by Carmen Amato
GENRE: police procedural mystery
KING PESO is the fourth book in the sensational Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series recently optioned for both television and film. Emilia is the first female police detective in Acapulco, where Mexican drug cartels battle for control and politicians are bought with blood money.
Three cops are murdered, execution style. Emilia worked with them all.
Her partner’s wife is killed in a home invasion. Was he the real target?
Is Emilia the next?
She hopes to be assigned to a task force to investigate the killings, but is instead directed to a new police unit championed by Acapulco’s ambitious mayor and overseen by a shady union strongman. But when Emilia stumbles upon a falsified report, she will conduct a private investigation, even as another murder victim carries a stark message for her.
Home is no refuge for Emilia; hotel manager Kurt Rucker has a shocking secret that could tear their relationship apart.
Unexpected help comes from a frightened attorney and a famous movie star, but each new clue to the murders unravels the one before. Meanwhile, Emilia’s ongoing hunt for a missing girl, a continuing series subplot, leads to the infamous El Pharaoh casino, a place she knows only too well.
What do a casino and a cop killer have in common? Emilia bets on her partner, but his gamble could cost both their lives.
“I think I’m on the task force,” Emilia said. “Because I worked with all three victims.”
She’d crossed paths professionally with all three of the murder victims, although none had been a close colleague. She hadn’t even met Salinas, just talked to him a couple of times on the phone. But he’d been honest with her and done what he said he would do. A rare and rapidly disappearing commodity these days.
“Who else worked with all of them?” Kurt asked. “Silvio? What does he think?”
“Franco worked with Vega on the arson case, too.” Franco Silvio was Acapulco’s senior police detective and Emilia’s perpetually surly partner. “But he never met Salinas or Espinosa. He wasn’t invited to the meeting, either. None of the other detectives were.”
“Even Loyola?” Kurt asked.
Emilia shook her head. Loyola, who was junior to Silvio, had been made acting lieutenant of detectives several months ago. He now rarely worked cases. “Not invited. He only knew Vega from the arson case.”
“What are you telling me, Em?” Kurt paused. “That you’re a target, too?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.” Emilia stared at the lights twinkling in the dark ocean as the unseen swimming dock bobbed. “The El Trio killer could be another cop. Someone on the inside who is being specific about their victims.”
“I can’t believe you waited to tell me, Em,” Kurt said, exasperation and sudden anger in his voice. “You live here. If you’re in danger, that means everybody in this hotel is in danger. I have to know things like this.”
Emilia bristled. “I’m telling you now, aren’t I?”
Kurt turned to look at the ocean again, elbows propped on top of the wall. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish you were invested enough in us . . . in this relationship . . . to tell me things when they happen. Not a week later. Because you’re thinking how things impact us. Not just you.”
Emilia concentrated on the pinpoints of light out in the bay. Why did they keep having the same conversation and why was it always so hard?
Welcome Carmen Amato! Please start off by telling us a little about yourself.
Thanks for having me, I’m delighted to be able to stop by. I write romantic thrillers and the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco. I’m originally from New York but got bitten by the travel bug early in life when I went to college in Paris. Mexico inspired me to write fiction and my first novels have all been set there.
Is KING PESO a single title, or part of a series?
KING PESO is the 4th novel in the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco. Can you imagine what it would be like to be the first female police detective in Acapulco? Your fellow detectives want to crush you and the drug cartels want to kill you. And the official corruption is mind-boggling.
But Emilia can take the heat! In KING PESO, Emilia is reassigned just when her partner’s wife is murdered, in what looks to be yet another attack by a killer targeting senior police officials. But of course, in Emilia’s Acapulco, no crime is that simple. In fact, Kirkus Reviews said “danger and betrayal never more than a few pages away.”
What were your inspirations for the story?
Several themes run through the Detective Emilia Cruz series including the pervasive influence of Mexico’s drug war, official corruption, and Emilia’s hunt for women who have gone missing. There’s also Emilia’s steamy but rocky relationship with hotel manager Kurt Rucker and love-hate relationship with her cop partner, senior detective Franco Silvio.
In KING PESO, I drew on Acapulco’s real all-female police unit for inspiration. But I also wanted to shake up things with Silvio. Readers love the sharp-edged exchanges between Emilia and Silvio.
