Celebrate Hispanic Heritage with Mystery

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Each year from September 15 to October 15 we recognize National Hispanic Heritage Month “by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” What better time of year to explore mysteries written by Hispanic or Latino authors of many nationalities?

Mexican-American writer, Rudolfo Anaya, for example, features New Mexico private investigator Sonny Baca in a seasonal quartet whose titles include Zia Summer, Rio Grande Fall, Shaman Winter, and Jemez Spring.  Sonny Baca is not your average private investigator. A divorced former high school teacher, he’s the grandson of a legendary lawman, whose backup includes an extra-large sociopath, coyotes, and a curandera (folk healer).  Sonny routinely deals with drug dealers and medical experiments, as well as the mysticism and magic of Chicano culture.

Marcos McPeek Villatoro brings El Salvadoran policewoman Romilia Chacon to life in a series of novels that take her from the Nashville Police Department to the FBI in Los Angeles, as the Latina detective hunts for her sister’s killer. Titles in the series include Home Killing, Minos, A Venom Beneath the Skin, and Blood Daughters.

Inspector Espinosa is the protagonist in a series by Brazilian writer Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. Lush in setting, these mysteries take place in steamy, exotic Rio de Janiero. Titles in this Rio-noir series include Silence of the Rain, December Heat and Pursuit. Inspector Espinosa is an everyman character, a public servant, a solitary individual, who does not consider himself a hero. Garcia-Roza has created an ethical policeman often out of his depth in the seedy world he serves.

Cuban-born writer Leonardo Padura is the author of a colorful series featuring Police Lieutenant Mario Conde. Havana Gold, Havana Red, Havana Blue, and Havana Black blend dark police procedurals with vivid images of contemporary Havana. Lieutenant Conde is a cop who would rather be a writer, feeling himself drawn to other writers, crazy people, and drunks.

For thrillers with a mystery twist, Spanish author Juan Gomez-Jurado offers several titles written with both energy and a sense of the cinematic. The Traitor’s Emblem involves a daring rescue at sea, a mysterious gold emblem, Nazis, Masons, and a son’s search for the truth behind his father’s death. Other titles by Gomez-Jurado in English include God’s Spy and The Moses Expedition.

Michele Martinez is a Puerto Rican-American attorney and former federal prosecutor in New York who shares many characteristics with her protagonist, Melanie Vargas. Martinez features Vargas and FBI agent Dan O’Reilly in several novels. In Most Wanted, the first book in the series, Melanie Vargas takes the case of a prominent New Yorker found tortured and murdered in his posh townhouse. Other titles in the series include The Finishing School, Cover-Up, and Notorious.

Cayetano Brule is the private investigator in a series of mysteries by Chilean author Roberto Ampuero. In The Neruda Case Cayetano meets the poet Pablo Neruda at a party in Chile in the 1970s. The dying Neruda recruits Cayetano to help him solve the last great mystery of his life. The novel is set against the dangerous political world of pre-Pinochet Chile, Castro’s Cuba, and perilous behind-the-Wall East Berlin.

Cuban expatriate Jose Latour delivers a suspenseful, atmospheric novel of intrigue set in contemporary Havana and Miami in Comrades in Miami. As Colonel Victoria Valiente, the Havana-based spymaster of greater Miami, her husband, and $2.7 million in stolen money set sail for Key West, little do they know that the FBI is on their trail. This novel gives an insider’s view of the Cuban regime’s darker corners.

Learn more about National Hispanic Heritage Month at hispanicheritagemonth.gov/.

September is also “Library Card Signup Month.” Visit the library to sign up for your card today, or click the Library Card button on our web page to register online. Your library card will open up a world of adventure, information, and knowledge, not to mention mysteries by Hispanic authors.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

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