Visiting Detective

Visiting Detective Emilia Cruz: “Hunt for the Missing”

The Law Enforcement landscape changes as societal needs evolve. Years ago, local police departments generally focused on car thefts, bank robberies, burglaries, the occasional drunk, domestic disputes, etc. These days, car and home break-ins are a very low priority, with drugs, human trafficking, and cyber crimes on the rise.


The increase in new crimes and more sophisticated criminals requires a level of training few departments have available, so conferences sometimes fill the gap. If the budget allows, ranking officers and detectives attend in order to discover what other people in the country (or our border countries) are doing to solve the issues causing the most harm.


That’s how I met Detective Emilia Cruz, a guest speaker at a recent conference in Virginia, not far from D.C. Her topic hit pretty close to home, since our north Jersey county, with its proximity to seaports and major highways, was also experiencing an uptick in missing women and girls. Combined with the Mexican and Central American citizens fleeing the drug cartel violence, coming with stories of horrors their families had faced, made for complex problems. I invite you to read Detective Emilia Cruz’ account:


Hunt for the Missing with Detective Emilia Cruz

“I never expected to be lecturing a bunch of norteamericano detectives about hunting for missing persons in Mexico, but there I was in Alexandria, Virginia, sweating bullets and trying to remember how to speak English. My plan was to stumble through my presentation, fly back to Acapulco and slay my boss, Lieutenant Franco Silvio, for sending me to this conference on law enforcement.

Fortifying myself with a dose of caffeine before my presentation seemed like a good idea, although I was already buzzing with nerves. All the attendees were circling around, paper cups in hand and meeting each other. Ten men to every woman. Just like in Mexico.

A fellow joined me at the coffee urn and introduced himself. “Charlie Kerrian,” he said and stuck out his hand. “You must be our guest speaker.”

“Hello, I’m Detective Emilia Cruz Encinos, from Acapulco.” We shook hands. I liked him right away. He didn’t try any stupid moves, like squeezing too hard or tickling my palm like Mexican colleagues often did. “Mucho gusto, Mr. Kerrian.”

“Call me Charlie.” He sipped his coffee. “I’m really looking forward to your presentation.”

A bell rang and we filed into the conference room.

My audience was well aware of Mexico’s organized crime situation and the violence washing through the country due to the drug trade. The United States is the biggest consumer of illicit drugs that move through Mexico and cartels are forever fighting over territory and lucrative shipping routes. Violence has spiraled in Acapulco because it’s a port of entry for the Chinese chemicals used to make synthetic opioids, especially fentanyl.

My particular area of expertise is in hunting for those who have gone missing amid the drug war violence. It’s hard to get a perfect count, because many go unreported, but over 100,000 people have gone missing in Mexico over the past ten years. As many as 39 go missing every day. More mass graves are found every day, too.

Beyond a numbers tracking database, the federal government hasn’t allocated many resources to finding the missing. We have nothing like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Is it because too many of our civil and military authorities are involved with the cartels? Are they taking drug money to look the other way?

The bottom line is that in Mexico, finding the missing is left to families, private detectives and cops who hunt for the lost on their own time, like me.

I keep a binder of women who have gone missing in Acapulco. I call them Las Perdidas. The Lost Ones. I start with missing persons reports and morgue files of unidentified women. Next, I collect every scrap of helpful information that I can, starting with newspaper advertisements.

Families pay for newspaper advertisements with the headline DESPARACIDA, meaning “disappeared,” and a picture of the missing person along with a call for information. Similar notices are printed on burger wrappers or posters plastered on walls alongside ads for Jumex juice and Tía Rosa snacks.

If I’m lucky, an advertisement points to a body or a report. Usually I’m not.

Many of the women in the Las Perdidas binder are probably dead. They’ve been missing for too long. Perhaps they’re in one of Mexico’s mass graves. But without better DNA recordkeeping, we’ll never know.

Yet I have high hopes of finding one particular girl named Lila. She has swum in and out of my grasp as I investigated other crimes, but I’m going to find her again.

When I do, I will bring her home.

My presentation got a big round of applause. Charlie Kerrian asked me to write it up for an online notebook he keeps of investigative techniques. So here it is.

Thank you, Charlie, for caring about Las Perdidas. If you ever make it to Acapulco, look me up, por favor.

