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AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY


by Barbara D'Amato
Forge Books, 2000

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel Chicago policewoman Suze (do not call her Susie, or Susanna) Figueroa is a dedicated professional, not yet jaded by years of exposure to humankind's darker side. When a bout of food poisoning knocks many of the city's detective force, she and her partner, Norm Bennis, are assigned to investigate the murder of a homeless man. The powers-that-be didn't expect much from them, and didn't care. Just another dead bum. Suze and Norm did care, especially after more bodies started showing up, with similarities suggesting that a serial killer was taking care of the homeless problem his own way. The killings all took place in the shadow of the central police station, and evidence pointed at the possibility that the killer was in some way connected to law enforcement. The fledging detectives were determined to solve the case, even as their superiors warned them off and chastised them for trying so hard. When the detective force began to return to duty, Suze and Norm worked against a deadline to catch the killer. Suze's personal life becomes intertwined with her personal life, as the story goes on. Unbeknownst to her, but revealed to the reader in chilling detail, a stalker has invaded the old Victorian home where she lives with her young son J. J., her sister Sheryl, Sheryl's loutish husband Robert, and their two young daughters, Maria and Kath. Sheryl had been badly injured in a car accident, and Suze is helping to care for her and her family. The stalker has bad intentions, especially toward the pre-adolescent Maria, and the tension builds to the end.

I don't normally read police procedurals, but I enjoy D'Amato's work. She manages to balance Figueroa's personal and professional life, and creates intricate plots and sub-plots that flow together effortlessly. Her characters are well defined, and the reader really cares about them. Don't start reading this book right before bedtime; I couldn't go to sleep until I found out what happened to Suze's imperiled family.

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