Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 04/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

>Carolina Garcia-Aguilera

HAVANA DREAMS, MIAMI SPICE

"I'M A WHIZ AT COCKTAIL PARTIES," says Carolina Garcia-Aguilera—and it's no wonder. After all, not many folks you meet over Chardonnay boast such an arresting résumé: graduate of Miss Porter's School, Jackie O's genteel alma mater; Miami private eye; and, with the publication of Bloody Waters (Putnam), mystery writer. "I started working as a detective so I could have material to write about," explains the Havana-born author, 46, who grew up on the Nancy Drew series. "Somehow it stretched out into almost 10 years. I liked it, and I was really good at it."

That's just the kind of comment Garcia-Aguilera's engaging investigator Lupe Solano would make. Like her creator, the feisty Lupe has 200-proof attitude, is close to her "privileged" family and is Cuban to the core. Although the author has chosen not to return to the island where she spent her first 10 years because of her animus toward the Castro regime, "Boy, I'd love to," she says. "You should see my office. I have Cuban maps, Cuban flags, Cuban everything. I live, breathe and eat Cuban."

Nowadays, instead of staking out shady characters at 3 a.m., Garcia-Aguilera is revising the second in the planned Lupe series. She works in the five-bedroom, Coral Gables, Fla., home she shares with the youngest of her three daughters, 10-year-old Gabriella (Sarah, 18, is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, and Antonia, 16, attends boarding school near Boston), as well as three cats and "two very badly behaved Labs." She and third husband Robert Hamshaw, a financial administrator in New York City, commute to see each other several times a month. "The stewardesses," she says, "hardly ever need to ask me what I drink any more."

Recently, Garcia-Aguilera had another brush with real-life sleuthing. "We lost our dog Buddy," she explains. "I called a pet detective—like Ace Ventura."

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