Books by Barbara D’Amato

FOOLPROOF by Barbara D’Amato
Released: Dec. 1, 2009

"An in-flight book you won't mind leaving on the plane, even if you haven't finished it. The three authors, accomplished writing pros all, have done far better on their own than they do in this thrill-free thriller."
Voting and other escapades in a corrupt political system. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2004

"D'Amato (White Male Infant, 2002, etc.) offers a fascinating glimpse inside a world few novelists would have the sensitivity to explore, even though the persistent bashing of Bruno Bettelheim and Sigmund Freud will make the killer obvious even to amateur therapists."
A country-house mystery with a difference: The country house is in the city of Chicago, and most of the suspects are autistic. Read full book review >
WHITE MALE INFANT by Barbara D’Amato
Released: July 1, 2002

"Like a contemporary Anne Perry, D'Amato looses the dogs of suspense against an all-too-plausible scenario of epidemic social injustice. The heart-rending, page-turning result is irresistible."
An expertly muckraking thriller that exposes a particularly vicious baby-selling racket. Read full book review >
HARD ROAD by Barbara D’Amato
Released: Aug. 1, 2001

"Despite the 'hard' title and the breathless opening sequence, Cat's ninth case (Hard Evidence, 1999, etc.), turning on a single clue reminiscent of the short stories in Of Course You Know That Chocolate Is a Vegetable (2000), is her frothiest outing to date."
Cat Marsala would probably have taken her six-year-old nephew Jeremy to Chicago's first Grant Park Oz Festival even if Jeremy's dad Barry weren't serving as the festival's general manager. As it is, the presence of Barry adds a special pleasure to their experiences on the Magic Turning Mountains and the Flying Monkeys merry-go-round—and a horrible complication when festival security chief Tom Plumly staggers away from Barry with blood blooming on his chest from a fatal knife wound, and computer systems designer Jennifer Denslow is shot to death minutes later by somebody standing awfully close to Barry. Unable to believe her own brother could be the fiend who pursued her and Jeremy through a spooky parking garage with gun blazing, Cat still has to tell Chief of Detectives Harold McCoo what she saw, and what she saw puts Barry in such danger of arrest that he refuses to believe his sister is really trying to help him. So Cat, marshalling all her freelance reporting skills, homes in on the only possible suspects—banker Edmond W. Pottle, contractor Larry Mazzanovich, and lighting designer E.T. Taubman—and brings the thinly imagined killer to book in plenty of time for Brian D'Amato's "The Wooden Gargoyles: Evil in Oz," a scholarly 50-page essay that seems intended for quite a different audience. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 2000

"Despite a perfunctory windup of the multiple felonies, the meatiest and most straightforward of Suze's three procedurals (Good Cop, Bad Cop, 1998, etc.) to date. D'Amato's headline sleuth, Second City journalist Cat Marsala, had better watch her back."
A mean outbreak of E.coli has thinned the ranks of the Chicago Police Department so ruthlessly that Officers Suze Figueroa and Norm Bennis, along with all their other colleagues who aren't in the hospital or the morgue, are doing double duty. Besides looking for a thief who's been picking the pockets of upscale shoppers while they watch noontime cosmetics demonstrations at the city's most exclusive stores, they've been appointed acting detectives in a series of killings of homeless alcoholics. Smarting under the constraints of time and money—the department won't approve the pricey forensics tests she's convinced would narrow the field of suspects dramatically—Suze prepares to comb the city for the perp. Stretched to the limit by her caseload and the lack of support she's getting from her superiors, she doesn't realize that she ought to start by searching the attic of the home she's sharing with her brother-in-law, Robert Birch, where she's helping to nurse her brain-injured sister Sheryl back to health. A dangerous lowlife has gone to earth in Robert's house, prowled the bedrooms in the family's absence, eavesdropped on their conversations, eaten their food, worn their clothes, and is now waiting for one of Suze's late nights at work so that he can have some real fun with aphasic, partially paralyzed Sheryl and her two daughters. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2000

" As for the award-winning, slenderly plotted title story, in which a disgruntled author gets her revenge on a curmudgeonly reviewer, you're certainly not going to read anything unkind about it here."
You're in good company when you're with Officers Suze Figueroa and Norm Bennis of the Chicago Police Department, or with freelance reporter Cat Marsala—and they're on hand for most of the 12 tales collected here (six for the cops, one for Cat, one in which Cat improbably investigates a complaint against the cops). Especially in dealing with Figueroa and Bennis, D'Amato (Help Me Please, 1999, etc.) repeatedly strikes a fine balance between warm domesticity and authentic detail. The problem is the anemic plots. Most of the stories, from "Shelved" to "Soon to Be a Minor Motion Picture," turn on a single forgettable clue: "The Lower Wacker Hilton" recycles one of the oldest urban legends around; "Hard Feelings" and "See No Evil" work the same deception twice (and readers will see it coming the second time). When D'Amato works outside the box, the results once again are atmospheric rather than rigorous. Dolley Madison turns up to solve a White House mystery by noticing a single telltale clue; a hard-bitten reporter remembers the magical time of his flat (and noncriminal) interview with Greta Garbo; a honeymoon couple stops at a motel on Route 66—with horrific, though wildly unlikely, results. Read full book review >
HELP ME PLEASE by Barbara D’Amato
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

