'Hard Case' by Barbara D'Amato pleaureably reads like a tribute to 'Ordeal by Innocence' by Agatha Christie. Both feature a murder mystery where the primary victim could only have been killed by a select number of people, and the people in both stories must face the fact that there is a murderer among them - someone they all know and trust - but who ? They must all face the same scrutiny, and unless something is done to stop the killer, more dead bodies are a certainty.
In 'Hard Case', it is Dr. Hannah Grant, director of the trauma unit at Chicago's U-Hosp who is murdered. By all accounts, Dr. Grant was a dedicated physician and did not deserve her fate. Freelance journalist Cat Marsala is the one to discover the body in the staff lounge - Marsala's presence explained by the fact that she is doing research on the value of trauma units to the city of Chicago.
D'Amato wastes few words in her stories. Her characters rarely prattle on uselessly for filler. One needs a very keen eye to spot the clues and piece together the scant evidence left behind by the cunning and opportunistic killer, who in all likelihood is someone who worked side-by-side with Dr. Grant on a daily basis.
Just when we think we've had enough from all sides on who had motive and access to be able to kill Dr. Grant, another murder takes place during a rush of patients into the unit. This murder harkens back to Christie's 'Ordeal by Innocence' once again, duplicating a method of murder: stab wound to the base of the skull. The victim this time is a foreign med student, Dr. Sonali Bachaan.
Now Marsala and the entire unit (and the reader!) can sense the urgency and the tension building to an exquisite climax. Did Dr. Bachaan know or suspect something? If so, her knowledge definitely proved fatal!
Only when Marsala connects the seemingly random evidence from both murders does she realise she may have done it too late to save her own life!
This report prepared by tesubcalle