In The Spotlight: Carolina Garcia-Aguilera’s Bloody Waters

Hello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. You may not think about it, but Miami isn’t just a major US city. It’s also a very important Caribbean city, with a strong dose of Latin America in its culture. To get a sense of what Miami is like, let’s turn today’s spotlight on Carolina Garcia-Aguilera’s Bloody Waters, the first of her series featuring PI Guadalupe ‘Lupe’ Solano.

Solano is Cuban-American (almost more Cuban than American in culture), who opened her own PI business after interning for a few years with a large agency. One day, she gets a pair of new clients, Jose Antonio and Lucia Moreno. They’ve been referred to her by her family’s attorney, Stanley Zimmerman, and they have a serious problem. A few years earlier, they adopted a baby, whom they’ve called Michelle, through a man named Elio Betancourt. They knew that the adoption wasn’t completely legal, but were desperate for a baby, and had the money. Betancourt arranged everything, and all seemed well. Now, though, Michelle is seriously ill, and needs a bone marrow transplant. The only one who can serve as donor is the child’s biological mother. But the Morenos never learned the woman’s name. And Betancourt has categorically refused to help them at all. Now, they want Solano to find the mother and get her to agree to donate bone marrow. Solano takes the case, and begins a search.

She starts at the most likely hospital, Jackson Memorial, but that’s not much help. She doesn’t have much information; and, in any case, what she’s looking for is confidential, and she likely can’t get it. The local Bureau of Vital Statistics, where every birth is registered, has no record, since Michelle and her family didn’t go through a legal, court-sponsored adoption. And the doctor who delivered the baby has retired and moved away.

But Solano is not without resources. With some help from some part-time investigators she occasionally hires, she learns some of the truth about the Moreno baby, and several others, too. It doesn’t tell her the name she needs, but it gives her strong leads. Then, things begin to get dangerous. Someone seems to be watching her, even getting into her apartment. Then, one of the people she interviews is murdered. There’s another murder, too. It’s now clear that someone is willing to do whatever it takes to prevent Solano from getting to the truth. Meanwhile, time is running out for Michelle Moreno. Solano will have to use every resource she has, and try to stay alive, if she’s to find the birth mother before it’s too late.

The novel takes place, as I say, mostly in Miami, which Solano describes as,

‘…the unofficial capital of Latin America.’

And we see that influence very clearly. Solano is Cuban (as is her creator), and so are most of her friends and acquaintances. So, readers get a look at the Cuban culture of the city. Food, lifestyle, religion, language use, and a lot more show how close Cuba really is to Miami.

That culture is especially clear in Solano’s family. Her parents, like many people, moved to Miami from Cuba after the revolution that put Fidel Castro in power. They still consider themselves Cuban, though. They speak Cuban Spanish at home, and Solano’s father speaks often of going back as soon as Castro is out of power. They’re an unabashedly Roman Catholic family, too, although Solano herself is more culturally Catholic, if I can put it that way, then observant.

The story is told from Solano’s point of view (first person, past tense), so we learn about her character. She’s very much attached to her family members, even though sometimes she gets irritated with them. In fact, her cousin Leonardo is her assistant. But she has no desire to give up her independence and go back home to live. She also has no wish to marry, settle down and have children. She has more than one man in her life, but she likes answering only to herself. In that sense, she’s not at all traditional in her views. She makes her share of mistakes, and finds her share of trouble. But she’s tough, smart and quick-thinking. As she puts it,

‘In Miami, you could find yourself in deep waters very quickly. Staying sharp was a matter of life and death.’

She also has a certain wit. Here, for instance, is how she describes Zimmerman:

‘The Morenos were also his clients, which meant they had to be really well-off. Stanley Zimmerman didn’t have poor clients. He thought pro bono was something Julius Caesar fed his troops.’

Readers who prefer strong female protagonists will appreciate Solano.

The mystery itself is connected to the illegal adoption business, and it gets ugly. There are couples desperate to have children; young, pregnant, unmarried women in a terrible situation in life; and greedy people who are willing to take advantage of both. There are some important issues of moral ambiguity, too.

Solano solves the mystery through a lot of telephone calls, legwork, and searches through documents and photographs, as well as a few clever ruses. The novel was published in 1996, before today’s social media and other online resources were readily available. So, Solano doesn’t have the luxury of doing Internet searches. The book provides a look at what PI work was like just before those modern resources became routine.

Bloody Waters shows a dark side of life in Miami, and of the adoption process. It’s a sometimes-gritty look at the life of a PI, and introduces a Cuban-American sleuth who doesn’t mind taking chances if that’ll get her answers. But what’s your view? Have you read Bloody Waters? If you have, what elements do you see in it?


Coming Up On In The Spotlight


Monday, 31 July/Tuesday, 1 August – Trial of Passion – William Deverell

Monday, 7 August/Tuesday, 8 August – Murder in the Marais – Cara Black

Monday, 14 August/Tuesday, 15 August – The Cemetery of Swallows – Jean-Denis Bruet-Ferreol


Filed under Bloody Waters, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera

13 responses to “In The Spotlight: Carolina Garcia-Aguilera’s Bloody Waters

  1. This series does sound interesting, Margot. I will have to keep an eye open for this book.

  2. Another interesting spotlight Margot and what a good subject this author chose, after all, as you say it has all the human emotions of those desperate to have a child and those frightened by having one, and of course the greedy ones who prey on both. This is going on the wishlist for when the TBR allows a new entry!

    • I know all about the TBR challenge, Cleo! Mine never seems to get smaller *sigh.* This is a strong series, and you’re right; this particular book touches on some powerful human experiences and emotions. It’s got a solid feel of Miami, too. If you do work it in at some point, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

  3. Everything I know about Miami comes from Miami Vice, of which I was a huge fan back in the day. (Well, I mean, with Don Johnson in it, how could I not be? 😉 ) That always made it seem incredibly exotic and dangerous for a state in the US, so I was interested to see you describe it as a Caribbean city – I’d never thought of it that way before, but now you say it, I can see that’s why it doesn’t seem typically American… whatever that may be!

    • Ah, yes, Don Johnson… How could you not watch the show just on that score, FictionFan? 😉 – I won’t pretend to be a Miami expert – at all – but it does have a very Caribbean feel to it. In that sense, it’s certainly different to other major US cities. It’s much closer to Cuba than it is to, for example, Atlanta, and that shows. And you know, I’d have to think about the components of a typically American city. Some of them (New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles, and St. Louis, for instance) are so different to each other. Hmm….. I like that ‘food for thought’ – thanks.

  4. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this feature on author Carolina Garcia-Aguileras and her book, Bloody Waters, as featured on the Confessions of a Mystery Novelist blog

  5. Although I have read some Cuban-American novels, I have not read a crime novel. THis one sounds good.

  6. Col

    Another new to me author and book, thanks for the introduction.

  7. Sounds tempting, I like the setup. Interestingly, I have recently read another crime novel with a female PI and a plotline connected to medical needs. (I won’t name it, as that plotline is only revealed a long way in). I’m sure it’s just coincidence, but reflects modern interests and concerns – and the fact that we now get more strong female protagonists, something you and I both love I think!

    • Oh, interesting, Moira! I do agree with you that we’re seeing far more strong female protagonists than we did in the past. And, yes, I love that, too! At the same time, the best ones reflect the fact that no-one is perfect or invulnerable. I like my protagonists to be realistic, and I think Garcia-Aguilera achieves that.

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