Mystery Series Synopses

Here are short synopses for the first three books in the Issy Castillo mystery series.

Scent of Murder: Synopsis

Isabel (Issy) Castillo, fresh from East Coast graduate school, is overjoyed to land her first job teaching Spanish at a small university in her Boulder, Colorado hometown where she can climb the academic ladder, reconnect with her Hispanic roots, and—who knows?—find true love. Her enthusiasm soon wanes when she discovers seething jealousies and rivalries among faculty and students alike, not to mention illegal activities, that roil beneath the tranquil surface.

Issy’s life takes a decided downturn when she discovers her chief romantic interest, a witty and personable, but Svengali-like theater professor, strangled in his office with her scarf and she becomes a prime suspect in the murder. Driven to clear her name and ferret out the killer’s identity, she becomes entangled in a sticky web woven from the threads of passion, vice, and pundonor—the Latino interpretation of honor and integrity. Issy speeds into overdrive to discover the killer when a second victim, her prime suspect for the first murder, is found dead in his bed and her prints are discovered at the scene.

She gets help from family and new friends, alive and dead—the last in the form of her proverb-spouting spirit granny, who adds a touch of Latino magical realism and humor to the story. But mostly, Issy’s own ingenuity and interest in aromatherapy solve the crimes.

Without giving away the ending, I can say that Issy brings down the murderer, but not without first enduring a hair-raising finale, which includes confronting and overcoming two of her worst phobias as well as escaping from death by fragrance poisoning. Although Issy doesn’t meet her soul mate in this first book, she gains the respect of her students, colleagues, and family, develops a group of like-minded sleuth friends, dubbed The Boulder Women Detective Team, learns how aromatherapy can enhance her life, and gets a boost along the path of spiritual enlightenment from her long departed Native ancestor.

A Whiff of Murder: Synopsis

In Whiff of Murder, Issy Castillo is still exploring her roots with her spirit ancestor, yearning for love, and dealing with cashflow issues foreshadowed in Book 1. In fact, Issy’s credit card is in such bad shape she can’t even charge an espresso to it. So, you can count on Issy and her women’s group to perform an angelic prosperity petition with fragrances to cure their ills as well as a rain petition to bring much needed moisture to The Front Range, which is part of Issy’s vow to help others.

As the book opens, a heat wave is plaguing the city, and a serial rapist is on the loose. But Issy is concentrating on helping her student, Dora, heal from date rape, encouraging a high school friend to leave a failed marriage, and dissuading her sister Angela from falling into the physical and emotional clutches of her old enemy, Big Carlos Machado.

Soon Issy visits a dance club and meets and dances with a handsome nursing home employee. But something—some scent about the man—strikes her as odd. Later that night, her high school nemesis is killed. Although the murderer remains unidentified, Issy suspects the culprit is the guy she danced with and vows to avenge the former Homecoming Queen’s death.

Meanwhile, Issy discovers that sister Angela has been persuaded to meet Big Carlos in a church meditation garden at midnight to collude with him on who knows what horrible mission. So, Issy and her friends fly to the rescue, save Angela, and foil Carlos’ plot. This snake in the green grass vows revenge.

Issy manages to bag the rapist-turned-killer, but not before she barely escapes becoming his next victim. Unfortunately, Carlos persists with threats and wreaks his revenge in a horrible way that almost destroys the Castillo family. By the end of the book, he remains free to carry out even worse crimes in the next book.

Doña Isabella, Issy’s Indian ancestor and spirit guide, flits in and out of the story to croon ‘60’s rock tunes, render advice, and teach Issy lessons about her heritage, fragrance, crafting, love, compassion, healing, and the meaning of true prosperity.

At the end of the book, Issy is about to journey with her sister to Galicia, Spain to attend a conference, pick up an inheritance for Papi, and further explore their roots together. Issy has matured and although she doesn’t realize it, has already encountered the love of her life. She will meet him again and fall in love in Killer Scent. But will she survive long enough to consummate their relationship?


In Killer Scent, romantic and mysterious Santiago de Compostela, Spain provides the backdrop for young Hispanic literature professor and budding aromatherapist Issy Castillo’s quest for her Galician roots and true love. She finds both, along with a reeking bouquet of deception and murder. Issy’s efforts to discover how her friend died from smoking a strawberry-scented cigarette catapults her on a wild ride across northern Spain, enveloping her in an odiferous potpourri of international cigarette smuggling, revolutionary insurgency, and festering passions that lead her to discover earth-shattering secrets hidden deep within the heart of the Iberian soul.

In the opening scene, a man is brutally murdered at a pension on Spain’s northern coast. What this has to do with Issy remains to be seen.

Back in Colorado, Issy, undaunted by her psychic friend Marirosa’s prediction of dire danger and death, prepares to journey to Spain to deliver a conference talk on medieval Galician love poetry and pick up an inheritance for her father. Her sister Angela accompanies her because Papi wants his youngest daughter to gain an appreciation of her roots.

At the guesthouse in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Issy meets up with Ana, an academic friend from Book 1 and meets Ana’s lover, a professor from England, as well as two of Ana’s students who make friends with Angela. Ana introduces Issy to David Martínez, an international journalist in town to report on the conference. Issy has seen David before back in Colorado, but they don’t officially know each other. And she doesn’t trust him.

Soon Issy is embroiled in murder as one of her group dies after smoking a poison cigarette. The incident sends Issy on a mission to the northern regions of Spain to search for and unmask the killer. International intrigue, including cigarette smuggling and a Galician separatist movement, whose members are prepared to kill anybody who upsets their plans, keep Issy one step away from losing her life.

Doña Isabella, who has remained largely silent throughout much of the book, finally surfaces to Issy during a crisis moment inside a cave located deep within the Asturian forest There, in the guise of a bat, she shows Issy more about her heritage.

Thrills abound as Issy races to bring down both the smugglers and the leader of the separatist movement and rushes to save the Spanish Queen from being kidnapped. She also finds true love with David. But will he be murdered as two of his friends already have been before they can consummate their relationship? And will Issy perish in a horrendous cave-in?