candy and Bridget Jones--books or movies--always delivers. The book was written in the same diary/inner dialogue familiar from the first...

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The Postman Always Rings Twice

THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain is a noir classic from 1934. I stumbled on a copy in a used bookstore and realized I’d never read it. I didn’t know what I’d been missing all these years. Frank Chambers is a drifter, roaming...

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On Edisto Island with mystery author C. Hope Clark

C. Hope Clark authors the Edisto Island mystery series as well as FundsforWriters.com, an award-winning resource for career writers. She lives on a lake where she spins mysteries with her ex-federal agent husband. Edisto Stranger is her latest tale, the...

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Hard-core hard-boiled with mystery author Jim Nesbitt

A warm welcome to Jim Nesbitt, author of the hard-core hard-boiled Ed Earl Burch private investigator series. Ed Earl Burch is a not-quite washed up Texas cop turned PI with a notch collection on his bedpost and bad knees. Ed’s world is crude and rude and he punches...

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Steal away with mystery author Lynda Lock

Canadian mystery author and blogger Lynda L. Lock transports us to the fabled island of Isla Mujeres on Mexico’s Atlantic coast not far from Cancun. First known for her popular blog from Isla Mujeres, Lynda’s new mystery series is a charming...

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Read the first chapter of 43 MISSING

For most authors, the final draft of a mystery novel is markedly different than the first. In fact, the first chapter of 43 MISSING was rewritten a  dozen times. Nothing really clicked until the book was done. Then I went back and wrote it with a hint of premonition....

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The real story behind 43 MISSING

43 MISSING, the latest Detective Emilia Cruz novel, is fiction but is based on a true, unsolved crime. A big, terrible, words-fail-me unsolved crime. 43 Missing In September 2014, forty-three students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School disappeared while in...

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Desert Island Folllies

There used to be a British radio show called Desert Island Disks. Guest DJs shared the 3 albums they’d want to listen to if shipwrecked on a deserted island. If you’re familiar with the classic BBC comedy The Vicar of Dibley, you’ll recall the episode in...

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On the Rocks with Thriller Author Tim Tigner

This week I went behind the writing scenes with with thriller author Tim Tigner, who shared details about his Kyle Achilles series and some great protips for creating sensational thrillers. Driven by great reviews, his books are zooming up the thriller and...

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Living With a Thief

"Comparison is the thief of joy." -- Teddy Roosevelt I mentioned to someone recently that my goal for the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series is to eventually be as well known as the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. And got a not-so-subtle...

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Sailing the Mystery Sea with Author Penn Wallace

Pendleton C. Wallace writes two gripping mystery series, lives on a boat, and has had careers as diverse as restauranteur and cyber security expert. He took time out from his busy schedule to chat about the origins of his stories and what’s next for both...

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Book Review: 2 Tickets to Venice

Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Architecture, canals, and history make it a prime setting for a mystery. Two favorite authors, Donna Leon and Martin Cruz Smith have new books set in Venice that take you on two very different...

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What is Happening to Priests in Mexico?

  Priests in Mexico appear to be wearing targets as well as their vestments. Father Richard was the first My pastor in Mexico City was an Oblate missionary, Father Ricard Junius, who was murdered in 2007. I wrote about his death in this blog post and...

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Book Review: Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann

CLAWS OF THE CAT is one of those books you wish you’d written, but grudgingly know you’d never come up with the premise. Related: Author to Author with Susan Spann Author Susan Spann takes us to imperial Japan in 1565. The Jesuits, in the form of Portuguese priest...

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The Great Madonna Mistake

It took me five years to realize the mistake. The Madonna mistake. In THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, Luz de Maria is a maid in Mexico City who returns home to the small town of Soledad de Doblado after losing her job. There she sees a news report that...

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Chatting with Police Procedural Author Linda Berry

Linda Berry's PRETTY CORPSE was one of the best police procedural novels I'd read in a long time and I read alot! She has a number of other books in the works and I was thrilled that she had the time to chat. 1  Carmen Amato: Linda, thanks so much for...

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Book Review: A Madras Miasma by Brian Stoddart

In A MADRAS MIASMA, New Zealand author Brian Stoddart takes us to India in 1920 with an extraordinary sense of place and time. India is on the brink of explosion and the murder mystery is another lit fuse on the powder keg. Related: Author to Author with Brian...

