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Diablo Nights is the third book in the Emilia Cruz mystery series by Carmen Amato. Emilia is a female detective – the first and only female detective on the force – fighting murder, evil and corruption that goes up to the highest-ranking officials in the city. Not only that, but she has to fight her way through the prejudice against her on at work, which makes her life pretty difficult overall.
In Diablo Nights, Emilia and her partner, senior detective Franco Silvio have to investigate the murder of a body found in a meat locker of a cruise ship. Nobody seems to know who that person is and why he is on their ship. What everyone knows, however, is that the police can’t investigate for too long as the ship has a schedule to keep and have to sail the away the next morning, no matter what.
During one of her free weekends when she can spend time with her boyfriend Kurt Rucker, the gorgeous and rich gringo who manages one of the luxury hotels in Acapulco, they visit a store where they buy quite an expensive relic, which is supposedly the finger of a local hero who is about to be sanctified.
Kurt persuades Emily to have the finger tested as it looks too new and well kept to belong to someone so back in the past.
And as it’s usual with the Emilia Cruz books, there is a third investigation she is involved with in her part-time, that she calls “Las Perdidas” (the lost ones), which includes women that have gone missing over the years. She is trying to find a young missing girl (this story continues from the first 2 books) and what she finds instead is her mother…
With these three cases, Emilia has her hands and mind full, so much in fact that she hardly has time for Kurt, who is patiently waiting for her to contact him again. Kurt and his hotel suite is her ‘safe zone’ where she can retreat when life becomes too much and stress is overwhelming.
As the story progresses we learn along with Emilia that the three cases are quite connected through a particular drug called Ora Ciega that is making its way to the streets of Acapulco. The bodies pile up, and the more Emilia investigates, the more danger she puts herself in due to her being the nosy person she is and learning things that are better left hidden.
Added to all this stress in her life, Emilia has now to also deal with a new recruit called Flores, a rich boy who wants to become a detective, bypassing any schooling that is usually done beforehand. Emilia and Silvio have to train him on the job, which is not an easy feat considering how green and naive the guy is in the first place. At times he is the reason while Emilia gets almost killed while doing her investigations on the streets.
The story is full of non-stop action and suspense, but what really got to me in this book is the wide range of strong emotions I’ve felt with reading it. There were so many things just wrong in that city, I could cry in anger and frustration. Emilia’s boss is a weakling who doesn’t care a bit about the police and detective work.
For example just because someone higher up told him so, he got the young greenhorn recruit and passed him on to Emilia and Silvio, and when someone up the ladder didn’t like the way things progressed with the investigations, pushed the boss to shuffle Emilia and Silvio to other cases, wide apart from each other.
I wanted to slap Emilia’s boss several times, and I was so happy when she finally did something to hurt him – physically (I had a chuckle at that part too).
But what remained mostly in my mind – and probably will remain for a long time – is the attitude of some of the poor folk in the area. I don’t want to give spoilers, but during Emilia’s trace of the finger’s origins, she met some people so disinterested in anything but making profits, regardless on whose back, that I had a feeling we’re talking about another world altogether. Gloria and the rest of the folk – I would have put them all in prison – instead Emilia actually paid them to help her get forward. Although in a way I understand why she did it, as it’s her world and she knows to navigate her way best in it.
Carmen Amato knows how to bring Acapulco to life, with all its horrible, soulless human beings, while at the same time giving us a ray of sunshine with Emilia, Silvio and a few other honest folks who care.
Emilia is definitely a character that is close to my heart. She is a real gem with human feelings, a strong personality that doesn’t bend even with all the crap she’s dished every day from every corner. I am glad that she is still with Kurt, the one person who is there for her, no matter what. In fact, Silvio, her partner, is another character that I’ve learned to respect and even grudgingly like.
Overall it was a great read, and I can’t wait to see the next book published so I can get my hands on it. The ending of Diablo Nights sets the scene nicely for a next installment, while also giving us a quick glimpse into things that are still to come.