cover image A Heartbeat Away

A Heartbeat Away

Barbara Rogan. William Morrow & Company, $20 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-688-11582-1

This potboiler set in an urban hospital may be predictable and shamelessly manipulative, tugging at the heartstrings with Christmas Day miracles and cuddlesome children who are victims of abuse--and yet it's consistently entertaining. Moreover, Rogan succeeds in writing from the point of view of black characters, although she is white. Thomas Graystone, the black emergency room director of Brooklyn's Mercy Hospital, is diligent and highly competent. Will the attending physician, Daniel Bergman, lure him into setting up a lucrative private practice? The devoted staff, which gamely copes with a daily deluge of trauma, includes Alice Straugh, the devoted, compassionate nurse whose parents gave $15 million to the hospital and are embarrassed by her lowly occupation, and Crow Durango, the black housekeeper whose position at the bottom of the hospital hierarchy seems to render her invisible. Crow, however, has a secret past, and it's about to ensnare Dr. Graystone. And then there's Dr. Elias, who has an uncanny ability to spot critical medical lapses. But wait--hasn't he been dead for 15 years? Rogan ( Cafe Nevo ) overcomes her soap-opera plot with her spirited storytelling. Graphic, spiced with wit and relayed in short, urgent sentences, her romance is an improbable success. Film rights to MGM. (May)