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Bitter Sugar

Bitter Sugar

5.0 1
by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera

Private property was stolen and livelihoods destroyed in the wake of Castro's Cuban revolution, breeding bitterness and rage-which in turn breed murder.

Bitter Sugar

Sexy, smart, and hot-tempered, Lupe Solano is arguably the best private investigator in Miami — though her father would be much happier had she chosen a safer career. So Lupe is thrown


Private property was stolen and livelihoods destroyed in the wake of Castro's Cuban revolution, breeding bitterness and rage-which in turn breed murder.

Bitter Sugar

Sexy, smart, and hot-tempered, Lupe Solano is arguably the best private investigator in Miami — though her father would be much happier had she chosen a safer career. So Lupe is thrown a curve when her beloved "Papi" asks her for professional help.

Senor Solano's old friend Ramon Suarez owned a prosperous sugar mill back in Cuba until Castro nationalized the property and forced him and his family into exile. Now, years later, an unnamed source in Spain is offering to purchase the confiscated property at a fraction of its value. Lazy, no-good nephew Alexander Suarez wants the money. Tio Ramon is suspicious and wants to know what's behind this sudden interest in a nonproducing sugar mill.

What starts as a routine journey down a paper trail soon turns deadly when Alexander is found brutally slain in a sleazy Miami hotel — and his last known visitor, Tio Ramon, is accused of the murder. Suddenly Lupe has a killer to unmask if she's going to prove Papi's dearest friend innocent.

But Lupe is rapidly becoming entangled in the mysterious web of spun sugar and blood that captured and killed Alexander. And when bullets smash through her own window, she begins to wonder if maybe Papi was right all along. But stubborn honor — and anger — compel her to continue with her investigation, even if what she turns up rocks her world, her family, and the entire Miami Cuban community to its very foundations.

Editorial Reviews

Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Witty, bubbly, sexy, and suspenseful. . . . Her books fairly shimmer with verisimilitude.”
Publishers Weekly
Surprises abound in Lupe Solano's sixth foray (after 2000's Havana Heat) into the seamier side of Miami's Cuban Amigra community, whose residents await Castro's defeat and an eventual return home. Some exiled sugar barons have made second fortunes, like Tio Ramon, head of the Suarez family and Lupe's father's lifelong friend. When Ramon'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. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When he seized power in 1959, Fidel Castro nationalized virtually all Cuban industries, including the five sugar refineries that had been in Ramon Suzarez's family for generations. Now, shortly after Ramon's shiftless nephew Alexander has been approached by a Spanish combine offering to purchase two of the refineries-the two that are standing idle-for $3.5 million, some ten cents on the dollar of their evaluated worth, Alexander has disappeared. Incensed at the suggestion that he renounce his claim to the refineries, Ramon wants Cuban-American p.i. Lupe Solano, his best friend's daughter, to find out what's going on. Lupe is even more interested in the question of why anybody would pay for clear title to properties that were nationalized 40 years ago. Before she can make headway on either of these mysteries, though, Alexander is murdered in the Ecstasy Hotel, and the Miami cops arrest Ramon for his murder. It's only the first of a series of killings that'll have Lupe-one hand on the religious medals pinned to her bra, the other on the Beretta in her Chanel bag-jumping from her boyfriend, immigration attorney Alvaro Mendoza, to her sometime lover, criminal attorney Tommy MacDonald (she also consider flings with two other lawyers), before a possible indictment for murder herself and a face-off with a suspect she's plucked from thin air leave her confronting the future with still another suitor. Relentlessly glamorous meals, cars, outfits, and supporting characters can't hide the threadbare plotting in Lupe's sixth case (Havana Heat, 2000, etc.), whose complications are still getting phoned in seconds before the fadeout.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Lupe Solano Series , #6
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.09(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Lupe, can I speak with you for a minute?"

I started at the sound of Papi's voice calling out to me. I was sitting alone at one of the tables on the terrace behind our house, enjoying a quiet breakfast and reading the newspaper. I had just closed my eyes to enjoy the early-morning breeze wafting over me from Biscayne Bay.

"Papi!" I called back to him in surprise. Papi usually left for his office at the crack of dawn, and I'd assumed he had gone before I got up. I folded the Miami Herald and rose to greet him.

"Buenos días, Lupe," Papi said.

"Care for some café con leche?" I tempted him. "Aida made it particularly strong this morning."

That was an understatement. I half expected the bottom of my cup to suddenly give out. I watched Papi struggle for a moment over whether or not he should accept my offer — his cardiologist had told him not to drink so much coffee. That advice might be fine for some, but as far as I was concerned, it didn't apply to Cubans. Coffee brings us so much pleasure that it was inconceivable to me that it could really do us any harm.

"Osvaldo," I called out. I figured I'd make it easy on Papi and take the decision out of his hands. "Would you please bring Papi a café con leche?"

"Gracias, Lupe," Papi said with a sly little smile.

