Cover Reveal: ‘The Cipher’ by Isabella Maldonado

On November 1st, The Cipher, the first book in an all-new series from Isabella Maldonado, is set to rocket into bookstores.

Maldonado, the talented force behind the Veranda Cruz mystery novels, will be stepping away from that series to introduce readers to FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera, a brilliant investigator with a horrific backstory that drives her to help those in need. In her first book, Nina is pulled into a dangerous game of cat and mouse after a run-in with a deranged serial killer who suddenly has his sights set on her. Written in the same vein as Lisa Gardner’s Find Me, readers should expect plenty of twists and turns along the way.

“I was in charge of my department’s Public Information Office during the infamous Beltway Sniper case, in which a pair of serial killers sent out cryptic messages between random shootings,” Maldonado told The Real Book Spy about how she came up with the story idea for The Cipher.

“The entire DC metro area was terrorized for over three weeks as everyone scrambled to figure out the killers’ next move. I thought about how this could play out on a national stage in which the suspect deliberately engages with the public through social media, leaving clues and puzzles to see who can solve them, all the while creating a massive spectacle which both feeds his ego and interferes with the investigation. Basically, a nightmare scenario for law enforcement.”

“I studied serial killers while attending the FBI National Academy in Quantico. The FBI pioneered criminal profiling of serial offenders and offers outstanding training. We studied famous cases that garnered a lot of media attention as well as others that few outside of law enforcement circles are aware of. Viewing the evidence, listening to snippets of interviews, and going over the cases from the investigating agent’s perspective was both sobering and illuminating. I wanted to write a story that would bring that kind of insider’s perspective to my readers.

When asked to describe her new book in just a couple of words, Maldonado told me, “UNSUB meets Silence of the Lambs meets The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Check out the official cover art and plot details below.


The CipherTo a cunning serial killer, she was the one that got away. Until now…

FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera escaped a serial killer’s trap at sixteen. Years later, when she’s jumped in a Virginia park, a video of the attack goes viral. Legions of new fans are not the only ones impressed with her fighting skills. The man who abducted her eleven years ago is watching. Determined to reclaim his lost prize, he commits a grisly murder designed to pull her into the investigation…but his games are just beginning. And he’s using the internet to invite the public to play along.

His coded riddles may have made him a depraved social media superstar—an enigmatic cyber-ghost dubbed “the Cipher”—but to Nina he’s a monster who preys on the vulnerable. Partnered with the FBI’s preeminent mind hunter, Dr. Jeffrey Wade, who is haunted by his own past, Nina tracks the predator across the country. Clue by clue, victim by victim, Nina races to stop a deadly killer while the world watches.



Before her foray into crime writing, Isabella Maldonado wore a gun and badge in real life. The first Latina to attain the rank of captain in her department, she retired as the Commander of Special Investigations and Forensics. During her lengthy 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. She uses her extensive law enforcement background to bring a realistic edge to her writing. The Cipher, the first book in her new series featuring FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera, will be published on November 1, 2020. For more information, visit her official website.

Readers interested in pre-ordering The Cipher ahead of its release can now do so here.


Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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