Barbara D’Amato

Barbara D’Amato

Categories: Authors

Barbara D’Amato was the 1999-2000 president of Mystery Writers of America. D’Amato is also a past president of Sisters in Crime International. She writes a mystery series starring Chicago freelance investigative reporter Cat Marsala, a series starring Chicago patrol cops Suze Figueroa and Norm Bennis, and standalone novels.

D’Amato is a playwright, novelist, and crime researcher. Her research on the Dr. John Branion murder case formed the basis for a segment on Unsolved Mysteries, and she appeared on the program. Her musical comedy The Magic Man and the children’s musical The Magic of Young Houdini, written with husband Anthony D’Amato, played in Chicago and London. Their Prohibition-era musical comedy RSVP Broadway, which played in Chicago in 1980, was named an “event of particular interest” by Chicago magazine.

A native of Michigan, she has been a resident of Chicago for many years. D’Amato has been a columnist for the Sisters in Crime newsletter and Mystery Scene magazine. She has worked as an assistant surgical orderly, carpenter for stage magic illusions, assistant tiger handler, stage manager, researcher for attorneys in criminal cases, and she occasionally teaches mystery writing to Chicago police officers.


  • The first annual Mary Higgins Clark Award, 2001, for Authorized Personnel Only
  • The 1998 Carl Sandburg Award for Excellence in Fiction and the 1999 Readers Choice Award for Best Police Procedural for Good Cop, Bad Cop
  • The 1992 Anthony Award for Best True Crime and the 1993 Agatha Award for Nonfiction for The Doctor, the Murder, the Mystery
  • The 1999 Readers Choice Award for the story “Hard Feelings”
  • The 1999 Agatha, Macavity and Anthony Awards for Best Short Story for “Of Course You Know that Chocolate Is a Vegetable.”


View All Barbara D’Amato Books

Praise for Barbara D’Amato

D’Amato’s novel is her best and most ambitious.

Chicago Sun-Times (Hard Christmas)

D’Amato’s fine writing, clever plot twists, and quick wit, her nicely understated but telling comments on the vagaries of human nature, and most of all, her appealing heroine make this book a perfect holiday read.

Booklist (Hard Christmas)

Fascinating… truly a holiday treat… D’Amato’s richly textured characters are enveloped in a gorgeous and unusual setting.

Mostly Murder (Hard Christmas)

This effort rides far on the pleasures of Cat’s company—and on her appealing, often funny, first-person voice.

Publishers Weekly (Hard Christmas)

A witty, snappy narrator!

Washington Post (Hard Christmas)

Congratulations, Barbara D’Amato, for finding a new, orginal, and very timely angle to the subject of drugs… An engrossing whodunit.

Mystery News (Hardball)

Every facet of Hardball is a stunning success.

The Drood Review (Hardball)

Hardball is fast and funny and Cat Marsala is a delight. The book reads like a tough screwball comedy with Carole Lombard as the star and Howard Hawks as the director. Cat is witty and determined and the cast of characters in her life is perfect.

Stuart M. Kaminsky (Hardball)

The series about Chicago journalist Cat Marsala is one of the best going in at least two areas: pure fair-play puzzle-spinning, and a fresh and well-realized specialized background in each book.

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Hardball)

Cat is as likable as she is clever.

Publishers Weekly (Hardball)

Every facet of Hardball is a stunning success. At one level, it’s a philosophical and practical treatise on the drug problem; characterization and description are splendid. The black policeman, Captain Harold McCoo, is a wonderful character, and the account of Cat’s biweekly visit to her imprisoned brother is unforgettable. The mystery and its solution are faultless. Top notch!

The Drood Review of Mystery (Hardball)

D’Amato sketches in a full set of characters and a plateful of action. The personal relationships are fully drawn and the plotting is sound. Marsala’s character strikes a fine balance between flip and caring.

The Indianapolis Star (Hardball)

Along with her talent for dreaming up wild, whiz-bang climaxes, Ms. D’Amato has a knack for creating refreshingly complex characters.

The Baltimore Sun (Hardball)

Her writing is clean and without pretension, what Cat calls ‘English as I like to hear it — clear, unemotional, to the point.’ The author also seems genuinely involved in the spirited debate she sets, up on the pros and cons of legalizing drugs.

The New York Times Book Review (Hardball)

D’Amato, winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award for Authorized Personnel Only (2000) and the Carl Sandburg Award for Good Cop, Bad Cop (1998), knows how to wring suspense out of her subjects.

Booklist (Hardball)

With the good characterizations, a closely plotted mystery, a good ending and thought-provoking views, this is a book you shouldn’t miss! I couldn’t put the book down. The character is one I hope will return early and often… I promise you that this book is one that you will not regret purchasing.

The Casebook (Book Sleuth Mystery Bookstore) (Hardball)

Cat Marsala is the character I’ve been waiting for since the death of John D. MacDonald… This is a knockout series, and Hard Women, from its poignant question of a first sentence to its brilliant ending, is the best Marsala yet.

Eugene Izzi, author of Tribal Secrets (Hard Women)

Cat Marsala hits her stride in this third outing… Cat is emerging as a strong, feminist heroine.

Kirkus Reviews (Hard Luck)

Details of Cat’s private life, including a parrot that quotes Shakespeare and a boyfriend in a detox unit, give the tough, street-smart reporter a distinctive, warmly human quality,

Publishers Weekly (Hard Luck)

A tense, carefully plotted death dance.

Chicago Tribune (Hard Luck)

Ms. D’Amato’s masterstroke is the book’s strikingly original climax… (claustrophobics will definitely be biting their nails).

The Sun, Baltimore, Md. (Hard Luck)

The writer/sleuth continues to develop into one of the more appealing female characters in mystery fiction,

Orlando Sentinel (Hard Luck)

A heroine for the ’90s, independent, feisty free-lance journalist Cat Marsala breaks out of the wisecracking, tough guy/gal P.I. mold.

Houston Chronicle (Hard Luck)

Because women mystery writers had been largely ignored by the publishing industry, a handful of them met in 1986 to form Sisters in Crime to make their work known—and it worked. Marking the organization’s 20th anniversary, Sisters on the Case spotlights 20 stories (only three of them previously published) by its founders and leaders, now established names in the genre. Paretsky describes her popular PI’s first case, in which ten-year-old V.I. Warshawski inadvertently solves a mob murder during the 1966 Chicago race riots. Barbara D’Amato, Margaret Maron, and Nancy Pickard provide delicious final twists in their tales about dealing with a wife’s lover, dividing a mother’s estate, and double-talking about death. Accomplished work.

Michele Leber – Library Journal (Sisters on the Case)




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