"Here, sit, Papi." I patted the cushioned seat of the chair next to mine. "What a beautiful morning, no?"

"Sí, hija. It isvery nice." Papi took off his glasses, pulled a spotless handkerchief out of his pocket, and began wiping the lenses clean. As usual, he was wearing a white guayabera, the long-sleeved linen shirt favored by most Cuban men. I could almost hear it crinkle as Papi leaned back in his chair; Aida starched Papi's shirts so stiffly that they could stand up in the closet themselves, without the benefit of coat hangers.

Papi let his gaze wander off over the water, and for a second I had an impulse to ask him if there was something wrong. But then Osvaldo appeared carrying a silver tray with an oversized white porcelain saucer and cup filled to the brim with steaming café con leche. Osvaldo glared at me as he placed the tray gently in front of Papi.

"Gracias, Osvaldo," Papi said, looking at the cup of coffee with undisguised pleasure.

I looked up and caught another dagger from Osvaldo. I knew how much Osvaldo wanted to keep my father around as long as possible, and he felt that by openly encouraging Papi to have coffee, I was cutting short my father's life. Osvaldo had suffered an irreplaceable loss when Mami died, and I knew he didn't want to endure such an emotional blow again. I could understand his strong feelings on the matter — when you're more than eighty years old, you don't want to keep burying loved ones who are younger than you.

The thing was, I wanted Papi to live a long life as much as anyone, and I felt every bit as strongly as Osvaldo about it. But I also knew that Papi loved life's little pleasures the same way I did. A cup of good coffee, an occasional cigar, a glass of scotch — for Papi these things in moderation made life worth living. Being a total sensualist, I understood completely.

I gave Osvaldo my most charming smile. I saw his eyes soften a bit, not much, but enough for me to know that I had been temporarily forgiven until my next transgression. Osvaldo had been close to me for all of my twenty-eight years, so he knew about my basic disregard for most of life's rules.

Papi blew into his coffee cup before taking his first sip. His breath moved the salt-and-pepper of his mustache. I didn't like the preoccupied look on his face. I was sure now that something was troubling him. But I knew better than to pressure him when he was like this.

We sat together in comfortable silence, watching the sunlight brighten on the waters and refract into shining crescents. A few pelicans were perched on the channel markers, warming up and checking out the minnows skimming the water's surface.

My strategy proved to be the right one. After about a minute of quiet, Papi cleared his throat and shifted in his chair.

"Lupe, you know my friend Ramón," he said.

"Of course I know Tío Ramón." I referred to Papi's childhood schoolmate with the honorific conferred upon close friends who, although not related by blood, were considered as close as family.

"Well Ramón has become involved in a situation that has turned out to be quite complicated." Papi was choosing his words carefully and looking down into his folded hands as he spoke. And from his concerned tone of voice, I knew that in this case "complicated" did not mean good things for Tío Ramón.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Papi," I said. "What's the problem?"

Papi straightened up, took a sip of his café con leche, and looked away from me out to the bay. It was obvious that he was hesitant about bringing up the subject of his good friend to me, and I supposed his sudden interest in what was going on in Biscayne Bay wasn't entirely unexpected. I looked out there as well, just in time to see a pelican flying low. The bird flew gracefully and easily over the waves, and I watched him open his beak, drop down, and envelop one of the fish swimming dangerously close to the surface of the water.

"You know Ramón's family was in..."

Bitter Sugar. Copyright © by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Carolina Garcia-Aguilera is the author of the much-lauded One Hot Summer as well as the Lupe Solano mystery series. She was a private investigator for more than fifteen years before turning to writing full-time in 1996, The recipient of the Flamingo Award in 1999 and the Shamus Award in 2000, Ms. Garcia-Aguilera lives in Miami Beach.

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Bitter Sugar 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Her Cuban-American father dislikes the profession of Miami-based private detective Lupe Solano because he does not believe this is a proper profession for a good girl. Thus, when he asks Lupe to help his friend Ramon, she immediately agrees to show him that she is good at her trade. Ramon wants Lupe to investigate an offer to buy the five sugar mills they once owned in Cuba before Castro took control. His nephew Alexander wants to sell but cannot without Ramon¿s signature. Ramon stubbornly refuses. Alexander asks Ramon to meet him at a dumpy hotel, but when he arrives there he finds his nephew dead. The police believe Ramon had the motive and opportunity so they arrest him for second-degree murder. Lupe obtains an attorney for the accused and begins making inquiries that will clear Ramon¿s name.

The Lupe Solano mysteries provide readers with a taste of how it feels for Cuban expatriates to live in America. BITTER SUGAR is a great installment in this fine series because the audience sees a different side of Lupe, who desperately wants to gain her father¿s approval to the point of risking her life. Carolina Garcia-Aguilera captures the attention of her fans from the very first page and never lets go until the final page when new readers will want to obtain the previous novels so they can read more Solano adventures.

Harriet Klausner