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The battle between Veranda Cruz and the Villalobos cartel turns Phoenix into a war zone.

Homicide Detective Veranda Cruz will stop at nothing to take down the Villalobos cartel. But when a wave of violence in the city escalates, she fears that the secrets of her past will take her down instead.

Adolfo Villalobos is a crime boss who’s determined to stake his claim. To prove that he’s ready to run his family’s sprawling criminal empire, he devises a plan to silence his siblings and destroy Veranda, leaving a trail of destruction through downtown Phoenix that makes national headlines. Veranda believes the task force she’s been assigned to lead will end the cartel’s reign of terror, until Adolfo’s revenge takes a cruel—and highly personal—twist.

Author Isabella Maldonado spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, PHOENIX BURNING:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

That we are not the sum of our DNA. That people of all backgrounds can make their own choices about who they will be, no matter who their parents are.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

As a Latina crime writer, I am hoping to put forth a more complete narrative about Latino culture. Many crime fiction stories in books, movies and television seem to portray Latinos as either the bad guy/gal or the funny sidekick. Not as the protagonist–and especially not as a strong female protagonist. In my series, Latinos are on both sides of the law, and a holistic family approach to the life of the detective is on full display.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

This book is the second in the Veranda Cruz detective series. I wasn’t sure how the first book (my debut) would be received because of its multi-cultural tone and its main character being a woman of color. I was excited and surprised when readers wrote to me about how much they enjoyed Veranda’s large, noisy, ethnic, and sometimes interfering family.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

This book is about three kinds of families, each with its own culture and rules: Detective Cruz’s Mexican-American family of immigrants, the Phoenix Police Department, and the Villalobos cartel family. Seeing how these three groups interact and their stories interweave is integral to the story.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

Michael Connolly – his Harry Bosch was an inspiration for me to write about the deep underpinnings of a detective’s personal demons.

J.A. Jance – with Joanna Brady, she showed how an Arizona law woman could manage to balance a complicated personal life while fighting crime.

Steve Berry – his Cotton Malone is the perfect balance of brains and action hero and his stories are always topical and fascinating.


Isabella Maldonado is a published author, a retired police captain, and a regular contributor on television News Channel 12 (Phoenix NBC affiliate) as a law enforcement expert. Her last police position was Commander of Special Investigations and Forensics. During her long career, she served as a hostage negotiator, department spokesperson, and precinct commander, among many assignments. She was recognized with a Meritorious Service Award and a Lifesaving Award, and was selected to attend executive management training at the FBI National Academy in Quantico. Maldonado is a past president of the Phoenix Metro chapter of Sisters In Crime, and currently sits on the board. She lives in Mesa, Arizona, where she is currently writing the third book in the Veranda Cruz series, which features a Latina Phoenix police detective.

To learn more about Isabella, please visit her website.