Miami Private Investigator Is Now on Her Own as Author

Bloody Waters: A Lupe Solano Mystery

By Carolina Garcia-Aguilera

Putnam

274 pp., $21.95

Ever since she was a child, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera had a consuming passion: murder.

Well, murder mysteries, anyway. She was one of the youngest members of the Sherlock Holmes Society, she says. She devoured Nancy Drew mysteries. And the fascination just grew stronger as she got older and found she still couldn't resist a tantalizing whodunit.

The reason? "I could always figure out what was going to happen and where the writer was going," Ms. Garcia-Aguilera says with delight. She was so good at plotting the outcome, in fact, that she came to the inevitable conclusion: It was time to start writing herself. That in turn led to another obvious determination: It was time to join a private investigative agency.

That is how this high-energy first-time author - born in Cuba, come of age in New England, MBA, mother of three - talked her way into becoming the sole woman in a seven-man investigative office in Miami. The job started out as a short research project to help her plot her mysteries with greater authority. It turned into 10 years of on-the-job training.

While it lasted a bit longer than she anticipated, the research paid off. Garcia-Aguilera is now making the rounds promoting her first mystery, "Bloody Waters." The experiences of her heroine, Lupe Solano, ace Miami investigator, make it clear that Garcia-Aguilera got the experience she was looking for.

She teamed up with a former agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and did everything from "husband and wife stuff - undercover in hotels trying to watch for robberies" - to combing the "dead files," or missing-persons cases.

"I could look at a file and get a feel for it," she says. "It's 99 percent common sense. And perseverance."

She and her partner eventually struck out on their own. He encouraged her to get her Private Investigator's license, and the day she did, he paid her the ultimate compliment: He quit their firm. "He said he'd never leave me unless I knew what I was doing," laughs Garcia-Aguilera, who continued on her own for several more years.

"Bloody Waters," a lively and engaging read, deals with a subject Garcia-Aguilera confronted regularly in her professional work: children's cases. Lupe Solano, the protagonist, agrees to look for the biological mother of an illegally adopted baby. The difficult search takes Solano into the dark and often threatening world of baby selling, and ultimately puts her on an uncharted - and illegal - course toward her homeland of Cuba.

Garcia-Aguilera's experience gives "Bloody Waters" its air of authenticity, even if Solano seems to have unusually good luck in tying together the disparate threads of the mystery she hopes to solve.

A woman P.I. is still a novelty, she says, but it usually worked to her advantage. "You can't make mistakes - you don't get a second chance to go back to a house and make up another story" when making inquiries, she says. What often made it easier, she says, is that "when I drove up in a Volvo with a baby seat in the back, I wasn't exactly threatening."

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