Stay on the edge of your seat with these Latino crime thrillers and mysteries!
By Richard Z. Santos
Charles O’Connell is riding an epic losing streak. Having worked in politics since college, he is used to losing races, but he never imagined that his most recent candidate would end up in jail and that he would also need an attorney. His euphoria at not joining his boss in prison is short-lived—no one will hire him now, his credit cards are maxed out and his marriage is on the rocks.
An unexpected offer to work in Santa Fe, New Mexico, doing public relations for a firm building the city’s new airport feels like an opportunity to start fresh and make connections with powerful people out west. But when the construction crew unearths a skeleton, Charles’ fresh start turns into another disaster. Soon, a group of Apache claims the site holds Geronimo’s secret grave.
Charles quickly realizes everyone has an agenda—and numerous dark secrets threaten to erupt. Gabriel Luna, one of the laborers present when the skeleton is unearthed, is willing to do just about anything to reconnect with his teenage son. Cody Branch, an ambitious, powerful millionaire, plans to leverage the deal to enrich himself. And there’s his wife, Olivia Branch, who has a surprising connection to Charles’ past and desperately needs his help.
Surrounded by deception on all fronts, including his own lies to himself and his wife, Charles falls into a whirlwind of fraud, betrayal and double crosses. This riveting novel barrels through the New Mexican landscape in an exploration of innocence and guilt, power and wealth and the search for love and happiness.
By Alicia Gaspar de Alba
It’s the summer of 1998 and for five years over a hundred mangled and desecrated bodies have been found dumped on the Chihuahua desert outside of Juárez, México, just across the river from El Paso, Texas. The perpetrators of the ever-rising number of violent deaths target poor young women, terrifying inhabitants of both sides of the border.
El Paso native Ivon Villa has returned to her hometown to adopt the baby of Cecilia, a pregnant maquiladora worker in Juárez. When Cecilia turns up strangled and disemboweled in the desert, Ivon is thrown into the churning chaos of abuse and murder. Even as the rapes and killings of “girls from the south” continue—their tragic stories written in desert blood—a conspiracy covers up the crimes that implicate everyone from the Maquiladora Association to the Border Patrol.
When Ivon’s younger sister gets kidnapped in Juárez, Ivon knows that it’s up to her to find her sister, whatever it takes. Despite the sharp warnings she gets from family, friends and nervous officials, Ivon’s investigation moves her deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of silence.
From acclaimed poet and prose-writer Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders is a gripping thriller that ponders the effects of patriarchy, gender identity, border culture, transnationalism and globalization on an international crisis.
Edited by Sarah Cortez and Liz Martínez
In Lucha Corpi’s story, “Hollow Point at the Synapses,” her unique narrator—a bullet—describes the instant before killing a young Peruvian woman: “I feel the pull of the hammer. The pressure mounts. I am now in place. The moment is upon me. Swiftly and efficiently, I will do what I must, what I was created for. In an instant, I am off, traveling at a speed reserved only for death.”
This groundbreaking anthology of short fiction by Latino mystery writers, Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, features an intriguing and unpredictable cast of sleuths, murderers and crime victims. Reflecting the authors’—and society’s—preoccupation with identity, self and territory, the stories run the gamut of the mystery genre, from traditional to noir, from the private investigator to the police procedural and even a “chick lit” mystery.
“The Right Profile” features a Miami private investigator who goes undercover to prove a deadbeat father can pay child support and she delights in testifying against him in court. In “The Skull of Pancho Villa,” someone has stolen the family heirloom and it’s up to Gus Corral to get it back. And in “A New York Chicano,” a successful bachelor from El Paso—a graduate of NYU working for Merrill Lynch in Manhattan—gets his revenge against a xenophobic newscaster.
Hit List collects for the first time short fiction by many of the Latino authors who have been pioneers in the mystery genre, using it to showcase their unique cultures, neighborhoods and realities. Contributors include award-winning writers such as Carolina García-Aguilera, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Rolando Hinojosa, Manuel Ramos and Sergio Troncoso, as well as emerging writers who deserve more recognition.
By Lucha Corpi
Eulogy for a Brown Angel began a new chapter in the mystery genre with the creation of the first Chicana detective in American literature. Now available for the first time in paperback, readers can discover, or rediscover, Lucha Corpi’s dynamic detective Gloria Damasco in the classic novel that started it all.