I could really use your help.”


Carmen Amato turns lessons from a 30-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency into crime fiction loaded with intrigue and deception.

Her Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series pits the first female police detective in Acapulco against Mexico’s drug cartels, government corruption, and social inequality. Described as “A thrilling series” by National Public Radio, the series was awarded the Poison Cup for Outstanding Series from CrimeMasters of America in both 2019 and 2020 and was optioned for television.

Originally from upstate New York, Carmen was educated there as well as in Virginia and Paris, France, while experiences in Mexico and Central America ignited her writing career. She has been a judge for the BookLife Prize and Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award and is a recipient of both the National Intelligence Award and the Career Intelligence Medal.

Every other Sunday, Carmen is your guide to the mystery ahead with exclusive announcements, excerpts and reviews of books she loves and think you will, too. Subscribe here:

Please click on the titles in the riveting Detective Emilia Cruz Series to find out more.



Begin your thrill ride with CLIFF DIVER: Detective Emilia Cruz Book 1





HAT DANCE: Detective Emilia Cruz Book 2

DIABLO NIGHTS: Detective Emilia Cruz Book 3

KING PESO: Detective Emilia Cruz Book 4

PACIFIC REAPER: Detective Emilia Cruz Book 5



43 MISSING: Detective Emilia Cruz Book 6. Read my review here.





RUSSIAN MOJITO: Detective Emilia Cruz Book 7

NARCO NOIR: Detective Emilia Cruz Book 8

MADE IN ACAPULCO: The Emilia Cruz Stories

THE ARTIST/EL ARTISTA: A Bilingual Short Story for Language Learning

FELIZ NAVIDAD FROM ACAPULCO: A Detective Emilia Cruz Novella

THE LISTMAKER OF ACAPULCO: A Detective Emilia Cruz Novella

Many thanks to Carmen Amato for taking the time to visit with the Kerrians! As in her books, her article is based in fact.





Visiting Detective Emilia Cruz: “Hunt for the Missing” Read More »

Visiting Detective Quinn Sterling “Murder in Craven County”

Our recent travels took us to the Low Country of the Carolinas – Craven County, South Carolina, to be exact. It’s common knowledge that Low Country seafood is straight up delicious, but we had not realized that pecans are a fairly big deal there as well.


We drove around a bit, exploring the area, and after one long stretch of fencing, passed a large gated entrance to a grove of pecan trees: STERLING BANKS. Sadly, it was closed to the public. Oh, well, no pecan grove tour or pecan store for us. But, dessert centered mind that I have, I now had a yen for pecan pie, or cobbler, or butter pecan ice cream. Sheila mentioned that she was suddenly hungry, so the search was on for a place to eat.


Do you like diners? Or pubs? Or bars? We definitely do. Turns out that Craven County is home to Jackson Hole, diner by day, and pub/bar by night. We pulled into the nearly full parking lot, always a good indication mid-week that the food is good. The waitress seated us near the back and we checked out the menu. The usual diner fare of meatloaf, burgers, fries, shakes, and …. Bingo! Pecan desserts of every kind I’d ever heard of and some I hadn’t. I grinned when the waitress returned to get our order. I tapped on the dessert section, then asked if the pecans came from the grove up the road.


“Yes, sir. Fresh as yesterday’s crop.” She smiled and turned a bit to point with her pencil at a woman seated a couple of booths away. “She’s the new owner of the farm. Quinn Sterling.”


This trip just got even more interesting. You know how Sheila and I keep running into detectives on the road? I couldn’t resist. “She doesn’t happen to be a detective, does she?” laughing as I said it.


Talk about jaws dropping. With hands on both hips, the waitress gaped and said, “How could you possibly know that?”


Both Sheila and I nearly sprayed her with the sweet tea we had been drinking. “Wild guess! Plus, I’m law enforcement – on medical leave – and I can usually spot people in my line of work.”


“Technically, she’s a P.I., but would you like to meet her? Sometimes she meets clients right in  that booth at night, but she’s only here for lunch today.”


The waitress went over to Sterling and they exchanged whispers and glances at us. Then the waitress passed along an invitation for us to join the pecan farm owner/P.I. We introduced ourselves and settled into the large leather covered booth, more than ready to hear her story.


