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.
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.