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Book Review: The Trespasser by Tana French

THE TRESPASSER by Tana French is the 6th novel in the chronicles of the fictional Dublin Murder Squad. Each is narrated by a different member of the squad, whose private life is somehow linked to—and tragically impacted by—the central crime. When in Dublin last year,...

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Author to Author with Susan Spann

I’m thrilled to host Susan Spann, author of the Hiro Hattori mystery series. Even if you don't like sushi, you'll be riveted by this series featuring a ninja warrior in medieval Japan. 1  Carmen Amato: Susan, thanks so much for stopping by. I found your mystery series...

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It’s time to bring back The High Chaparral

I have a suggestion or two how to fix Hollywood's Latino diversity problem. Well, maybe not fix. But at least make a good start. The problem in perspective In a recent commentary for CNN, Felix Sanchez, chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for...

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Playing Big as an Author

I was on Facebook recently (who among us can’t start a sentence that way?) and someone in a writers group asked what was our biggest concern. My answer was “Playing small.” Does anybody else feel like this? Although I’ve been a published author for 5 years, I can’t...

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Author to Author with Brian Stoddart

I’m thrilled to host mystery author Brian Stoddart, creator of the Superintendent Le Fanu historical series set in India in the 1920’s. Think Sherlock Holmes meets The Jewel in the Crown, with a bit of my favorite thriller, too. Brian is a New Zealand-based but...

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Open Letter to Readers About Sex

My first novel, THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, contains two sex scenes. The first catches Luz de Maria and Eddo as they fall in love with an emotional depth new to both of them. The second is when they reunite after each separately survives violence at the hands of...

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5 Lessons Learned in 5 Years as an Indie Author

It is hard to believe but I’ve been a published independent author for 5 years. In May 2012, after a tearful breakup with a publisher, I released THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY via Amazon and Createspace. Once headed down the indie author road and loving the creative...

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Chatting with Nordic Noir Author Torquil MacLeod

I’m thrilled to chat with Torquil MacLeod, author of the Malmö mystery series featuring Detective Anita Sundström. Full of shocking twists and Swedish authenticity, the series is a great addition to your Nordic noir library. Carmen Amato: Torquil, thanks so much for...

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What Happened to the Jesse Stone Mystery Series?

When mystery author Robert B. Parker passed away, I mourned the end of the Spenser and Jesse Stone mystery series, as well as his Westerns featuring the enigmatic Virgil Cole. Sunny Randall, not so much, as I never quite connected with the female PI and her annoying...

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Taxes and the Mystery Author: Winners and Losers

In May I will celebrate my fifth year as a published author. For most of that time I was what the IRS would term a "hobbyist" but in April 2016 I embraced full-time authordom. Here were my priorities: Publish AWAKENING MACBETH, the romantic thriller that I’d written...

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Friends with Books: The Founder of BooksandSpoons.com

This week I stumbled upon the great site http://www.booksandspoons.com/, run by reader and chef Anu-Riikka. Half of the site is devoted to book reviews of romantic thriller and suspense novels and the other half has recipes from her kitchen, complete with photos. The...

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Mystery and Thriller Trends for 2017

I recently chatted with Mary Rosenblum from New Writers Interface about what we can expect when it comes to mystery and thriller trends in 2017, as well as what really hooks a reader and draws them into a story. She’s an author, editor, and marketer whose services...

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#New Release, Take 2

I could call it New Release, Part 2. Or The Case of the Disappearing Thriller. Or I could say that romantic suspense novel AWAKENING MACBETH, is FINALLY alive and well and available for your Kindle on Amazon. Initially published on 9 December, the ebook file became...

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Exciting News and Author Views

It's always exciting news when you learn something about yourself. Recently, I've figured out that disappointment doesn't mean failure. Frustration doesn't mean giving up. And creativity is a muscle. The more you work it, the more you have. But first, the bad news...

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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...

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Book Review: Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo

For those mystery lovers who reveled in Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, his new stand-alone novel Midnight Sun will be a bit of a surprise. Midnight Sun is easier on the blood pressure than Harry, with a sympathetic protagonist and the wooded setting of Norway’s  remote...

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Book Review: The Blackhouse by Peter May

In 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...

