cover image BITTER SUGAR: A Lupe Solano Mystery

BITTER SUGAR: A Lupe Solano Mystery

Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, . . Morrow, $24 (315pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97781-9

Surprises abound in Lupe Solano's sixth foray (after 2000's Havana Heat) into the seamier side of Miami's Cuban émigré community, whose residents await Castro's defeat and an eventual return home. Some exiled sugar barons have made second fortunes, like Tío Ramón, head of the Suarez family and Lupe's father's lifelong friend. When Ramón's nephew and co-owner of the family sugar mills receives a buyout offer and then disappears, he asks her Papi for help and the dutiful daughter gears up immediately. Lupe is not always so skillful at juggling her two lives, that of a cosseted daughter, still living at home and pinning medals of the Virgin to her brassiere strap, with that of the emancipated single woman, a savvy PI with lovers and a wardrobe to die for. The author exploits this dichotomy to sometimes hilarious and sometimes tragic effect. As Detective Anderson of the Miami police points out, bodies seem to accumulate around her. Loyalty, tradition, principle and justice guide her, although she's not above taking a few shortcuts to get what she needs. She will go to extraordinary lengths for family, friends and clients, often at no small cost to herself, as is the case when she winds up in the hospital. This present challenge is a chance to gain her father's approval of her career choice, even though he may not like what she uncovers. Garcia-Aguilera saves her best surprise until last, leaving fans wanting more. (Oct. 30)

FYI:This will be the last Lupe Solano mystery for a while, since Garcia-Aguilera is currently writing a romance novel for HarperCollins.