“43 Missing” by Carmen Amato
In “43 Missing,” Detective Emilia Cruz, the first woman detective in Acapulco, has been called in on a federal level case – a search for the missing bodies of 43 male college students who participated in an annual protest rally. After stealing busses from a local bus company, they were stopped by the police, handed over to a drug gang, and never seen again.
Cruz is part of a task force of five law enforcement officers hand-picked by the Attorney General’s office because of their lack of affiliation with any previous inquiries or associations with the families. Their parameters are clear: ‘Don’t gather new evidence or interview the families, but the government wants to confirm or deny the conclusions of the previous investigations and put the matter to rest.’
"43 Missing" is based on an actual 2014 case in Mexico. It garnered quite a bit of international attention and was thought at the time to be gang/drug related. Nobody, not even the Mexican government, disputed that.
In Amato's fictional account, the families want closure. They know the boys are dead, but they have to find where the bodies were buried. It's been a year and a half and the families feel corruption is getting in the way of the truth. They don't want to point fingers or cast blame because they fear for their lives if they do speak up. In “43 Missing,” several previous investigations conducted by various agencies pointed to inadequate actions by the Mexican government, and nothing was done to either bring anyone to justice or to find the bodies.
Emilia agrees to participate because of the connection to an old, intensely personal case. She may be able to find the person, her own brother, against whom she must exact revenge. So far, she has risked everything – friends, an important relationship, her job; now maybe her life.
What is uncovered in "43 Missing" is astounding. Amato is thoroughly convincing in her version of what might have happened in real life. The two cases of the missing boys and Cruz' search for personal revenge overlap in complex and frightening ways. This is a haunting page-turner.
Amato's books are set in Mexico, with vivid images of the country's landscape and unique architecture, both old and new. She includes descriptions of the meals eaten in street-side cafes and great restaurants, reminding me how much I love Mexican food.
Taut writing ramps up the tension in “43 Missing,” as Amato deals with the issues plaguing any two countries battling the drug trade and human trafficking along their borders. The tragedy of decent members of society caught in the crossfire, stayed with me long after I finished the book.
In real-life, the 43 bodies have yet to be found.
“43 Missing,” nominated for Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion award, is book #6 in the Detective Emilia Cruz series. Please visit http://carmenamato.net/ for more information about Ms. Amato’s distinguished law enforcement background and the other books in the series.