D'Amato's latest report from the Chicago Police Department (Good Cop, Bad Cop, 1998, etc.) focuses on a fiendishly clever crime: the kidnaping of a child. In the moment her parents are distracted, three-year-old Danielle Gaston is spirited from Holy Name Cathedral by a bogus priest. The case brings Polly Kelly, Deputy Chief of Detectives for Chicago North, to instant attention, because Danni's mother is country-music star Maggie McKittredge, and her father is Senator Neal Gaston. And after some anxious pangs toward the beginning, Polly's increasingly convinced the child is still in Chicago—probably in the heart of the crowded Gold Coast. But can the thousand cops beating the bushes for Danni find her before she starves to death? Not only Polly but all the world can count the hours till Danni will die, because D'Amato, displaying the same fascination with computers that fueled Killer.App (1996), has updated her old-fashioned plot with a chilling new twist: The kidnappers place a digital camera in the bare, locked room where they're keeping Danni and put her live, real-time image on the Net at . So Polly can watch; Polly's clinically depressed mother, who's moved in with her just in time to have Polly camp out in her office, can watch; and anybody with a TV can watch CNN around the clock as the unwitting Danni's movements grow ever weaker. D‘Amato shows a no-nonsense authority in laying out the myriad details of a police dragnet, and she endows her villains—the crew of imprisoned cybertyrant Johnnie Raft, who thinks it's about time smart people were running the world—with enough savvy to stay one step ahead of it. But her determination to keep her last card hidden leads her to a surprise that will have a lot of readers pursing their lips in disbelief. For most of the ride, though, the case purrs along with just enough edge to the thrills to make this a tougher complement to the author's Cat Marsala mysteries. Read full book review >
HARD EVIDENCE by Barbara D’Amato
Released: May 11, 1999

Spenser and Angelotti's is the sort of place you go for the best coffee in Chicago, or for the selection of 104 different cheeses. And now it's the place, as Dr. Sam Davidian, freelance reporter Cat Marsala's favorite trauma surgeon, realizes, where the soup bones, at least on the right day, are human. Miraculously, the mayor and public health department agree to a noncomittal recall of contaminated meat that will contain the scandal while they look for clues to a murder and while Bruno Angelotti hires Cat to go undercover as a catering consultant to discreetly question the staff. Even after the police establish the identity of the donor—it's Serge Gretzka, the catering manager who won't be answering the phone in his Florida vacation retreat—there's precious little evidence against his missing wife Sophie or her alleged lover, head baker Nicholas Lane. Instead, D—Amato serves up a series of harassing but non-lethal attacks on Cat (her windshield is smashed, she's shot at and dosed with ipecac) alternating with picketing by concerned vegetarians and mouthwatering catered meals at a Lake Shore apartment and a funeral parlor. D'Amato, on holiday from the intensity of Hard Bargain (1997), ebulliently folds all these incongruous ingredients together with a clever solution to whip up the driest and wittiest food mystery of the season. A final bonus is a pair of recipes for butter cookies and osso buco—just in case you're still in the mood. Read full book review >
GOOD COP, BAD COP by Barbara D’Amato
Released: March 1, 1998

A generation after his bullying cop father forced him to blaze away at the Black Panthers, Supt. Nick Bertolucci has to come to terms with what went on in the Panthers' house. What went on, as all the world knows, was a massacre of the its inhabitants, massaged by the police and the press to look like a gun battle—a real-life 1969 scandal that provides D'Amato with her novel's point of departure. Bertolucci's tyrannical father, superintendent of Chicago's police, forced his son to take part in the pre-dawn raid, and kept secret evidence that Nick unknowingly shot and killed 18-year-old Shana Boyd. Now that his hated old man is dead and Nick's long since followed in his footsteps as superintendent, he should be sitting pretty. But his brother Aldo, who reacted to his father's taunts and abuse by becoming the worst cop in Chicago, has gotten hold of the evidence and, figuring he has nothing to lose himself, plans to use it to ruin Nick. Instead of confronting Nick directly, Aldo puts pressure on Nick's top deputy, Gus Gimball, to pull the plug on his boss, knowing that Gus won't risk the kind of publicity that might swing the upcoming mayoral election the wrong way and deprive the department of badly needed funding. D'Amato lays out this plot with impressive economy, but doesn't provide any counterpoint—there's nothing else going on except expertly sketched backgrounds (Chicago cops eating undercover Japanese, telling offensive jokes, responding to domestic violence calls, playing schoolboy pranks), and Suze Figueroa, the detective who's held over from Killer.App (1996), doesn't have much to do—leaving it pretty obvious how the rivalry between Nick and Aldo will play out. Readers seeking an equally trenchant portrait of Chicago lawmen coupled with a denser, meatier plot need look no further than D'Amato's last Cat Marsala mystery (Hard Bargain, 1997), which has everything this novel does and more. Read full book review >
HARD BARGAIN by Barbara D’Amato
Released: Sept. 8, 1997