It was also a chance to revisit the El Pharaoh casino that Emilia and Silvio tried to close down in HAT DANCE, the 2nd book in the series. I always love a chance to play slots and once had a big payout at a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, but Emilia has to gamble with her life!
Please share your setting for KING PESO. Have you ever lived or visited there? If so, what did you like most?
Acapulco is a terrific setting for a mystery series because it has two faces. There’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.
The other face of Acapulco 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 the each other and force Emilia to survive between them. No investigation will be easy, no crime will be simple.
When did the writing bug first bite?
I wrote stories as a child and my first “novel” of about 20 pages in elementary school. My first real novel was a YA aviation adventure story for my son. I wrote two novels for him, THE SECRET BLACKBIRD and THE PACIFIC GHOST, thrillers in which a young pilot encounters mystery and high-flying action in vintage aircraft. Neither book has been published but my son loved the stories and they were great practice for writing longer fiction.
Who are you favorite authors, book/series?
My writing has been inspired by a number of different authors:
Ken Follett: His earlier works including Night Over Water, Triple, The Key to Rebecca and The Eye of the Needle all have a tension-filled storyline, interesting characters with complex relationships, and multiple voices that are all integral to moving the plot forward. Not to mention the hot sex scenes.
P.G. Wodehouse: I discovered this British humorist in high school and have read dozens of his books and short stories.His world is that of 1920’s England. All of his books have an invariably tangled plot, crazy characters, and perfect phrasing (“he writhed like an electric fan”) that never grow old. My favorite is The Code of the Woosters.
Robert B. Parker: The creator of the Spenser mystery series is a study in perfect-pitch dialogue. Some of his books are a series of conversations that are so well crafted that virtually the entire plot/mystery is revealed in this way. His action scenes are never gratuitous which means they pack a big punch. My favorites are Potshot and Hugger Mugger.
If you could have an author roundtable discussion with any authors, who would you invite?
Mystery and thriller authors always have such interesting perspectives. I’d invite Ken Follett, of course, along with Ace Atkins who picked up the Spenser series after the death of Robert B. Parker. I’d also invite Ian Rankin, author of the John Rebus series set in Edinburgh, and Norwegian author Jo Nesbo who wrote the Harry Hole police series set in Oslo. We’d argue over murder, motive, and creating characters who have a Fatal Flaw.
Do you have any hobbies or special things you like to do in your spare time?
I love to travel and just got back from Dublin where I visited the Trinity College library and the famous Long Room. The library houses the ancient Book of Kells, which is one of the oldest Bibles in existence.
When I’m home, time flies. I have an attention-loving dog who presently is stretched out on the floor right behind my chair. Our house is a bit of a fixer-upper, too, so I’ve always got a few house projects going. But I try to write about 4 hours a day to keep to my publishing schedule.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard or seen?
I’ve experienced three earthquakes and been in a train derailment. I’ve channeled the rush of adrenaline that hit me every time into Detective Emilia Cruz’s reaction to events in the books.
What is the one thing that you would tell an inspiring writer to do?
Don’t fall in love with your first draft!
Fall in love with your characters, your setting, and your story line. That’s all fine. But your first draft won’t be the one that is ready for the reading public; but regard it as your baseline.
Another tip–If you are writing fiction, take the time to create biographic profiles for the main characters. Write down everything about them before inserting them into a story. This helps keep them consistent.
I did that and later used it as a prequel. Readers often wonder how Emilia Cruz came to be the first female police detective in Acapulco. The only place to find that out is in “The Beast,” the short story that I wrote in response to all the requests. It’s part of the Made in Acapulco story collection available on Amazon OR you can get it for free here as part of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library. You’ll also get my monthly email newsletter, Mystery Ahead.
In addition to “The Beast, the Starter Library includes “The Angler,” a story based on the true-life murder of my pastor, Father Richard, in Mexico City. The drug addict who disrupted Christmas Eve didn’t kill him; in fact his murderer has never been caught. But in “The Angler,” Detective Emilia Cruz will bring the killer to justice.
Thanks for having me and happy reading! All the best, Carmen
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Carmen Amato is the author of romantic thrillers and the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco which was recently optioned for film. Originally from New York, her experiences in Mexico and Central America inspire many of her books. For a copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library, visit her website at carmenamato.net
Follow her on Twitter @CarmenConnects.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Carmen Amato will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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