Thursday, December 8, 2016

VBT: King Peso by Carmen Amato

King Peso
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.


Excerpt Three:

“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.”



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
Follow her on Twitter @CarmenConnects.

Buy link:

Interview with Carmen Amato

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
First, thanks so much for inviting me to stop by for a chat and for your great questions! Although I’m originally from New York and now call Virginia home, I lived in Mexico for several years. I really loved Mexico’s food, the artwork, and architecture. And beaches!
But when a drug addict disrupted our Christmas Eve church service, I saw the impact of drug cartel violence. I wanted to write about what was happening to Mexico’s society and culture, but make it gripping enough to stand out.
The Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series is based on reality. Emilia’s challenges are pulled right from the headlines in Mexico. There’s no need for me to make up bizarre serial killers when cartel violence and corrupt politicians provide more than enough inspiration. For example, Emilia’s perpetual hunt for women who have gone missing—referred to as Las Perdidas or the Lost Ones--was inspired by the hundreds of women missing from the Juarez area.
So in an odd way, I have that drug addict to thank for the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series. She’s the first female police detective in Acapulco, facing down both the drug cartels and Mexico’s tradition of machismo, but in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
It’s a formula has gotten a lot of attention lately, including a television series deal with NBC Universal.

How did you do research for your book?
As far as research goes, I’m a news junkie and often find ideas in the headlines. Books, online images, and my extensive map collection help me fill in details. My goal is to bring the reader shoulder-to-shoulder with Emilia, hearing her heart pound and helping her calculate the odds of survival.
I use both my own experiences as well as research to build the tricky plots in the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series, including KING PESO. Authenticity is really important to me. I’ve got a huge map of Acapulco where I plot out settings. GoogleEarth is really helpful for “seeing” the locations I want to describe, as is YouTube.
For example, someone filmed the streets in the main tourist zone from a car window. Although I’d been there before, that slow driving video helped me describe the streets Emilia walks while on patrol with the Las Palomas police unit in KING PESO; towering palm trees, car dealerships, wide sidewalks, and lots of traffic!
On a more personal note, I once won $700 from a slot machine at the Beau Rivage casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. The fictional El Pharaoh casino in KING PESO borrowed a little excitement from the Beau Rivage, but with a much different outcome!

Do you have another profession besides writing?
I’m a full time mystery and thriller author and can’t believe how busy I am. In addition to the Detective Emilia Cruz series, I write standalone romantic thrillers.
My next book is AWAKENING MACBETH, a romantic thriller with a paranormal twist that is up for nomination on the Kindle Scout website, where readers help select books for publication by Kindle Press. Hopefully, that will have a December 2016 publication date.
After that, I’ll be back to PACIFIC REAPER, the 5th book in the Detective Emilia Cruz series which is slated for release in February 2017.
I’m not a swift writer, but usually manage to keep fans updated on my weekly blog at and my monthly Mystery Ahead newsletter.
I also live in an old house that is a bit of a fixer upper. So when I’m not writing, I’m surfing Pinterest for inspiration or painting!

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I’d love to go back to the time of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
England, castles, quests, and intrigue. I saw the musical Camelot at a young age and never got over it!
Or maybe it was Monty Python and the Holy Grail . . .
At any rate, I’ve always loved the Arthur stories, especially T.H. White’s THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. I even used it as a clue in AWAKENING MACBETH, but won’t give away any spoilers!

What is your next project?
I always have so much percolating that it is sometimes hard to decide what to focus on next! I know I’ll never run out of ideas for the Detective Emilia Cruz series. In addition to PACIFIC REAPER, which will be the 5th novel in the series, the next two novels are in the works as well.
There’s a WWII mystery series in the back of my mind, too, and probably a few more romantic thrillers.
So any books, so little time!

Thanks for having me and thanks to your readers!


Carmen Amato will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.


  1. Congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

  2. The interview definitely piques my interest!


  3. What is the best book taht you have read recently? Thanks for the giveaway. I hope that I win. Bernie W BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com

  4. Sounds like a great book - thanks for sharing!

  5. Congrats on the new book and good luck on the book tour! Also, excellent interview!

    1. Thanks, Ally. Don't forget to grab a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library at

  6. Thanks for hosting me and letting me introduce Detective Emilia Cruz to your readers!