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Author to Author with Estelle Ryan

I've been reading Estelle Ryan's Dr. Genevieve Lenard mystery series, starting with THE GAUGUIN CONNECTION. The series is a fresh take on the usual whodunit, both in terms of style and characters. I'm delighted to host Estelle today for a short chat. Carmen Amato:...

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Book Review: A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley

A DEATH IN THE FAMILY by Michael Stanley is a deeply authentic visit to Botswana, hosted by Detective David “Kubu” Bengu of the country’s Criminal Investigation Division. The novel stands alone but if you like international culture wrapped up in a mystery, I recommend...

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Anne R. Allen’s Essential Tips for New Authors

Lately, several emerging authors have asked me what to focus on as they start their careers. For a pro opinion, I turned to Anne R. Allen, author of How To Be A Writer In the E-Age. Anne writes the essential blog for today's writers at http://annerallen.com/. When I...

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A lesson in personal growth

KING PESO, the 4th Detective Emilia Cruz novel, was released on 18 August and the paperback will be released on 30 August. So far the reviews have been positive and sales encouraging. But as I admitted to fellow thriller author Khaled Talib, I'm feeling very let down....

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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...

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Author to Author: DV Berkom and Carmen Amato

I love swapping ideas and stories with other mystery authors and this week I had the opportunity to chat with DV Berkom. Her Leine Basso and Kate Jones thrillers have been topping Amazon's mystery and thriller genre charts of late, possibly because the author is as...

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The Ultimate Secret to Productivity

My #1 secret to productivity isn't an app or a clock. But it works better than either. As a mystery author, I look for as productivity tips the way Detective Emilia Cruz looks for clues to solve the latest murder in Acapulco. Productivity becomes an even bigger issue...

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Book Review: Jihadi Apprentice by Bruns & Olson

I write mysteries and thrillers and love to read them, too. In this book review, I look at JIHADI APPRENTICE by David Bruns and J.R. Olson, a very modern thriller with an insider’s ring of authenticity. With a compelling scenario and characters at cross purposes,...

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Author to Author: Jinx Schwartz and Carmen Amato

As a mystery author of books set in Mexico, I have been lucky enough to build a great network of friends with books. Mystery readers love following along with the Detective Emilia Cruz series and the troubled relationship between Acapulco detective Emilia Cruz and...

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Author to Author with Penn Wallace

On real life Tell us a bit about your family.  I have a rather unconventional family. My father is of Scottish heritage; my mother’s parents came from Mexico. I grew up with a foot in both worlds. When I was little, we interacted mainly with my mother’s family. I...

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Author to Author: Robert Joe Stout and Carmen Amato

I recently had the chance to have a series of conversations with members of the Mexico Writers Facebook group. Robert Joe Stout, a prolific author, acknowledged baseball aficionado and the father of five children, currently lives in Oaxaca, Mexico. His essays,...

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Book Review: Bangkok Rules

Carl Engel is hardly the typical hero of a mystery series but he's the main character in BANGKOK RULES by Harlan Wolff. The mostly drunk Brit has been in Bangkok for 30 years, surviving as a fixer who plays both sides of every local intrigue. He is well known to both...

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Book Review: Weapons of Mass Deception

Like spy and military thrillers? Books based on current events? Polished prose? Great plots? WEAPONS OF MASS DECEPTION is for you. WEAPONS is a high caliber thriller, using a very plausible Iraq War scenario as its core: Saddam’s sons move the country’s nuclear...

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Book Review: The Ragman Murders

Based on a true family story, THE RAGMAN MURDERS is clearly a labor of love. The novel tells the story of two immigrant families, the Amatos and the Tassones, and the circumstances that bring them into conflict within Hartford CT’s teeming immigrant neighborhoods in...

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Book Review: Devoted to Death by Andrew Chesnut

If you want to understand Mexican culture, DEVOTED TO DEATH must be in your personal library. It is a detailed examination of Santa Muerte, Mexico’s most famous folk saint. Santa Muerte is regarded as the personification of death; a active deity with amazing powers. I...

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Art and the Greek Economic Crisis

Although many of my books are set in Mexico, and I write frequently about current events there, the years I spent in Greece also live in my heart. So I can't help worrying about how the Greek economic crisis will impact the friends who still live there. The crisis...

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