Mystery Authors You May Have Missed
Barbara D’Amato

Photo of Barbara D'Amatowww.barbaradamato.com

Biography
Clearly proud of Chicago as seen in this picture, Barbara D’Amato has lived here for many years, although she was born in 1938 and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She began her formal education at Cornell University and then earned both her B.A. and M.A. from Northwestern University. Happily married to her husband (a law professor at Northwestern) since 1958 and the mother of two sons, Brian Richard and Paul Steketee, she and Anthony D’Amato truly enjoy the Chicago lifestyle but often return to Michigan as well. Some might consider Ms. D’Amato a jack of all trades, considering the various roles she has taken on, including an assistant surgical orderly, playwright, carpenter for stage magic illusions, assistant tiger handler, researcher for attorneys in criminal cases, mystery writing teacher for Chicago police officers, and, of course, an award-winning mystery author. Out of all of these, “writing is the greatest job of all,” D’Amato said in an interview several years ago. She really enjoys spending time with cops and asking them about logistics while scoping out good locations for fictional murders around Chicago. When she’s not writing, D’Amato enjoys furniture making and wood carving.

What she writes: Most of Barbara D'Amato's mysteries are part of a series featuring the Chicago-based freelance journalist Cat Marsala. The first book in the series, Hardball, opens as a bomb explodes at a University of Chicago political symposium, killing a grandmotherly activist who has crusaded for the legalization of drugs. No longer able to interview the woman, Marsala decides to solve her murder. Cat starts asking the party guests what they witnessed, while also searching for what caused the explosion, until she becomes the victim of the masked assailants.

Hard Road, the ninth in the "Cat Marsala" series, pays homage to L. Frank Baum and his "Oz" books. At an Oz festival in Chicago, Cat and her nephew witness a pair of murders. To avoid becoming the next victims they have to escape through the tunnels below Grant Park in what Connie Fletcher, reviewing the book for Booklist, described as "one of contemporary crime fiction's most sustained and terrifying chase scenes." Cat's brother, Barry, is accused of one of the murders and Cat must work to clear his name – made harder by the fact that Cat thinks her brother may be responsible.

The plot of Good Cop, Bad Cop, from the Chicago Police series, takes off from an actual 1969 shoot-out between the Black Panthers and Chicago Police which resulted in three deaths. Nicholas Bertolucci, a young cop who had been involved in the shoot-out, has since become Chicago's police superintendent. When Nick's older brother Aldo, a far less successful police officer, uncovers evidence that Nick may be responsible for one of the shoot-out deaths, he begins to plot his brother's downfall.

Other Eyes showcases D’Amato’s talents for a gripping narrative and tough, but likeable, female leads. When a toddler is crawling across a heavily trafficked highway, you know this story will take you to places you never would have imagined. Surprisingly, no one comes forward to claim this young child from danger, even while the news coverage has been constant. Blue Eriksen, a famous forensic archaeologist at Northwestern University, is busy working on determining if a certain hallucinogen derived from mushrooms prevent or cure drug addiction. In the meantime, Blue doesn’t realize that an international organization is keeping tabs on her, convinced that she might be preventing the drug trafficking profits that they are seeking.

 

List of works
 
Cat Marsala series
  Hard Tack (1991) Hard Christmas (1995)
  Hard Luck (1992) Hard Bargain (1997)
  Hard Women (1993) Hard Evidence (1999)
  Hard Case (1994) Hard Road (2001)
     
Chicago Police series
  Killer.app (1996)
  Good Cop, Bad Cop (1998)
  Help Me Please (1999)
  Authorized Personnel Only (2000)
   
Standalone novels
  On My Honor (1989) - published under pseudonym Malacai Black
  White Male Infant (2002)
  Death of a Thousand Cuts (2004)
  Foolproof (2009)
  Other Eyes (2011)
   
Awards
  1992 Anthony, award of the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, for Best True Crime for The Doctor, The Murder, The Mystery
  1994 Agatha, award of the Malice Domestic Mystery Conference, for Best Non-fiction for The Doctor, The Murder, The Mystery
  1998 Carl Sandburg Award for Excellence in Fiction for Good Cop, Bad Cop
  1999 Readers Choice Award of the Love Is Murder Conference for the short story "Hard Feelings" from Crimes of the Heart
  1999 Readers Choice Award for Best Police Procedural for Good Cop, Bad Cop
  Second Place in the Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine 1999 Reader's Awards for the story "Of Course You Know that Chocolate Is a Vegetable"
  1999 Agatha for Best Short Story for "Of Course You Know that Chocolate Is a Vegetable"
  1999 Macavity Award for Best Short Story for "Of Course You Know that Chocolate Is a Vegetable"
  1999 Anthony Award for Best Short Story for "Of Course You Know that Chocolate Is a Vegetable"
  2001 Mary Higgins Clark Award for Authorized Personnel Only
   
Nominations
  1990 Anthony nominee for On My Honor
  1993 Runner-up for the Nero Wolfe Award for Hard Women
  1994 Agatha nominee for the short story, "Soon to Be a Minor Motion Picture" from Partners in Crime
  1995 Macavity nominee for Hard Christmas
  1996 Anthony nominee for Hard Christmas
 
What the critics say
"Marsala is a perfect female sleuth--tough, feisty, smart, and fearless but also kind, gentle, and highly principled." - Booklist
One Publishers Weekly reviewer found Marsala "as likable as she is clever," while another noted "her appealing, often funny, first-person voice." Yet another characterized the Marsala series as "hardhitting, gritty, witty and wise."
"Follow the yellow brick road to your favorite bookseller for this one. It's worth the trek." - Publishers Weekly

 

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