A domestic violence call that leaves an abusive husband, an off-duty Chicago police officer, shot dead by his wife's sister, a uniformed cop who responded to the call, turns even uglier when some telltale discrepancies (just how far from Ben Jurack was she standing when she shot him? exactly when did four-year-old Belinda come into the room to see her father getting killed? and how did Jurack get that bruise on his head?) make Officer Shelly Daniello's story look suspicious. But the story wouldn't have hooked investigative reporter Cat Marsala (Hard Christmas, 1995, etc.) if it hadn't been used to smear Cat's old friend— Daniello's boss, chief of detectives Harold McCoo—a fact that raises even more urgent questions. Which of the four deputy police superintendents competing with McCoo for the chance to step into the despised superintendent's shoes after a mayoral election would've planted such a damaging story about one of his rivals? And which of McCoo's trusted office staff passed to the unscrupulous rival the in-house reports that turned up in the papers? Cat's way of gathering information is to interview each of the four candidates for a series of profiles in Chicago Today, but before she can get past their secretaries the case is blown wide open by a letter bomb. Cat's seventh features enough problems for a month of Mondays—but D'Amato's expert dovetailing and eye for human drama make it a lot more exciting. Read full book review >
KILLER.APP by Barbara D’Amato
Released: April 1, 1996

Worried about Bill Gates's economic clout? Wait till you read this paranoid fantasy of a computer nerd/mogul who hijacks his own company in a mad rush for the political power to go along with his megabucks. When Sheryl Birch, a computer engineer at SJR DataSystems, accidentally taps into a hidden database and finds skullduggery that she traces back to her own company, she figures the likeliest perps are the Blue Blazers, security goons Zach Massendale and Glen Jaffee. And she's right, but not right enough. Research and Development head Howie Borke, who's always been nice to Sheryl, is also in on the nefarious scheme. So is SJR's chief, Dean Utley, whom Sheryl had thought was already too rich to bother. She'd think twice if she knew that the Blue Blazers had already executed one Chicago cop, or if she knew that being Bill Gates wasn't enough for Utley, who wants to be Bill Clinton, too—or at least to be the power behind the aspiring new President, the treacherous V.P. As it is, Sheryl barely has time to share her suspicions with her cop sister Suze Figueroa before Sheryl's forced into an ``accident'' that leaves her in a coma. It's up to Figueroa, white-collar crime specialist Det. Jesus Delgado, and the few colleagues they can trust to head off the President's assassination, find the weak link in SJR's defenses, and bring Utley & Co. to justice—all without using credit cards, making ATM withdrawals, or leaving any footprints that the omnipresent SJR software can follow. D'Amato (the Cat Marsala mysteries: Hard Christmas, 1995, etc.) sketches her cybernetic Big Brother with eerily menacing strokes, and if Figueroa and Delgado aren't quite as ingenious at exposing the plot as the evil dorks at SJR were at laying it, well, what do you expect? D'Amato's care in making the technical stuff accessible to novices instead of using it, Clancy-like, to bludgeon the gentle reader pays off in a smart, swift-moving cyberthriller for the rest of us. Read full book review >
HARD CHRISTMAS by Barbara D’Amato
Released: Nov. 1, 1995

Wanting a break from Chicago crime, freelance reporter Cat Marsala heads out to the DeGraaf family farm, deep in Michigan Christmas-tree country. Snuggled in the warmth of the close-knit DeGraafsbrothers Hank (furniture maker who doubles as president of the West Michigan Evergreen Growers Association) and John (high-school English teacher), sister Marie Heidema (X-ray technician at Holland Hospital), and their children and elderly mothershe spends Thanksgiving weekend eating turkey, observing how the family harvests blue spruces and Scotch pines, and gathering information about cutting, grading, and baling. (This last will come in especially useful when somebody puts gang boss Luis Montoya through a baling machine, and Cat's confronted with a killing as coldhearted as anything back in Chicago.) Cat's closeness to John's 13-year-old daughter Nellwho seems painfully vulnerable, maybe because of her possible involvement with Luis, maybe because she thinks her late grandfather was murdered tooand her growing knowledge of the DeGraafs' century-old roots and the crisis their little farm faces make the case particularly poignant, and particularly unpleasant to solve. The title says it all. Despite the evergreen setting, Cat's sixth appearance (Hard Case, 1994, etc.) is one hard Christmasand her saddest book yet. Read full book review >
HARD CASE by Barbara D’Amato
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

