Cliff Diver by Carmen Amato is the first book in the Emilia Cruz mystery series. I got both Carman Amato books in the series from the author with a request to read and review. When I went in June for holidays, I took both books with me and read them while away.
Cliff Diver follows young detective Emilia, who has a tough job to do, being the only female detective in Acapulco among all the macho male policemen who don’t think of her all too high and definitely don’t want her in their midst. Luckily she got teamed up with Rico, who is not only a good cop but also a decent human being, who doesn’t mind working with her.
When Fausto Inocente, the chief of police turns up dead on his speedboat, Emilia gets the assignment from the head of the Police Union to solve the case. She is temporarily promoted to becoming the team leader, which makes her colleagues at the force resent her even more.
Not only that but the higher forces that put her in this role expect her to solve the case in a way that doesn’t show any connections between Fausto and anything criminal (drugs maybe) in the city. Afterall the mayor wants to hold the next Olympic games right there in Acapulco, and can’t have the name of the city tarnished in any way.
Needless to say, Emilia has a really difficult job with no one who actually wants to support her. – at least initially The more she investigates, the more she fears that the chief of police might have been really been involved in some seriously shady things. She is a straight shooter and won’t have the truth hidden just because the city officials want her to.
As the story progresses, we get to learn more about Emilia’s character who literally shines throughout. With a few hints from Kurt Rucker, a luxury hotel manager whom she met during a previous, but related, investigation, she learns how to appease her colleagues and make them actually work with her instead of against her in solving the crime.
Kurt seems to be quite interested in Emilia and against Rico’s warnings about her fondness of a gringo, who doesn’t have a place in their Latino world, Emilia finds herself more and more intrigued by Kurt, who is everything a girl dreams of. Polite, educated, well mannered, with lots of knowledge and – boy, with good looks too.
I enjoyed the crime story with the several twists in the plot, but also the various relationships that formed, evolved and developed in unusual ways in the book – between Emilia and Kurt; between her and the head of the police union, and finally between Emilia and her colleagues at the police station. Things are not always as they seem and the macho guys can be thawed out as well, as soon Emilia finds out.
While being engrossed in the drama that I was reading, it was still easy to enjoy the vivid descriptions of the beautiful city Acapulco. Often I felt that I was right there. I don’t think I’ll ever get to that part of the world, so for me Acapulco seen through the author’s eyes was fascinating. I got to learn not only about the touristic aspect of the city, but also of the everyday life, the problems people go through, the corruption and evil going around, and the way people like Emilia cope with all this and rise above it all with grace.
Overall Cliff Diver, while not the easiest read of all, is a wonderful crime mystery that keeps you fast flipping to the last page to see what’s coming next. Of course, I picked up the second book right after reading the first – after all I wanted to see what happened with Emilia and Kurt, and where would she go after her first main adventure in Acapulco.