with Carmen Amato
We are delighted to welcome back mystery author Carmen Amato to Omnimystery News.
Carmen visited with us last year to discuss her new series mystery Cliff Diver, but today she wants to revisit her debut thriller, The Hidden Light of Mexico City (CreateSpace; April 2012 trade paperback and ebook formats) and its setting. She titles her guest post for us "The 3-Sentence Mystery Setting Challenge".
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Photo provided courtesy of
Remember the chill that prickled your skin the last time you realized that you were lost? How you looked around and everything looked wrong. The noise, the people, the pattern of the horizon — none of it was what you expected.
That's the power of an uncharted setting. For some mystery novels, the setting can create as much suspense as the plot and characters.
But few of us like to read pages and pages of description. The challenge for an author is to capture the mood of a mystery setting with just three or four evocative sentences. It's even better when that challenge takes us around the world:
• Cairo, Egypt
"In traffic jams all the cars hooted all the time, and when there was nothing to hoot at they hooted on general principles. Not to be outdone, the drivers of carts and camels yelled at the tops of their voices. Many shops and all cafes blared Arab music from cheap radios turned to full volume … Dogs barked and circling kits screamed overhead. From time to time it would all be swamped by the roar of an airplane.
"This is my town, Wolff thought; they can't catch me here."
The Key To Rebecca, Ken Follett
• Havana, Cuba
"Arkady took a taxi back to the Malecón and walked the last few blocks to Pribluda's apartment past boys demanding Chiclets and men offering mulatas, and beyond conversation starters of 'Amigo, qué hora es? De qué país? Momentico, amigo.' Overhead hung balconies, arabesques of wrought iron spikes and potted plants, women in housedresses and men stripped to their underwear and cigars, music shifting from window to window. Decay everywhere, heat everywhere, faded colors trying to hold together disintegrating plastic and salt-eaten beams."
Havana Bay, Martin Cruz Smith
• Mexico City, Mexico
"The bus passed block after block of sooty concrete cut into houses and shops and shanties and parking garages and mercados and schools and more shanties where people lived surrounded by hulks of old cars and plastic things no one bothered to throw away. Sometimes there wasn't concrete for homes, just sheets of corrugated metal and big pieces of cardboard that would last until the next rainy season. It was the detritus of millions upon millions of people who had nowhere to go and nothing to do and were angry about it."
The Hidden Light of Mexico City, Carmen Amato
• Outside Riga, Latvia
"He looked out over the countryside: deserted fields with irregular patches of snow; here and there an isolated grey dwelling surrounded by an unpainted fence; here and there a pig rooting in a dunghill. He had the impression of endless misery … Skǻne might look inhospitable in winter, but what he was seeing here suggested a desolation that was beyond anything he'd ever imagined …
"It was as if the country's painful history had covered the fields in grey paint."
The Dogs of Riga, Henning Mankell
• Venice, Italy
"When he left Lele's gallery, he turned left and ducked into the underpass that led out to the Zattere, the long, open fondamenta that ran alongside the canal of the Guidecca. Across the water he saw the church of the Zittelle and then, further along, that of the Redentore, their domes soaring up above them. A strong wind came in from the east, stirring up whitecaps that knocked and bounced the vaporetti around like toys in a tub. Even at this distance, he could hear the thundering reverberation as one of them crashed against its mooring, saw it buck and tear at the rope that held it to the dock."
Acqua Alta, Donna Leon
So where is the next place you'll get lost? Between the pages of a mystery, I mean.
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Originally from New York, Carmen Amato's books draw on her experiences living in Mexico and Central America. Get a free download of the first Emilia Cruz story, The Beast, at CarmenAmato.net. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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The Hidden Light of Mexico City
A Political Thriller
A chance meeting for a man … following a blood money trail of cartels and corruption … and a woman who faces the fight of her life …