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.
“Are you here to play roulette, Detective Cruz?” Duarte Ochoa asked. “You don’t have any chips.”
“No,” Emilia said. “Just the slots.”
Obregon licked his lips. “Detective Cruz is always a player,” he said. “Whether she admits it or not.”
Duarte Ochoa laughed and snapped his fingers. Out of nowhere, a young man in a King Tut costume appeared. He opened a small wooden box and offered it to the casino owner. Duarte Ochoa took out a blue chip embossed with the golden logo of the casino. Five thousand pesos. Nearly a month’s salary for Emilia. Double that for Natividad.
Emilia’s gaze travelled from the chip to King Tut. Despite the costume, which included a jeweled headdress covering his forehead, she recognized Felipe Garcia. The long hair flowed over his bare shoulders and the high cheekbones were on full display.
The sporting goods store wasn’t doing so well after all. It was too bad that Felipe had to moonlight at the El Pharaoh.
She flashed him a smile of recognition but he didn’t acknowledge her. Emilia wasn’t offended; Felipe probably had to stay in character. Duarte Ochoa dismissed him with a wave and the costumed King Tut went back to his pyramid. The casino owner held the chip between his second and third fingers as if toying with it. “Red or black, Detective Cruz?”
She certainly wasn’t picking Obregon’s favorite color. “Red,” she said.
Duarte Ochoa put the chip on the felted table. The croupier announced that bets were closed and spun the wheel. The clatter of the ball bouncing inside the wheel was louder than the grinding pop music.
“Red wins,” the croupier announced.
Duarte Ochoa smiled broadly as the croupier raked a combination of colored chips to his designated spot on the table. “Do we let it ride, Detective?” he asked Emilia.
Obregon lounged against the table, watching her with that hawkish expression on his face that always made her so nervous. If he suddenly sprouted wings and talons, Emilia would not be surprised.
“It’s your money,” she said.
Duarte Ochoa let it ride.
“Red wins,” the croupier announced again.
Another bet was placed, the wheel spun, and Duarte Ochoa won a third time. The pile in front of him grew. Emilia counted at least a dozen blue chips and an equal amount of red and yellow. A year’s salary.
“If we win on red again, we’ll share it four ways,” Duarte Ochoa said. “With champagne.”
Natividad dug her fingers into Emilia’s arm.
The wheel spun again, the ball bouncing and clattering until finally settling into a numbered slot.
“Black wins,” the croupier announced.
“Que lastima,” Duarte Ochoa said as the croupier raked away all his chips. “When you are a gambler you know that tomorrow the odds will be better. I hope you ladies are not disappointed.”
Obregon let his gaze linger on Emilia. “Don’t worry about Detective Cruz, Duarte. She knows that sometimes you win.” He licked his lips. “And sometimes you lose.”
GUEST POST – Interview with Acapulco police detective Emilia Cruz
What do you hope your obituary will say about you?
That I died of old age. In bed.
Cops in Mexico die young. Hunted down by cartel gangs. Gunned down on the street.
I hope I beat the odds.
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?
He knows what I owe him and how I feel, even if the words don’t come easily.
His name is Kurt Rucker and he manages the Palacio Réal hotel on the eastern side of Acapulco. Kurt has created an oasis for me, where I can forget the crime and violence on the streets, at least for a little while.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
I’m the first and only female police detective on the Acapulco force. I scored the highest on the written exam that year, got an endorsement from my patrol sergeant, and won the hand-to-hand combat competition.
I heard that some chica from New York wrote a story about how I came to be a detective and gives it away for free. Que estupida.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
I’m a good liar.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
I’m a frequent liar.
What makes you angry?
My partner, Franco Silvio, is the most infuriating man in the world. He’s the senior detective in the squadroom and probably the smartest, but masks it by being rude and stubborn. As a former boxing champ, he can also be physically intimidating and downright scary.
He once told me he’d do whatever it took to make my life miserable so I would quit being a detective. He didn’t believe women should be in that job. But I am the first female police detective in Acapulco and I’m here to stay.
I think it is a shock that he now has a female partner. He may never really get over it.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Carmen Amato is the author of romantic thrillers and the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco. Originally from New York, her travels around the world inspire many of her books. Readers can find her website at carmenamato.net, where they are invited to subscribe to Carmen’s newsletter and get a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library. Connect with her on Facebook, follow on Twitter and Pinterest, and get her books on Amazon.
Carmen Amato will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.