cover image HARD ROAD: A Cat Marsala Mystery

HARD ROAD: A Cat Marsala Mystery

Barbara D'Amato, . . Scribner, $23 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-0095-0

You're off to see the wizard in this delightful Oz-themed mystery, the ninth in the Cat Marsala series (Hard Evidence, etc.) from Anthony and Agatha award-winner D'Amato. As freelance journalist Cat is squiring her young nephew, Jeremy, around a mythical Oz festival in Chicago's Grant Park (would that such a festival actually existed!), two people die before her eyes, one a stabbing victim. When bullets start to fly, Cat and Jeremy flee through a system of dark and dank tunnels. The pair's creeping along underground, in enforced silence, shows off the author's knack for building suspense. To make matters uglier, Cat's brother and Jeremy's father, Barry, is accused of the first murder by the police and—initially—by Cat herself. Thanks to Cat's dogged detective work, the real killer ultimately receives due justice through highly unusual means; let's just say the process involves a vacuum cleaner. The Oz festival's activities pay tribute to the imagination of L. Frank Baum, whose books D'Amato learned to love at an early age, while the detailed Chicagoland setting, as usual, rings true. Some "pure" mystery fans may want to skip the lengthy epilogue, an appreciation of the world of Oz by D'Amato's son, Brian, but they'll be missing a fascinating account. Follow the yellow brick road to your favorite bookseller for this one. It's worth the trek. (Aug. 21)

Forecast:With proper hand-selling, sales will get a boost from the large and devoted following of the Oz books, while the Emerald City cover art will certainly draw fans of the MGM movie.