“Quinn Sterling is a lanky, towering red-head, and heiress to Craven County’s 3,000-acre pecan enterprise, Sterling Banks . . . the last heir of the oldest family of the oldest county in the state of South Carolina . . . and a private investigator. She wouldn’t have been either if someone hadn’t murdered her father.


She never envisioned becoming a PI. As a teen, she and her childhood friend, Tyson, imagined working as deputies for her sheriff uncle, solving fictitious crime amongst the pecan groves, sometimes with burlap capes, sometimes with stick guns, using the nuts as bullets. Then for a year out of high school, they fulfilled their dreams by joining the sheriff’s office, with grand aspirations of keeping the county free of sordid characters. But her father, Graham, had bigger plans for his daughter, and pushed her to college where she held dual majors of business and criminal justice, the latter to spite him. When the FBI snatched her up, Quinn thought she’d gone to heaven.


Then came the call. Someone killed her father and almost killed Jule, the farm’s caretaker and mother-figure to Quinn. In the blur of funeral and the slow reality of inheriting the pecan enterprise, Quinn came face-to-face with a new reality. Her uncle admitted he couldn’t find the murderer, had no idea whom to suspect, and Quinn was suddenly running the farm. Unable to let loose of her father’s unsolved murder, Quinn left the Bureau to manage Sterling Banks, doing PI work on the side to scratch that itch.


Six years after Graham’s death, the murder remained a mystery, Quinn’s relationship with her uncle a raw sore. Then a fellow PI was found murdered in Craven County, and the daughter of a Charleston real estate mogul hired her to take his place hunting for her missing beau.


Nobody was who they appeared to be, but Craven is Quinn’s county, and with an inept uncle at the helm, Quinn felt the responsibility was hers to solve the case. But when the case crossed onto Sterling Banks, it sucked in both of her childhood friends, Deputy Tyson Jackson and Jules’ son Jonah Proveaux, the current pecan farm caretaker. Quinn drew deeply upon her legacy and her training, to dig into crimes current and past, sometimes capitalizing on her uncle and the financial, historical, and impressive power of the Sterling Banks name to discover why people had been Murdered in Craven.

In another case, Quinn learned just how toxic school board politics could be, when she was hired by a board member to deal with domestic issues, and dealings with the Board got nasty. An impromptu drop-in at a board meeting threw Quinn for a loop when she found Sterling Banks’ foreman, Jonah Proveaux, battling against them over land for an elementary school. Land of an 80-year-old neighbor that adjoined Quinn’s farm.


Politics quickly turned to greed, greed to arson, and arson to murder, with family pitted against family, neighbor against neighbor, as property Burned in Craven. When violence escalated against her and her own, Quinn decided she knew more than the law when it came to finding answers and making people pay, and she took actions accordingly. The county turned divisive over how much development was good development, and how much is plain crooked and deadly.”


Sheila and I sat riveted to our seats long after the last bite of pie and ice cream disappeared. What stories that woman could tell!


But, to find out who did what to whom and why, you’ll have to read the books.  😉

Happily for you, “Murdered in Craven” and “Burned in Craven” launched at the end of November. Many thanks to Hope for visiting us and giving us a sneak peek into her new series!
Order here.


    Order here.



Hope Clark

The Carolina Slade Mysteries, Bell Bridge Books
The Edisto Island Mysteries, Bell Bridge Books
Editor, FundsforWriters,

Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers


*All photos courtesy of C. Hope Clark



Visiting Detective Quinn Sterling “Murder in Craven County” Read More »

Visiting Detective Kylee Kane “HOA Murder”

Sunset in Beaufort, South Carolina

The Jazz Corner is one of our favorite venues for dinner and live jazz when we’re visiting Hilton Head Island in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Tonight was the last night for a popular NYC jazz combo. As usual, the tables are scrunched together in the intimate setting, making it next to impossible not to eavesdrop on folks seated at adjacent tables.


Sheila’s just placed her standard order for She-Crab soup and crab cakes, when I hear the woman at the next table say, “Mom’s right. Whoever killed Finley put that trophy deer head in his lap to sidetrack authorities. And it’s working. Deputy Ibsen’s convinced one of the Bambi-loving crowd is responsible.”


Bambi lovers? A corpse holding a trophy deer head? I can’t pretend I didn’t hear. My curiosity won’t let me. The couple’s conversation sounds matter of fact. Neither the man nor the woman—I’m guessing they’re either late forties or early fifties—seems shaken or hysterical. I decide it’s okay to intrude.