A Chicano Civil Rights March has been disrupted by the Los Angeles police, resulting in the gruesome death of a prominent reporter. The tear gas has barely settled when a small, defiled body is left on a street in Los Angeles. A feisty political activist finds the murdered child and begins an investigation that will lead her on a trail of international conspiracy and bloody vengeance. Before long, two other people are dead, and Gloria is determined to piece the mystery together, no matter how long the search may last.
Adding to the mystery is Gloria Damasco’s dark gift, a puzzling extra-sensory awareness that forces her to confront situations in which solutions demand more than reason and logic. Eulogy for a Brown Angel is a fast-paced and suspenseful novel, packed with an assortment of interesting characters. A member of the international writers’ circle Sisters in Crime, Lucha Corpi brings the intrigue to a hard-hitting conclusion in the picturesque Wine Country of Northern California.
By Manuel Ramos
This gritty novel set in Denver features blackmail, murder and gang warfare
Gus Corral can’t quite believe it when an old high school buddy he hasn’t seen in years asks him for help. Artie Baca looks as cool as ever; the hippest guy in high school now looks like a GQ cover boy, Chicano style. And like always, Artie has women problems, even though he’s married. He’s being blackmailed because of an imprudent fling—caught on video, of course. Artie has a prosperous real estate business and can afford to pay off the young girl, but he’ll reward Gus handsomely for his help in convincing her that there won’t be any future payments.
Gus’s life hasn’t been as successful; he manages his ex-wife’s second hand shop after losing his job in the recession and claims to also work as the night watchman so he can live there too. He can really use the money Artie is offering and agrees to help, even though he knows Artie probably deserves the shake down.
But before Gus can deliver the money, Artie is dead and the police want to know why the deceased was carrying a check made out to his old high school chum. And when an armed stranger breaks into the shop in the dead of night, Gus knows there’s more to the situation than meets the eye. An investigation into Artie’s involvement in the gentrification of Denver’s north side leads to harrowing encounters with dangerous criminals, both from the area and south of the border. Suddenly Gus is ensnared in the theft of one of the most revered religious symbols in the Catholic Latino world, a cloak bearing the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe. He’s caught between warring gangs, and soon he and the people he cares about most are in a life-and-death predicament.
Manuel Ramos returns to novel-length crime fiction with this gripping story that twists and turns like a roller coaster, where the outlook is grim and there’s no honor among thieves.
Make sure the read the follow up to Desperado, My Bad: A Mile High Noir. My Bad races to a walloping conclusion in a Rocky Mountain blizzard, leaving fans of crime novels—and Chicano literature—eagerly awaiting the next installment in his mile-high noir.
By Patrica Santos Marcantonio
In the summer of 1959, everyone knows his place in Arizona. Michael Shaw is an alcoholic lawyer struggling with his reputation as the son of one of Mitchell County’s wealthiest, most successful attorneys. Toni Garcia, the first in her family to obtain a college degree, has returned to Borden, Arizona, because she’s worried about her father’s health. But as a Mexican American, she can’t get a teaching job in spite of her education and intellect. Their worlds collide when Michael is assigned to represent María Sánchez Curry in the bloody murder of her husband and Toni, desperate for work, accepts a job as the defendant’s interpreter.
María and Ben Curry’s tumultuous marriage was well documented by María’s many visits to the ER. The couple was also well-known at local bars, where they often drank to excess. But the killing of a white man by a Mexican woman—even in self-defense—is not permissible in a time when justice is determined by the good-old-boys’ club. Also unacceptable is the growing relationship between Michael and Toni, who fight to save María against all odds.
In this evocative exploration of class and race in 1950s America, Bobby Darin is on the juke box, Doris Day is on the silver screen and pink flamingos grace front yards. Former crime reporter Patricia Santos Marcantonio crafts a stirring tale of forbidden love in a world where democracy rules but due process and fair treatment aren’t as readily available on the wrong side of the tracks.
By Daniel Peña
Uli’s first flight, a late-night joy ride with his brother, changes their lives forever when the engine stops and the boys crash land, with “Texas to the right and Mexico to the left.” Before the accident, Uli juggled his status as both an undocumented immigrant and a high school track star in Harlingen, Texas, desperately hoping to avoid being deported like his father. His mother Araceli spent her time waiting for her husband. His older brother Cuauhtémoc, a former high-school track star turned drop-out, learned to fly a crop duster, spraying pesticide over their home in the citrus grove.
After the crash, Cuauhtémoc wakes up bound and gagged, wondering where he is. Uli comes to in a hospital, praying that it’s on the American side of the border. And their mother finds herself waiting for her sons as well as her missing husband. Araceli knows that she has to go back to the country she left behind in order to find her family.