Dispatched to Chicago's Motriss/Beale Trauma Center for a routine article, freelance reporter Cat Marsala (Hard Women, 1993, etc.) is right on the scene when no-nonsense Dr. Hannah Grant, recently appointed director of trauma services, is found dead with a surgical sponge shoved down her throat. The manner of her death indicates a planned murder by a professional colleague. But who would've been able to get away from the hectic trauma floor long enough to kill her? And who would've wanted to? As she cultivates the other members of Grant's team—emergency medicine specialists Sam Davidian (a warm and sure-handed ten-year veteran) and Jacob Coyne (who remembers his patients' problems but forgets their names); residents Billy Michaelson (intense and empathetic) and Zoe Peters (angry and power-hungry); and the nurses, nursing students, and fellows who round out the staff—Cat's attitude changes from wide-eyed lollygagging to cool appraisal. But she's not so cool that she doesn't worry about why Sam, who's been showing an interest in her that seems to be sending her ex-boyfriend over the edge, is prescribing the new medication Tegucaine in record amounts, or whether the unit's second murder will be its last. The plot is nothing more than the customary series of one-on- ones seasoned with a you-are-there parade of medical emergencies and capped with the obligatory duel to the death, but D'Amato juggles the suspects with all her usual deftness in this neatly fashioned puzzle. (Author tour) Read full book review >
HARD WOMEN by Barbara D’Amato
Released: April 2, 1993

In this fourth adventure—a letdown after last year's smartly worked-out Hard Luck—Chicago freelancer Cat Marsala is putting together a TV documentary on prostitution and, in the process, offering her teeny apartment as a temporary haven for high-priced call-girl Sandra Love. Sandra skips out with $37.00 of Cat's pocket change, stokes up on cocaine—and gets herself murdered in a nearby alley. Whodunit? Cat suspects, first, a coke dealer, next a holier- than-thou alderman who, on the sly, owned an escort service, then a pair of vice cops—naive, young Gavin who dated Sandra, and hard- boiled Ross, who introduced Cat to her. After alerting her main suspect to Sandra's deep dark secret (she was HIV-positive), Cat finds herself trying to outrun her killer on slippery train tracks- -with predictably disastrous results for the perp. Nothing new or enlightening here, and the best dialogue—most of it cribbed from Shakespeare—comes from the mouth of Cat's pet parrot Long John. Read full book review >
HARD LUCK by Barbara D’Amato
Released: May 1, 1992

Freelance journalist Cat Marsala (Hardball, Hard Tack) hits her stride in this third outing in which Jack Sligh, in charge of advertising for the Illinois State Lottery, plummets to his death, literally at her feet, leaving behind a memo indicating that he wanted to talk to her about misappropriation of lottery funds. Is one of his in-laws responsible? His soon-to-be ex, his sister-in- law, his father-in-law, his brother-in-law, his nephew—all have high-paying, high-powered lottery positions. Could they be skimming off the top? Old man Furman, with longtime mob connections, certainly has the expertise, and his daughter Dorothy surely has the brains and gumption. The more Cat digs, the more she's endangered: her apartment is torched, and finally she has to take to an air duct to escape the family member intent on her destruction. Some too-cute touches, but Cat is emerging as a strong, feminist heroine. In all: nice, unhackneyed treatment of gambling, greed, nepotism, and excitement addicts. Read full book review >
HARD TACK by Barbara D’Amato
Released: June 1, 1991

Journalist Catherine ``Cat'' Marsala (Hardball, 1990), who never learned to swim, is assigned a piece on the weekend sailing guests aboard the Easy Girl, a millionaire's luxury yacht. The not- quite-congenial guests include: owners Will and Belinda Honeywell; their son Bill and his girlfriend Mary; a 40-ish surgeon and his wife, the incorrigible tease Twinkie; a Broadway star; a Japanese boat-designer/engineer; an eligible physician; a college kid flunky; and boorish tycoon Chuck Kroop. A storm comes up. Chuck is helped to the bunk. The door is locked. When it's unlocked, his throat has been cut. Whodunit? Then Twinkie disappears; the food supply gets down to champagne, caviar, and Cheez Whiz; and the yacht is becalmed—its radio doesn't work, and neither does its auxiliary motor. Fighting seasickness, Cat figures it all out and confronts the killer, who tries to dump her overboard but gets dumped instead. Silly motive and straining to be a clever locked-room murder, but Cat is amusingly self-deprecating company. Read full book review >