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26 March 2009

978 0 87969 876 8
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
GBP 7.99

Experimental Heart

Jennifer L. Rohn

The title, along with the synopsis, might suggest a Mills and Boon epic, but in reality this novel is intriguing throughout. A mixture of all the well-loved aspects of a research laboratory (including dry ice bombs and darkroom encounters) together with the intricacies of the male–female interpretation of chemistry and a smattering of intense thriller.

The main characters Andy O’Hara, a hard-working postdoc, and Gina Kraymer, a virologist working for a gene therapy start-up company, find themselves physically and mentally attracted to each other, but unable to express this in a way that coincides with their obvious intellect. Young love never did run smooth, and the entry of Richard Rouyle, the arrogant, confident, highly respected scientist, confuses the issue further. An offer of collaborating with Dr Rouyle, which would result in funding and Phase I trials for a vera fever treatment, proves an offer too good to turn down for Gina. But doubts start to surface when animal trials are bypassed and the human trials are scheduled only months into the collaboration. Gina enlists the help of Andy, and subsequently other colleagues, to test further the viruses and antibodies she has ‘borrowed’ from the collaborating pharmaceutical company in Frankfurt. The results are not as expected, and with further investigation, concerns grow about Dr Rouyle’s involvement and motives. Gina’s confrontation with Dr Rouyle turns into a heated discussion that is witnessed by Andy and, when a letter of resignation from Gina is couriered to her employers, he fears the worst. His deep feelings for Gina propel him to take matters into his own hands and he forms a plan to find his missing colleague. A trip to Frankfurt and quick thinking find the lovestruck hero rescuing Gina from the clutches of the manipulative Dr Rouyle, and gathering the evidence necessary to reveal Dr Rouyle’s plan.

Experimental Heart is the first novel by Jennifer L. Rohn, a postdoctoral cell biologist at University College London, and an unusual publication for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Maybe this is the start of a wave of LabLit novels (see The Biochemist, April 2007, pp. 28–30), which have a more realistic view of the workings of a laboratory than other fictional works. Experiments do take longer than a few hours in this book, and great care is taken to emphasize this – no DNA sequencing in just a few hours. A light read for scientists with the time, and inclination, to read something other than the latest paper from the Biochemical Journal, a fascinating insight for those non-scientists with an inquisitive mind who love dramas such as CSI; one to avoid for those just looking for a nice romance.

Paula Butler (Projects Assistant, Portland Press)

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