In Mexico, each is forced to navigate the complexities of their past and an unknown world of deprivation and violence. Ruthless drug cartels force Cuauhtémoc to fly drugs. “If a brick goes missing, Cuauhtémoc dies. If a plane goes missing, Cuauhtémoc dies. If Cuauhtémoc goes missing, they find Cuauhtémoc (wherever he’s at) and Cuauhtémoc dies.” If they can’t find him, they will kill his mother. They have photos of her in Matamoros to prove they can enforce the threat. Meanwhile, Uli returns to his family’s home in San Miguel and finds a city virtually abandoned, devastated by battles between soldiers, cartels and militias that vie for control.
Vividly portraying the impact of international drug smuggling on the innocent, Peña’s debut novel also probes the loss of talented individuals and the black market machines fed with the people removed and shut out of America. Ultimately, Bang is a riveting tale about ordinary people forced to do dangerous, unimaginable things.
by Rolando Hinojosa
The scene is the Texas-Mexico border. Historically a site of conflict and violence, today it is the dividing line over which the business of drug-smuggling and its attendant mayhem takes place.
Well-worn and wise in middle age, Rafe Buenrostro of the Belken County Homicide Squad is a master detective. When drug-related slayings begin occurring practically in his own backyard, Buenrostro must pierce the mystery of a crime family apparently at war with itself. As cadavers keep turning up on both sides of the Rio Grande, Buenrostro and his corps of bi-cultural sleuths visit the small cantinas, houses of ill repute and expansive ranches of drug lords south of the river. Yet profiting equally from the illicit trade are some seemingly immaculate, well-kept suburban homes on the northern side. It is in these suburbs that revelations of seamy sex and revenge unfold.
In Ask a Policeman, as well as his other novels, Rolando Hinojosa reveals a rich cross-section of life among both the high and low inhabitants of the two nations sharing the Rio Grande Valley.
By Graciela Limón
“I’d like to hear you tell me of your first recollections. You were a baby when it happened, so it’s important to know when you began to take things in after that,” Elena Santos asks Rafael Cota.
“It. Things. You can use the word murder. I’m used to it.”
Rafael lives under the dark shadow of a violent crime, and he also lives with the knowledge that his mother was accused and convicted of the murder of his three older siblings. But Rafael’s a survivor, and all his life, he’s been prepared to fight with his anger, his energy and even his sanity to defend his family. Rafael’s life has been a downward spiral since that murky night. He’s haunted by nightmares, both in waking and sleep, of what happened and his own struggle to understand why he was saved.
When he’s given a chance to tell his story to Elena Santos, a reporter for The Register, Cota jumps at the chance. What begins as a simple search for a meaty story to make her career leads Elena into the tangled mind of the sole survivor, as he tries to use her to prove his mother’s innocence. Through interviews, she follows him on every step of his search: from Los Angeles to Mexico, from the jail at San Quentin to his father’s house. Soon, Elena begins to doubt everything she once held true.
Limón explores Rafael’s mental anguish within the greater context of such myths as Medea and La Llorona (the Crying Woman). Her deft, humane touch alternates between the poetic and the dramatic, as Rafael recounts his search for the truth that defines his very existence.
Forthcoming Young Adult Fiction
By Richie Narvaez
Coming May 31, 2020!
Holly Hernandez, voted “Miss Bright of ’79” and valedictorian at her previous school, is excited to start fresh at Flatbush Technical High School, one of the most competitive public schools in New York City. She’ll be one of thousands; anonymous. But her dreams of a normal school life disappear when her mother, a homicide detective, has to investigate the murder of Mr. Friedman, the social studies teacher.
One of her classmates, Xander Herrera, quickly becomes the primary suspect. The tall, awkward boy is socially inept, but Holly doesn’t think he’s a murderer. She is intent on exonerating him—but he wants nothing to do with her. To Xander, Holly is the overly enthusiastic student who always sits in the front row and answers all the teachers’ questions—correctly. He hates perky people!
Eventually cleared of the crime, Xander is determined to find the killer before Holly. As they race to solve the case, their separate investigations lead to a slew of suspects, including another teacher seen arguing with Friedman and a mysterious person named Steve who met with him several times before his death. Could it have been a disgruntled student? Ultimately, a trophy for a disco-dancing contest leads the intrepid young detectives to the Mission Venus nightclub and a murderer intent on killing again!
You can also find many of these books and others in ebook version at Barnes & Noble and Amazon!