Garcia-Aguilera, Carolina 1949-
GARCIA-AGUILERA, Carolina 1949-
PERSONAL: Born July 13, 1949, in Havana, Cuba; immigrated to United States, 1959; daughter of Carlos Garcia-Beltran (an agricultural engineer) and Lourdes Aguilera de Garcia; divorced; remarried; children: Sara, Antonia, Gabriella. Ethnicity: "Hispanic (Cuban)." Education: Rollins College, B.A. (history and political science), 1971; attended Georgetown University, 1971; University of South Florida, M.B.A. (finance), 1983; completed coursework toward Ph.D. (Latin American affairs), University of Miami. Religion: Roman Catholic.
CAREER: Private investigator and mystery novelist. C & J Investigations (private investigative firm), Miami, FL, president, 1986—; novelist, 1995—.
MEMBER: International Association of Crime Writers, Amnesty International (member of board), PEN American Center, Mystery Writers of America, Private-Eye Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Authors Guild.
"LUPE SOLANO" MYSTERY NOVELS
Bloody Waters, Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.
Bloody Shame, Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.
Bloody Secrets, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.
A Miracle in Paradise, Putnam (New York, NY), 1999.
Havana Heat, Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
Bitter Sugar, Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.
One Hot Summer, Rayo (New York, NY), 2002.
Luck of the Draw, Rayo (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to an anthology of Florida mystery writers, 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Born in Cuba, novelist Carolina Garcia-Aguilera and her family immigrated to the United States in 1959, one year after Fidel Castro gained power over their homeland. The family lived in Palm Beach, Florida, for two years before finally settling in New York City. Early on in her life, Garcia-Aguilera was fascinated by detective literature, beginning with Nancy Drew novels she read as a child, and dreamed of one day writing her own mystery stories.
Garcia-Aguilera made a serious step toward making her dream a reality when, having moved to Miami, she applied for a State of Florida license to start a detective agency, with the goal of one day being able to write about private investigating with first-hand knowledge. While working as a private investigator, Garcia-Aguilera gained invaluable experience and a rich knowledge of the field. In 1996, Garcia published Bloody Waters, the first in her series of novels featuring Cuban-American detective Lupe Solano.
Set in Miami, Bloody Waters finds Lupe Solano investigating an illegal adoption business in which Cuban-born children are placed with Cuban families in Miami. Garcia-Aguilera's premier novel received favorable reviews, with most critics mentioning that the author's experience in investigative work and first-hand knowledge of Cuba and Cubans lends authenticity to the book. Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, for example, Amelia Newcomb deemed Bloody Waters a "lively and engaging read," and observed that "Garcia-Aguilera's experience gives Bloody Waters its air of authenticity." In another account, Catherine Crohan, writing in Multicultural Review, remarked that "Cuba becomes as much of a character as any of the people," and assessed Bloody Waters "a well-written detective novel."
Garcia-Aguilera's second "Lupe Solano" novel, Bloody Shame, was also well received. In this novel, Lupe is working to clear her client, a jeweler who has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a man, Gustav Gaston. The jeweler, Alonso Arango, insists he killed the man in self-defense, but his story is uncorroborated by the evidence the police have gathered. While investigating the incident, Lupe experiences her own tragedy—her best friend is killed in a car accident. As Lupe digs deeper into the jeweler's case, however, she realizes there is a connection between Gaston's murder and her friend's death. Lupe then works to uncover the truth. Bloody Shame was applauded by reviewers, among them Harriet Klausner, who wrote in Armchair Detective, "With this second book the author goes one step further by giving her mystery a literary framework. This makes for a much more exciting and entertaining whodunit which provides a first-hand, insider look into the Cuban-American South Florida culture."
Garcia-Aguilera's third "Lupe Solano" mystery, Bloody Secrets, is again set in Miami. The story concerns Lupe's investigation of the prominent and respected de la Torre family, at the request of a Cuban refugee, Luis Delgado. Delgado claims the de la Torre family grew rich in America with money that belonged to Delgado's father. Critics again praised Garcia-Aguilera's ability to spin a mystery story, among them a Publishers Weekly critic who opined, "With sharp-edged characters and some profound probing of moral ambiguities, the latest Lupe Solano tale is suspenseful, provocative and satisfying."
A Miracle in Paradise, the fourth novel in the "Lupe Solano" series, ends the pattern of "bloody" titles. This novel sends Lupe on an investigation into the Catholic Church and Cuban customs, where she explores the miracle of Virgin at Ermita de la Caridad, a holy statue that has been rumored to cry over the separation of her people in Cuba and the United States on October 10, Cuban Independence Day. Lupe must investigate the suspicious activities of a group of Yugoslavian nuns and seek the truth behind the "miracle." The "engaging plot" and "fiery heroine armed with sharp insights into Cuban and Catholic ways will lead readers into the sultry heat of Little Havana," observed a Publisher's Weekly reviewer.
