cover image LUCK OF THE DRAW


Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Carolina Garcia Aguilera, . . HarperCollins/Rayo, $23.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-06-053633-6

Garcia-Aguilera (One Hot Summer) sends her Miami heroine off on a wild Las Vegas adventure in her latest, an engaging thriller/mystery that succeeds despite an abrupt and underdeveloped ending. Esmeralda Navarro, a married, 30ish interior designer, is called to a family meeting by her mother, who announces her plans to try to recover the casino she and her husband owned and ran in Havana before Castro took over Cuba. But the plan has to wait until the family can find Esmeralda's free-spirited sister, Diamond, who doesn't seem to be at her Las Vegas newspaper office or her apartment. Esmeralda temporarily ditches her family and her troubled marriage to go to Las Vegas to find her missing sister. Fearing the worst, she arrives in Sin City with no plan, but fortunately her limo driver, the attractive, middle-aged Dennis O'Shea, turns out to be a retired NYPD homicide detective who helps her engineer a private investigation. After plenty of twists and turns, the clues point to a new casino called the Star, where Diamond took a job as a waitress before her disappearance. Esmeralda decides to pose as a high roller to try to track her down. The passages in which Navarro locates the mobster who may have kidnapped her sister feel more like a rushed explanation than a dramatic conclusion. But apart from this flaw, Esmeralda's adventure is as skillfully written and plotted as Garcia-Aguilera's successful Lupe Solano mystery series, and Esmeralda is a feisty, entertaining narrator. 6-city author tour. (July 1)