Three scientists strive to find the cure for Alzheimer’s in Cooper’s (The Cell: A Molecular Approach, 2015, etc.) scientific thriller.
Forty-seven-year-old Eric Prescott is an accomplished scientist specializing in Alzheimer’s disease research at the Institute for Advanced Neuroscience in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The novel opens with a conversation between Eric and some scientists after he accepts the Lasker Award for “seminal research in elucidating the basis of Alzheimer’s disease.” Eric’s arrogance is apparent when one of the Karolinska Institute professors on the Nobel Committee, Alfred Bergner, recommends that Prescott speak to another scientist, Pamela Weller: “Prescott was steaming. Did Bergner seriously think this woman was some kind of competition?” Pam is a faculty member in the Langmere Institute for Neurological Disease at Harvard University. When her research results in what may be the key to the cure, Holly Singer, one of her postdocs, teams up with Eric to claim the breakthrough as their own, and they take extreme measures to ensure their place in history and receive the Nobel Prize. The omniscient narration makes each major character’s intentions clear: Pam wants to make a difference, Eric wants fame, and Holly wants to establish herself as a respected voice in the scientific community. One of the highlights of this book is how comfortably Cooper manages to find a balance in presenting difficult scientific topics in an easy-to-follow narrative, as when Holly explains a cell culture: “They’re cells that were triggered to start producing Alzheimer’s plaque. You can see the plaques have formed and the cells are beginning to die.” The characters do come off as a little one-dimensional, however, and the book might have benefited from additional back story, such as how Pam became so interested in Alzheimer’s research. Nonetheless, this is an engrossing read; in one particularly suspenseful moment, a character awaits the results of putting Nembutal in another’s wine.
An intense story about ruthlessness in the scientific community.