Brief Bio
Isabella Maldonado

Award-winning author Isabella Maldonado wore a gun and badge in real life before turning to crime writing. The first Latina to attain the rank of captain in her police department, she retired as the Commander of Special Investigations and Forensics. During more than two decades on the force, her assignments included hostage negotiator, department spokesperson, and precinct commander. Selected to attend the FBI National Academy in Quantico, she uses her law enforcement background to bring a realistic edge to her writing. She lives in the Phoenix area where her uniform now consists of tank tops and yoga pants. Instead of bad guys, she chases around her young son when she’s not handcuffed to her computer. THE CIPHER, the first book in her series featuring FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera, is currently in development with Netflix starring Jennifer Lopez. The second in the series, A DIFFERENT DAWN, is available now, and the third, THE FALCON, will be released in June, 2022.

Outside Uniform portrait

Before her foray into the world of crime fiction, Ms. Maldonado wore a gun and badge in real life. She retired as a police captain after over two decades in law enforcement and moved to the Phoenix area. During her tenure in the department, she was a patrol officer, hostage negotiator, spokesperson, and recruit instructor at the police academy. After being promoted, she worked as a patrol sergeant and lieutenant. Finally, as a captain, she commanded the Gang Council, Public Information Office, and a police precinct with 150 personnel, including patrol officers, detectives, specialty units, supervisors, and civilians. Her final assignment was Commander of the Special Investigations and Forensics Division, which included CSI detectives, fingerprint analysts, video and other surveillance specialists, computer forensics detectives and the crime lab.

A highlight of her career was graduating from the FBI National Academy after spending eleven weeks at the Quantico training facility in a physically and mentally challenging program designed for law enforcement executives from around the world. She had the unique opportunity of participating in advanced training with about 220 police officials from agencies as diverse as Australia, NYPD, France, Thailand, the Texas Rangers, and even a Canadian Mountie! She is proud to have earned her “yellow brick” for completing the famous FBI obstacle course. Now her activities involve chasing around her young son and enjoying her family when she’s not handcuffed to her computer.

She is also a regular contributor on KPNX Channel 12 News, the Phoenix NBC television affiliate, as a law enforcement expert. Using her training and background, she provides comment and analysis of current news stories.


After retiring as a police captain and moving to Arizona, Isabella joined the Sisters in Crime Phoenix Metro Chapter, Desert Sleuths, in 2010 with the goal of embarking on a second career as a crime fiction writer. She has always been a huge fan of the genre and figured years of police work could help her write with credibility about the world of criminal investigations.

For five years, she attended workshops and writer’s conferences and also studied numerous books on the craft of writing. In order to hone her skills for a full-length novel, she wrote three short stories, which were published in Desert Sleuths anthologies.

In 2015, she was elected President of the Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths Chapter in the Phoenix metro area. It was an amazing year, full of excitement as the organization grew to 120 members. Later that year, she was offered a three-book contract, and her writing career began in earnest. The first book in the Veranda Cruz series, BLOOD’S ECHO, won the Mariposa Award for Best First Novel. The second, PHOENIX BURNING, garnered critical acclaim, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly and inclusion in the list of Best 25 Suspense Novels of 2018 by Book Riot. The third book in the series, DEATH BLOW, was published in March 2019.

In 2107, she attended ThrillerFest as part of the Debut Author Program, where she was fortunate to meet and subsequently sign with Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency in New York.

In 2019, Ms. Fleissig negotiated a two-book contract in which Isabella signed with Amazon Publishing’s Thomas & Mercer imprint.

Isabella’s first book in a new FBI thriller series featuring Special Agent Nina Guerrera, THE CIPHER, was published in November 2020 in print, ebook, and audiobook formats. The sequel, A DIFFERENT DAWN, comes out in August 2021.

THE CIPHER was optioned by Netflix for a feature film starring Jennifer Lopez.

Isabella is excited to see what the future has in store. Busy, busy, but living the dream!

  • FBI National Academy Associates
  • Sisters in Crime (national)
  • Mystery Writers of America
  • International Thriller Writers
  • International Society of Latino Authors
  • Crime Writers of Color
  • Sisters in Crime (Desert Sleuths Chapter in Phoenix)