“Hi, I’m Charlie Kerrian, and this is my wife, Sheila,” I begin. “We just arrived on the island a couple of hours ago for a mini-vacation. I apologize for listening in, but our tables are so close. Was someone murdered here recently?”

“Not here,” the woman replies. “The murder took place on Hullis Island Friday night. I apologize. We shouldn’t have been jabbering about it in a restaurant. You needn’t be concerned. There’s no Lowcountry crime wave. Please don’t let my big mouth ruin your vacation.”


Sheila chuckles. “My husband failed to mention he’s a detective. You haven’t worried him, just piqued his curiosity.”


“That’s a relief.” The woman smiles. While her short, curly hair is snow-white, her smooth skin says the white hair is premature. “I’m Kylee Kane,” she adds, “a retired Coast Guard investigator.”


“And I’m Ted Welch,” the man says. “I’m hoping Kylee will soon change her standard introduction and say she’s a security specialist for Welch HOA Management. That’s my company. We manage more than a dozen homeowner associations in Beaufort County, including Hullis Island where the man was murdered.”


Kylee shakes her head and grins. “Ted, I’m not going to start introducing myself as your security specialist. My consulting gig won’t last that long—just until this killer’s caught, we find out who’s sending hate mail to Mom, and your HOA clients quit worrying about crazed killers sneaking into their neighborhoods.”


“Can you back up?” I ask. “What did you mean about the killer trying to pin the rap on Bambi lovers, and why is your mother getting hate mail? Are the two related?”

“Afraid so,” Kylee says. “Hullis Island has a deer overpopulation problem. The board of directors of the HOA decided to solve the problem by opening the island’s nature sanctuary to hunters as soon as the peak tourist season ends. Finley, the man who was murdered, was a loud proponent of slaughtering all the island deer. His landscape company’s sales had nosedived after people decided buying edible plants amounted to a free lunch program for deer.”


“And how was your mother involved?” Sheila asks.


“Mom doesn’t think the board has the right to open our nature sanctuary to hunters without allowing the HOA membership to vote on the matter,” Kylee adds. “She sent an email to all her neighbors expressing her opinion. Mom knows the overpopulation has to be addressed, but she thinks there are less drastic solutions. A postcard that said it was time for hunters to target old-lady busybodies as well as deer was hand-delivered to Mom’s mailbox a few hours later.”


Ted adds, “I just wish the authorities weren’t so fixated. They seem convinced the neighborhood feud about the island deer explains why Finley was killed. But the deceased wasn’t a likeable guy. He’d accumulated lots of disgruntled customers. Kylee and I plan to talk to some of those folks. My new security specialist excels at interviewing people.”


“Yes.” Kylee laughs. “In your sales pitch for me to join your firm as a security consultant, I believe you described me as having the ‘tenacity of a demented squirrel looking for a buried nut stash.’”


“True,” Ted agrees. “An apt description. Hasn’t changed since you worked so hard to ignore your little brother and me in grade school.”


The lights flicker and a man takes the small stage to introduce the jazz combo. “Please respect our talented musicians,” he says. “No talking during the performance.”


While Sheila and I came to hear the music, I’m sorry I’ll have to wait to hear more of the story.


Linda Lovely

Warm thanks to Linda Lovely for stopping by to chat with the Kerrians and give us a straight-up-fun peek into Kylee Kane’s (and Ted Welch) encounters with murder at the HOA. To find out how the story ends, you’ll have to read:

Multi-layered plots are always central to Linda Lovely’s novels. With her fully fleshed out central characters perfectly set up to navigate the twists and turns of the story lines, this entertaining mystery writer always delivers a thoroughly engrossing read. “With Neighbors Like These,” is a stellar, page-turning beginning to her brand new HOA Mystery Series. Launch date was set for July 13, 2021. Click on the link to order.


Please visit to learn more about Lovely and her upcoming events.

As sometimes happens, Kerrian’s Notebook has overlapped with Nightstand Book Reviews, so please check out Linda Lovely’s complete Book List here.


*Photos supplied by Linda Lovely.  🙂



Visiting Detective Kylee Kane “HOA Murder” Read More »

Scroll to Top