A number of my wonderful online friends have new books out around now, so I have decided to concentrate on them this week on the blog. The authors are all women (yay!) and happily I had no dilemmas, because they all wrote great books, which I can review honestly. Sarah Rayne, Margot Kinberg and Sarah Ward will feature later in the week.
[Professor] Honor [Masterman] was quite a contrast to the male heads of labs that Katie had known, with their nylon shirts and awful haircuts. She was wearing narrow black trousers and a wool jacket in black and white with a small geometric pattern: Jaeger or something like that. And you rarely saw lipstick in the lab. Her greying hair was cut into a sleek bob. She looked great for fifty. Actually she looked great, full stop... There had been a profile of Honor in The Guardian not long ago. She was married to another academic – older, Katie seemed to remember – but she’d married late and didn’t have any children. Had the chance just passed her by, Katie wondered, or had it been a deliberate decision? The life of a young scientist, in and out of the lab all hours of the day and night, wasn’t easy to combine with children. Would Honor be running her own lab with a Nobel Prize in the offing if she had taken time out for babies? Katie wondered if further down the line she herself would end up in a Jaeger suit with research students as surrogate children.
She could almost hear what they were saying, but not quite. It was tantalizing.
commentary: Recently on the blog I interviewed Christine Poulson about this, her latest book, a medical thriller. Now I have had a chance to read the book, and I am very pleased to say that I was not disappointed. I read it in the course of a day – it is truly a page-turner.
It’s set in and around Ely in Cambridgeshire, and features scientists working on new drugs, and the lawyers sorting out the legal details. There’s obviously some funny business about a cure for obesity – and everyone knows such a new drug would be worth billions. There’s been an accidental death – or was it? There’s a missing notebook, and some weird incidents at the research labs. Who can be trusted…?
One of the things that most impressed me about the book was the scientific detail – anyone reading it would assume that Christine must live and work in this world. In fact that’s not the case, and her expertise lies in other directions: but she has done amazing research for the book, and obviously has gained a huge understanding in this area, enabling her to write about it clearly and convincingly. She is confident and authoritative writing about gene therapy, chemical reactions and complex experiments, and she describes the details and the processes very well.
And the book also has great characters – I’m very pleased that this is the first of a series so we’ll be meeting at least one of them, researcher Katie Flanagan, again. There are some great twists and surprises in the plot: and the author very convincingly and carefully produces a brilliant and brutal ethical dilemma for two of the characters, concerning a child with an illness, and the hope of finding a match for possible treatment.
This is a clever and involving thriller, without too much in the way of gruesome violence, and with strong, believable female characters. As I said about a previous Poulson book, that’s both rare and just what many of us are looking for.
And one last connection – I have recently been re-reading the Swallows and Amazons books by Arthur Ransome. Although he is always associated with the Lake District some of the books - such as Coot Club - in fact take place on and around the Norfolk Broads. Deep Water starts with some characters on a sailing holiday not a million miles from there, and much of the action takes place on the boat – later stationary, and moored in Ely. The whole atmosphere on board did remind me of the Ds and the Coot Club… Unlikely undertones.
I’ll look forward to more from Chrissie in the future – as well as more of our shared bloglists and joint reviews. We have such similar tastes in novels, I suppose it’s not surprising I like her own books so much.
First, thanks, Moira - I truly appreciate your support!ReplyDelete
Now to the good stuff - the book! It does sound terrific. What I particularly like about it is the contemporary research-lab setting. So much is happening there these days, and it takes a deft hand (which Christine has!) to share it with readers in an accessible way. And I could feel just the right touch of wit coming through, even in the short bit you shared. So glad to hear it's going to be a series, too. Consider my appetite well and truly whetted!
I'm sure you'll love this book Margot, and I am full of admiration for the way Chrissie explains the technicalities.Delete
Meanwhile - watch this space!
Phew! That's a relief, Moira! What if you hadn't liked it . . . I'm so glad you did. I really enjoyed the research and met some fascinating people in the course of it. And yes, Margot, I think some of the most pressing moral issues of our times relate to research into genetics.ReplyDelete
I was sure I would, and I was right. Well done for moving into a different kind of book so successfully!Delete
Moira: nothing to do with your post, I'm afraid, but I wondered if you'd heard Mariella Frostrup's guest on Open Book on Radio 4 on Thu 13 Oct. Her guests included Lucy Foley, whose novels i'd not heard of (new out: The Invitation); she talked for 5 mins or so on the importance of clothes and fashion in literature (Gatsby's shirts, Emma Bovary's satin slippers, etc.) Thought you'd be interested. Link here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07x1rcwReplyDelete
Thanks Simon - someone else mentioned this to me as well, I appreciate your coming over to tell me...Delete
Moira, this is a lovely review. It tells me so much about Christine Poulson's medical thriller without giving anything away. The characters always interest me in this genre, especially having read Robin Cook in the past.ReplyDelete
Thanks Prashant - you should read the book! Medical thrillers aren't particularly a genre that I have pursued in the past, so it would be interesting to know how it compares with other books from the past.Delete
Oh I do like a good medical thriller, I work with clinicians in my day job and must admit my mind often turns to murder around them :) sometimes it's me doing the murdering in my fantasies, sometimes they're murdering each other. Thanks for the recommendationReplyDelete
Go for it Bernadette. By which I mean: read the book. Not, go and murder your colleagues...Delete
I'm not a massive fan of the medical thriller/crime story if I'm honest. I think an early introduction to Robin Cook put me off for life. Glad you enjoyed it, but I'll stick with Invisible.ReplyDelete
I'm not particularly a fan of the genre, but I did enjoy this one - I think Chrissie is converting me. I think you will enjoy Invisible, anyway.Delete
Sounds great, Moira. I have preordered this book but it appears it won't be available here until late January. I will read Murder is Academic in the meantime.ReplyDelete
I'm sure you'll like both books Tracy.Delete