A small English hospital is the setting for this rather wan debut. The night staff is run with paralyzing efficiency by Nurse Marion Hughs, a 30-ish, handsome icicle who's not above quiet bullying and blackmail. In fact, she has pediatric nurse Carmichael on the edge of nervous breakdown--and homosexual nurse Hiram Jones heading that way. Furthermore, widowered chief surgeon Sir James Hatfield is beginning to worry about Nurse Hughs' knowledge of his past. (She's hoping to pressure him into marriage.) And Nigel Denton, new to the surgical staff, has gotten some disquieting barbs too. Unfortunately, Cohen has a good deal to learn about murder-mystery pacing: the theme of Hughs' villainy is tediously repeated for three-quarters of the novel's length. So, by the time she finally fulfills her ordained role as murder victim, interest is on the wane--and few readers will stick around for the humdrum solution and a slightly surprising final twist.