In Havana Heat, Lupe Solano accepts three different cases regarding valuable Cuban art only to learn that all three cases are connected. Lupe must try to locate a famed unicorn tapestry, attempt to smuggle several Cuban paintings, and search for a stolen piece of Cuban art. Critics praised the novel's plot and inclusion of art history. Wrote Booklist's Jenny McLarin, "Garcia-Aguilera combines a clever plot and an endearing protagonist with a fascinating portrayal of Cuba's turbulent history and vibrant culture." Library Journal reviewer Rex Klett deemed Havana Heat "a stunning mixture of art history" and "Cubans-in-exile politics," and described Lupe as "a uniquely classy Miami heroine."
Lupe investigates foreigners interested in purchasing unprofitable sugar mills in Cuba from her father's best friend, Ramone, in Bitter Sugar. When Ramone's nephew, co-owner of the sugar mills, ends up dead, Lupe's investigation escalates and the killings continue, with Lupe herself nearly indicted for murder. A Kirkus Reviews critic felt Bitter Sugar's plot was not as coherent as Garcia-Aguilera's other novels, concluding, "Relentlessly glamorous meals, cars, outfits, and supporting characters can't hide the threadbare plotting in Lupe's sixth case, whose complications are still getting phoned in seconds before the fadeout." However, Booklist's Carrie Bissey felt that "Lupe cracks the case with style and a sense of humor—and teaches readers a bit about Cuba in the process."
In an interview published on Voices from the Gaps Web site, Garcia-Aguilera confesses that she often thinks and acts like a man. "As a private investigator for the last eight years, I've worked in a field dominated by men. The men I've worked with, as well as the men I've been involved with, have always tried to ascertain who is the real Lupe Solano. Eventually they all discover that I have two sides: a gentle, feminine veneer that I display when I need to, and the ruthless heart and soul of a man underneath," she explained.
Garcia-Aguilera left behind the "Lupe Solano" series to pen her next two books, One Hot Summer and Luck of the Draw. One Hot Summer is Garcia-Aguilera's first attempt at a romantic novel. The book finds Margarita, the partner of a law firm, debating whether to return to her law practice or remain at home with her young son. Margarita begins an extramarital affair with her former college boyfriend, further complicating her situation. When Margarita learns she is pregnant, she is unsure if her baby's father is her husband or her lover. One Hot Summer was met with harsh reviews. Library Journal critic Samantha Gust maintained that the book had "unbelievable plotting," and a Kirkus Reviews contributor considered the novel "a tawdry romantic comedy about family and adultery among the upper echelons of Miami's expatriate Cuban community."
Garcia-Aguilera's Luck of the Draw was much better received. Señora Navarro dreams of resurrecting her family's casino, La Estrella, but to do so, she needs all of her daughters together. Esmerelda, Sapphire, Ruby, and Quartz are all available to help their mother, but the youngest sister, Diamond, a reporter in Las Vegas, is missing. Esmerelda journeys to Sin City in search of her sister, and finds herself tangled in a deadly mystery. A Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that Luck of the Draw had "plenty of twists and turns," and was "skillfully written and plotted." Booklist critic Mary Frances Wilkes commented, "Garcia-Aguilera . . . writes with both authenticity and style," and dubbed the book, "an entertaining romp."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armchair Detective, spring, 1997, pp. 239-240.
Booklist, August, 2000, Jenny McLarin, review of Havana Heat, p. 2119; October 1, 2001, Carrie Bissey, review of Bitter Sugar, p. 301; May 1, 2003, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Luck of the Draw, p. 1544.
Chicago Tribune Books, February 2, 1997, p. 4.
Christian Science Monitor, July 25, 1996.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1999, review of A Miracle in Paradise, p. 1347; September 15, 2001, review of Bitter Sugar, p. 1326; May 1, 2002, review of One Hot Summer, p. 596.
Library Journal, September 1, 2000, Rex Klett, review of Havana Heat, p. 254; November 1, 2001, Rex Klett, review of Bitter Sugar, p. 136; May 15, 2002, Samantha J. Gust, review of One Hot Summer, p. 124; June 15, 2003, Amy Brozio-Andrews, review of Luck of the Draw, p. 100.
Multicultural Review, December, 1996.
New York Times, July 21, 2002, Mirta Ojito, "A Private Eye Prowls Little Havana," p. ST6.
New York Times Book Review, December 9, 2001, Marilyn Stasio, review of Bitter Sugar, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, December 30, 1996, p. 58; December 8, 1997, p. 58; September 20, 1999, review of A Miracle in Paradise, p. 78; September 4, 2000, review of Havana Heat, p. 89; September 17, 2001, review of Bitter Sugar, p. 57; April 29, 2002, review of One Hot Summer, p. 41; May 26, 2003, review of Luck of the Draw, p. 44.
School Library Journal, December, 2002, Carmen Ospina, review of Aguas Sangrientas (Bloody Waters), p. S36.
Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color Web site, http://www.voices.cla.umn.edu/(March 15, 2003), "Carolina Garcia-Aguilera."*