Title: "Hard Case"Author: Barbara D'AmatoPublisher...


November 27, 1994|By SUSANNE TROWBRIDGE Title: "The Intruders" Author: Stephen Coonts Publisher: Pocket Books Length, price: 344 pages, $23 Jake Grafton, the protagonist of Stephen Coonts' novel "Flight of the Intruder," is back in the sequel "The Intruders." The "police action" in Vietnam has finally come to an end. Grafton's trouble at home begins with his girlfriend's father, who says that anyone who served there was a murderer. Later, Jake overhears a malicious drunk tell a handicapped veteran that he deserved his fate. Grafton springs into action, sending the mouthy individual through a plate-glass window. It is this scene that sets up the rest of the novel. Jake is told that he is to continue to serve his country aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific region. Along for the voyage are some new, interesting characters. "The Intruders" is another sure-fire Coonts novel, filled with plenty of action and adventure. GARY S. ROEN

Title: "Hard Case"

Author: Barbara D'Amato

Publisher: Scribners

Length, price: 258 pages, $20

Anyone who works in a major hospital trauma center becomes all too familiar with death. When a medical professional at the University Hospital trauma center is found dead in the lounge, however, even doctors and nurses accustomed to seeing people die every day are taken aback -- particularly since Dr. Hannah Grant was murdered, and one of the center's staff is likely to have killed her.

Free-lance journalist Cat Marsala, researching an article on the U-Hospcenter, decides to take advantage of her insider's-eye view in order to find the culprit. Besides her strong sense of justice, Cat has another, more personal reason for wanting to solve the crime as soon as possible. She's strongly attracted to trauma surgeon Sam Davidian, who happens to have one of the most powerful motives for wanting Dr. Grant dead -- she replaced him as head of the unit, a potentially humiliating demotion.

Like her heroine, Ms. D'Amato is a superb researcher; the highly charged, high-tech atmosphere of a big-city trauma center provides a fascinating backdrop for this otherwise traditional whodunit. Each of the many suspects is sharply drawn, and the author delivers a rousing, if slightly grotesque, climax (you'll never look at hospital food in the same way again). Only a subplot involving Cat's alcoholic ex-boyfriend fails to engage; the emotional life of Ms. D'Amato's main character usually seems added in as a bit of an afterthought in her books, and "Hard Case" is no exception. The strength of her well-crafted puzzles is xTC clearly this author's main draw.

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