cover image Hardball


Barbara D'Amato. Scribner Book Company, $17.95 (210pp) ISBN 978-0-684-19140-9

This informative, at times lengthily polemical mystery by the author of Hands of Healing Murders airs the question of drug legalization and introduces a gutsy, fast-thinking heroine. Catherine Marsala (Cat), a Chicago freelance journalist, is caught in a bomb explosion while interviewing grandmotherly Louise Sugarman at a party. The bomb kills Louise, who headed Common Sense, a group advocating legalization as a means of de-glamorizing drugs and getting rid of the pushers, profit and violence. Recovering from a concussion, Cat turns sleuth. She investigates the party guests and seeks the detonating item--cigarette, pen or necklace. Her allies include boyfriend John; brother Ted, in jail for possession; black police officer McCoo, who warns that drug killers ``play hardball''; and literary parrot Long John Silver. Among the novel's many virtues is the sense of terror and claustrophobia D'Amato adeptly creates when Cat falls in the hands of masked assailants. (Feb.)