Call Girls and Killer Chihuahuas: Miami's Lupe Solano Mystery Series Gets a Bloody Twist

Carolina Garcia-Aguilera has got one kick-ass job. Not that New Times is jealous - after all, we spend most of our time writing about how to smother your boyfriend or have sex with appliances - but the SoBe-based mystery writer seems to having a helluva a good time.

In Garcia-Aguilera's newest novel, Bloody Twist, Cuban-American private investigator Lupe Solano returns to trail a $5,000 per night hooker (who happens to be a virgin), dodge killer chihuahuas, and grace the bedsheets of not-too-few of Miami's power players.

If that sounds crazy, just wait till you hear where Garcia-Aguilera gets her inspiration.

New Times: "Bloody Twist" revolves around the enigmatic Madeline Marie Meadows, a 22-years-old call girl who somehow is also a virgin . Where did you come up with the idea for her?

Carolina Garcia-Aguilera: I used to work out at my gym with a fellow who was a pimp. I used to be very interested in all that stuff (pimps and call girls) and then, of course, private investigators comes across ladies of that persuasion all the time. Needless to say, she's not the first call girl in the Lupe series.

Where did you get the $5,000 a night figure?

I wanted to pick a number that seemed outlandish, but still kind of manageable. That one had nice, round figures to it. Besides, I don't think you could ever overestimate what macho guys think - "I want to be first" or "It has to be me" - that kind of thing.

It's been nine years since your last Lupe Solano book was published. How did you decide to bring her back?

I get four to five emails per day asking me when I'm going to bring Lupe back. So that's always been on my mind: when to bring her back. I had her shot in book six, which means I might have gotten tired of her back then, but it felt right to bring her back and to write this book.

I guess Lupe was percolating in the back of my mind without me even realizing it. And then I sat down one day and she just came out. The (opening) scene where they are in bed and she's drinking champagne just came to me... She's remarkably easy to write about because I know her so well. I always feel like she's sitting at the corner of my desk, legs crossed, with her heels flapping around, saying "Don't do that," or "I wouldn't do that."

Many writers immerse themselves in a subject when beginning a book, but you really went to serious lengths to write the Lupe Solano series.

I knew I wanted Lupe to be a private investigator, so I became a private "I" so that I could write the books about it. I'm pretty anal: I have to get things right.

Back then I was living in Coral Gables, married with three kids in school and I was doing car pools and all that kind of stuff... I had a friend who was a criminal defense lawyer and I knew that he used private "I" services for his business. So I asked him who he used and I told him about the book. I said, "I think, if I'm going to write a book about this, I need to know about that world." What did I know? I had no idea what the real world was like. So he gave me the name of a firm and I went to them. It tells you the caliber of the firm: they hired me!

So I showed up in a Volvo stationwagon. It was ridiculous. There were seven men, seven PIs, and me. And I used to go undercover. It was fun! Because I'm Cuban I could do a lot of the Spanish speaking. Soon enough, I was working as a private "I." What was supposed to be a 3-6 month internship turned into ten years. My husband said to me afterwards, "What about the book?" But I kept getting more and more into it, more and more cases....

I was the most unlikely candidate to be doing surveillance at three in the morning that you could imagine! I was married with children at 21. What did I know?

Lupe is the heroine of your novels, but the star is really Miami itself. How has it changed over the years?

I came to Miami about 27 years ago... This was in the mid 80s when Miami was the cocaine capital of the world, so just about every case I worked had some type of drug component to it....

Miami is different today. A lot of the stories now are financial: bankruptcies, hidden assets, things like that. In the late 80s and early 90s it was all about the M&A: mergers and acquisitions, which was also financial....

The communities here are fascinating. There are all these pockets of people. (For example) I didn't know there were so many Russians here until - I follow boxing - there was a boxing match between South Americans and Russians and I had to go get the tickets in Sunny Isles. I went in and everyone was Georgian or Russian. No one spoke any English. I had no idea that this existed here. It was just fascinating!

Your books are more lighthearted than some murder mysteries these days. How come?

Not everything has to be all sad and dreary and dark. You can use humor. I was on a book tour once and this fellow stood up and said: "Why do your books have humor in them? They are private 'I' books." But why does everything have to be sad? Why not inject some humor? If you go to crime scenes, you'll find police officers and they are (in good spirits). It's a terrible situation, but you can't be tragic all the time. You have to find humor in life.

You can catch Garcia-Aguilera at this year's Miami Book Fair or at Books & Books later this year.

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